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Published: Nov 01 , 2018
Author: Stephen White

I was intrigued by a radio interview I heard last week. The subject was the long-running battle by the Trade Unions to win gender-equal pay rights for 12,000 municipality workers such as care home, catering and school cleaning staff in Glasgow. Frustrated with Glasgow City Council’s negotiating stance the unions representing these workers had...

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Published: Oct 18 , 2018
Author: David Bannister

Here in the UK, the news and social media is obsessed with negotiation – or, as some would have it, capitulation. As the moment of that final deadline nears (again!) and we all prepare for a life of isolation with grounded airliners and gridlocked motorways on the way to our main ports, my attention was attracted by a story which started with a negotiation about 3 years ago in Monaco. At that time a young man called Antony Martial...

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Published: Oct 04 , 2018
Author: Robin Copland

Come with me on a wee journey, if you please. Imagine, if you can, that you are running a company that has been in a partnership for a number of years with a conglomerate. The business has been going well; yes, there are the problems associated with merging two different systems; yes there have been the odd disputes between the two organisations, but by and large, you have rumbled along to the profit of both. External circumstances dictate that there has to be a...

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Published: Sep 06 , 2018
Author: Stephen White

Undoubtedly the question Scotwork consultants are asked most by clients and course participants is ‘How do I deal with a negotiator bully at work?’. More on that another time. The second most common question – ‘How do I get a better deal when going for a new job or a promotion?’ was brought to mind by an interview to be aired by the BBC next week with Lord Mervyn King. In preview excerpts, he asserts that the UK Government has been incompetent in the Brexit negotiations and that “a government that cannot take action to prevent some of these catastrophic outcomes (such as a shortage of medicines and food if there is a ‘No Deal’ result) illustrates a whole lack of preparation”. What is the connection?

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Published: Jul 26 , 2018
Author: Stephen White

Years ago I was asked to evaluate a sales-training ‘game’. The player sat in front of a screencast as a salesperson tasked with winning an order from a big corporate prospect. As the story unfolded the player was asked to make decisions from a multichoice selection and then given feedback. My evaluation was based on me being that player/salesperson. The first decision required was...

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Published: Jul 12 , 2018
Author: Robin Copland

There are a number of interesting things happening in European politics right now. In the UK, two “big beast” Brexiteers, David Davies and Boris Johnson have resigned over the Chequers agreement that some say was foisted on the UK cabinet at the end of last week. Boris Johnson is well known outside the UK as the ex-Mayor of London. He is a showman who, many people believe, chose...

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Published: Jun 28 , 2018
Author: Robin Copland

Consider the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, delivered at the unveiling of Thomas Jefferson’s sculpture on Mount Rushmore in 1936: I think we can wonder whether our descendants, because I think they’ll still be here, what they will think about us; and let us hope that they will at least give us the benefit of the doubt, that they will believe that we have honestly striven in our day and generation to preserve for our descendants a decent land to live in and a decent form of government to operate under. Bear in mind when these words were spoken...

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Published: Feb 15 , 2018
Author: Stephen White

The FT front-page headline last Monday said it all. ‘New Era of Volatiliy Dawning on Markets’. But it was wrong in one respect – this is not a new era. Every follower of economic fashion has long known that political stability, economic predictability and demographic certainty, each a major factor which underpins share prices have been increasingly volatile for some years. The Brexit Referendum, the popularity of the Labour Left Wing, the antics of...

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Published: Feb 08 , 2018
Author: John McMillan

A woman, let’s call her April June, knocks on a neighbour’s front door; let’s call her Angel Merkin. “Yes,” says Ms Merkin, “what do you want?”...

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Published: Dec 07 , 2017
Author: John McMillan

Two’s company; 27’s a crowd. It may be tricky negotiating with a single party, but when there are 27 divergent interests on the other side of the table it becomes even harder. That is just part of the challenge that the UK Government has in their Brexit negotiations. In most negotiations the negotiator is not negotiating for their own benefit; they almost always represent a coalition of interests. If that coalition is united in its mandate to the negotiator, then she or he may have very little room to manoeuvre. Any concession beyond the mandate will have to go back to the coalition for approval. However, if there is disunity amongst the coalition then the negotiator’s ability to make a deal is fatally flawed...

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Published: Nov 30 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

The announcement of the right royal wedding earlier this week coincides with the end of the preliminary Brexit negotiations, hopefully, which will be concluded by the start of the European Council meeting in December. I thought it might be fun for interested negotiators to consider the real meaning of some of the most common jargon we have heard from both sides of the EU table in terms of marriage and divorce. We start with Brexit means Brexit which is as meaningful as saying that Marriage means Divorce, although amazingly in EU-speak that is exactly...

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Published: Oct 19 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

An interesting take on ‘bridging the gap’ came to my attention this week. The story has to be told anonymously because of client confidentiality, but the essence was a dispute over the amount of a pay-out between an insurance syndicate and a business owner after the business premises were destroyed by fire. Some of the facts surrounding the fire had made the insurers suspicious, although there was no hard evidence of fraud. Nevertheless, the insurers were reluctant to settle the claim which was close to €10 million,...

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Published: Sep 14 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

At about the same time as this blog is being published we are hosting a webinar entitled ‘Negotiating in Uncertain Times’. If you missed it, a recording is available here. During the sign-up process we asked participants if uncertainty was affecting their business. Most of the audience didn’t comment; I suppose their interest in attending the webinar with its very transparent title was evidence enough of the problem. Those who did comment made some interesting observations. The most common sentiment was that ‘business unusual is the new normal’,...

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Published: Jul 20 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

Theresa May’s speech on Tuesday last week urging her political enemies to ‘contribute and not just criticise’ was met by a barrage of exactly the criticism she was asking them to eliminate. A Labour spokesperson said that it showed that the Conservatives had completely run out of ideas and were now reduced to begging, and the Scottish Nationalists line was that if she was serious about collaboration, particularly on Brexit, then she should have offered the SNP a seat at the Brexit negotiations, as they have been demanding for the last year.

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Published: Jun 29 , 2017
Author: Sebastian Bacewicz

When is a ‘generous offer’ not a generous offer? A few answers spring immediately to mind: for example, when a better offer is already on the table (yet - worryingly - completely ignored), or when the proposer feels the need to tell you that their offer is, indeed, very generous. I mean, if the offer is truly generous, why the need to tell you so? Surely, it will be clear for all to see? One may also argue that the "generous offer" is not really generous when it concerns the lives of a few million people and falls significantly short of what is expected both by the other side and the people in question.

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Published: Apr 20 , 2017
Author: Alan Smith

Tommy Cooper was one of the funniest comedians ever. How do I know? Well partly because he has 13 of the best jokes in the top 50 gags of all time. A personal favourite being, “heard the one about two aerials meeting on a roof, falling in love, and getting married? The ceremony was rubbish but the reception was brilliant”. Telling a good joke is not just about the content. It is also in the timing of the delivery. The same could also be said about negotiation. Picking your time to enter into a negotiation can have a significant impact on its progression and your outcome.

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Published: Apr 06 , 2017
Author: Robin Copland

I suspect that the Brexit negotiations will provide a fruitful source of negotiating stories over the next two or three years (longer – much longer, if you believe some commentators), so I apologise in advance to our many overseas readers. It is instructive and, dare I say, amusing to watch people • Who really do not know what a negotiation actually is • Who have no experience of sitting in a room with a hard-nosed negotiator on the other side of the table and what it feels like make unguarded comments that sound good in a sound bite.

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Published: Mar 30 , 2017
Author: Robin Copland

So what exactly happened yesterday in the House of Commons during the Prime Minister’s Brexit statement to the House of Commoms on 29 March? People have either congratulated Theresa May or derided her along predictable lines, but I maintain that what was actually happening was that the UK delivered its opening statement for the upcoming and tortuous two-year negotiation with the EU. Forget the 9 months leading up to this opening statement. Forget the salvoes and the posturing. Forget the talk about “hard Brexit” and partnerships and access to the open market. Forget them all. Yesterday in parliament is where the negotiation proper started. The prime minister stood at the dispatch box and laid out the UK’s position. She outlined her long-term aims for the negotiations - the targets towards which she expects her negotiating teams to aim.

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Published: Mar 16 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

Dear Donald I am writing because you might have seen some scurrilous press speculation that the UK has decided to leave the European Union. FAKE NEWS!! The truth is that we have had a referendum and some subsequent discussions in Parliament which overwhelmingly demonstrated with certainty that the country is split as to whether to stay or go. 52% of the population want to leave, 48% want to stay, and 93% are undecided. Because this gives me a clear choice of mandates I am advising you that this letter is intended to trigger Article 50, which apparently enables us to leave unless we change our minds because we can’t agree a deal, or we agree a deal we don’t agree with, or because you have changed the constitution of the EU in the meantime.

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Published: Jan 26 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

There has been much talk over the last few weeks about what might happen if, at the end of 2 years of negotiation with the EU after Article 50 is triggered, no deal is agreed. ‘Cliff edge’ refers to this doomsday situation where the UK is out of Europe and not in anything except trouble. Hence the focus on transitional arrangements which Mrs May said she didn’t/did want within the same paragraph of her speech last week – see the previous Scotwork blog for this and other peculiarities in that speech.

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Published: Oct 27 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

What do Joni Mitchell and Boris Johnston have in common? Well very little I suspect, but they do both share an interesting way of looking at issues before finally making up their minds. “Both Sides Now” is one of Joni Mitchells most famous songs and appeared on her 1969 Album, Clouds. She says that she has investigated life, love and clouds from both sides, the inspiration being that she was on a transatlantic flight and looked down on the clouds rather than the more customary up. Boris Johnson was quoted in the press this weekend of having a similar way of making up his mind when considering his view of whether to support Britain’s In or Out vote over the now decided Brexit.

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Published: Oct 20 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

This isn’t going to be popular; to write it – even to think it - sticks in my throat as it offends against my innate sense of fair play and good will to all people, but there really are times when I want to take our elected representatives to one side and slap them about the face. They pontificate and they grandstand; they puff themselves up into rice krispies of righteous indignation; they adopt their “holier than thou” positions; they occasionally demonstrate a frightening lack of common sense and commercial nous and, at the same time, they would have us weaken our position in future negotiations.

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Published: Oct 14 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

What do Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Pot Noodles, Persil, Dove soap and Marmite have in common? They are all made by Unilever. What does Unilever and Tesco have in common? Dave Lewis, Tesco’s current boss, spent most of his career at Unilever before being poached by Tesco. What does all of this have to do with negotiating? Well, having been in a stand-off that threatened to damage both parties, heads were banged together on Thursday 13 October and a deal was done. We at Scotwork have constantly maintained that external factors are the most common cause of the kinds of conflicts that need negotiated solutions and what happened between Tesco and Unilever is a classic example. External factors do not come much bigger than Brexit...

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Published: Jul 14 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

You really couldn’t make this up. Prior to the recent Brexit referendum, there was a negotiation between David Cameron, the UK prime minister and Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Luxembourg prime minister and current commissioner of the European Union. Cameron, a very bright man indeed but with limited negotiating experience, went into bat against Juncker, a very bright man indeed but with limited negotiating experience. Their careers had been remarkably similar – early days as parliamentary aides, followed in Cameron’s case with a stint in the commercial world working for Carlton Communications, followed by election to their respective countries’ parliaments. Juncker studied law but had never practised. Neither had much, if any exposure to the cut and thrust of commercial negotiation. I sometimes wish that our politicians had more such experience, but there we are...

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Published: Jul 07 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

The hunt for negotiators has begun on a Global scale. Offers of help from all over the place, New Zealand, Australia and no doubt every part of the Commonwealth and beyond to help the UK deal with the inevitable day to day transactional not to mention the framing and strategic negotiations that will result from the Brexit. Surely we are not that light on experience in highly complex, multi- partied negotiations that we have to import them from literally the other side of the world...

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Published: Jun 30 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

‘So what are you doing about Brexit’ demanded my 90-year-old Mum. ‘Why should I be doing anything about it?’ I asked. ‘Because every other sentence on the news channels since Friday morning has contained the word Negotiation’ she said. Point taken. Not only Teresa and Michael haggling about who should be the next Prime Minister, Tom Watson colluding with Angela Eagle to avoid being the next Leader of the Opposition, Nicola Sturgeon desperately searching for a negotiating partner in Brussels – anyone will do - but most importantly the UK Government-to-be negotiating the relationship between the UK and Europe with 27 other heads of state, once the exit process has been triggered.

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Published: May 19 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

Walk out the door? Maybe not quite as easy as you may think. The challenge for anyone in a long term relationship, business or pleasure, and particularly one experiencing difficulty is: do I invest in trying to fix it or cut my losses? Look at the massive challenge surrounding the Brexit campaign...

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Published: Feb 25 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

We have a problem with my mother. She is a gregarious 90 year old, has successfully lived on her own since my Dad died 10 years ago, she is full of life and bright as a button, lots of friends, goes out to play cards five times a week. Until three weeks ago. Her arthritic knees gave up, and she became virtually immobile. She can hobble around her small apartment with the aid of a 3-wheeled ‘walker’, but the stairs are impossible, and she lives one floor up in a building without an elevator. She has become housebound. So she and the family have some decisions to make. Do we try to find a ground floor flat, which would allow her to go out, at least as far as a taxi which could take her to her friends and the shops? Should we aim for a warden assisted flat, where there would be a speedy rescue service if she fell over. Or should we find a residential care home where she could make new friends and spend the rest of her life (and we hope it will be a long one) being looked after...

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Published: Feb 18 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

It’s not that David Cameron does not have his troubles to seek as he shuttles around Europe trying to secure support for a modified agreement with the UK’s fellow European Union member states, but I bet you he wishes he had not been quite so cavalier as to promise an “in-out referendum” in the period leading up to the 2015 UK general election. Politically, he felt that he had to do it to give some kind of sop to the so-called “Euro-sceptic” wing of the Conservative Party and to prevent further haemorrhaging of potential supporters to UKIP...

Published: Nov 12 , 2015
Author: David Bannister

I wrote in this blog about three weeks ago about the commitment given by the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, to write to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, setting out the demands which the UK would make in its negotiations with the EU prior to a referendum of the British people some time before the end of 2017 which will decide if the UK remains a member of the EU. My blog concerned a draft letter published in the Daily Telegraph, one of our more serious newspapers, written by Eurosceptic MEP, Daniel Hannan. On 10 November, Mr Cameron wrote the letter to Donald Tusk anticipated by Hannan and published its contents. In brief summary they are:

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Published: Oct 22 , 2015
Author: David Bannister

Daniel Hannan is a British Member of the European Parliament (MEP), an institution for which he seems to have little warmth (as do quite a number of other British MEPs). The UK has announced its intention to renegotiate the terms of its membership of the European Union (EU) and to put the issue to a referendum in the next couple of years. The tactics of all of this are of more than passing interest to a negotiator. So far, our Prime Minister, David Cameron, has made only relatively vague references to what issues will be on the agenda when he negotiates with his fellow leaders, some of whom have wasted no time to tell Cameron what they think will not be on the agenda. Those of us interested in the negotiating tactics might conclude (as I do) that not saying what you want is not a great starting point on the journey to getting what you want...

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Published: Jun 25 , 2015
Author: Robin Copland

In or Out – that’s the Negotiation. Now that the Conservative party has been re-elected, the UK will be subject to a referendum, this time about Europe and its continued membership of the European Union. As an aside, those of us who live in Scotland are now becoming a bit jaded with the whole “referendum thing”; they’re a bit like the old Glasgow Corporation 59 bus that I used to know and love – none for forty-odd years, then two in quick succession, but that’s nobody’s fault but ours, so we should not complain. All part of the democratic process, blah-di-blah...

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On August 30th, mid-evening, our home was broken into. We were away overnight. Fortunately, we had recently installed a video doorbell which alerted me about the activity via my mobile phone, and which recorded footage of the offender trying to jimmy open the front door, failing, and then disappearing around the back of the house. He climbed onto...

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