As mediators, we have frequently experienced situations where a party is able to make an apology under the confidentiality provisions and without prejudice contractual nature of the process of mediation, and that is nearly always welcome and beneficial. Apologies can constitute, in my experience, an important element in reducing the cost, time and stress associated with prolonged or unresolved disputes or complaints. Apologies are an important part of moving from an adversarial, polarising culture to one of greater communication, frankness, learning and cooperation.
To give legislative protection to this can only be a good thing. So, it is good to see proposals to introduce an Apologies Bill for Scotland in the Scottish Parliament.
I believe that this will be of significant benefit to Scottish society, both as legal protection to an expression of apology in certain circumstances, and for the broader purpose of encouraging a cultural and social change in attitudes towards apologising.
This legislation has potential to be part of a more constructive and open approach to relationships, business, governance, service provision and workplaces in Scotland, in which a more forward-looking and learning-based culture can be encouraged. This can help to build a more sustainable future, reduce unnecessary financial expenditure, other opportunity costs and personal distress and enhance more effective use of human and other resources and energies.
It can also help to build a more tolerant and understanding society where the first response to something going wrong is not defensiveness or blame but acceptance that adverse events do sometimes occur, and that these can present learning opportunities. Ironically, perhaps, such an approach is more likely than a finding of fault or allocation of blame to bring about constructive change in a timely and cost-effective way.
The power of being heard and receiving the acknowledgment and acceptance that an apology can bring is, in my experience, often a determining factor in resolving difficult matters and/or reducing the time, stress and expense associated with them. Thus, it is often a significant part of what people really need.
Read Core’s submission to the Call for Evidence by the Justice Committee on the Apologies (Scotland) Bill here.