John Sturrock

John Sturrock

John Sturrock is the founder and senior mediator at Core Solutions, Scotland's pre-eminent provider of commercial mediation services. As a pioneer of mediation throughout the UK and elsewhere, his work extends to the commercial, professional, sports, public sector, policy and political fields. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the international Academy of Mediators and is also a mediator with Brick Court Chambers in London. Who’s Who Legal of the world’s leading commercial mediators describes John as “internationally recognised as a major player”. Who’s Who Legal also lists John as one of the seven Global Elite Thought Leaders. John also specialises in facilitation, negotiation and conflict management training and coaching for public sector leaders, civil servants, politicians, and sports and business leaders. For many years, he has worked with various parliamentary bodies throughout the UK on effective scrutiny of policy. He is founder of Collaborative Scotland, which promotes non-partisan respectful dialogue about difficult issues.  In 2020, John published his book, A Mediator’s Musings, available here on Amazon.

Contact John Sturrock


Articles and Video:

Recognizing Trauma: Litigation and Politics are Harming Us (01/22/21)
I write this in the aftermath of yet another mediation in which the protagonists exhibited symptoms of having been seriously traumatized by the litigation process to which they had been exposed. Depression, suicidal thoughts, anger, loathing, destroyed relationships, large amounts of money spent with no discernible value.

Mediators Green Pledge (10/19/20)
Promoting the Mediators Green Pledge is now the purpose of a new WoMACC site. It seems to be one way to commit to our future. I invite you to sign up to the Green Pledge and to promote it to those you know and work with.

They Said It Couldn’t Be Done – Mediation Training Online (09/15/20)
They said it couldn’t be done. I said it couldn’t be done. Six months ago, this would have been unthinkable.

Communication More Important Than Ever (08/06/20)
What does one say which has any meaning at a time like this?

1st Key-Leadership: Adopt The Edinburgh Declaration (07/30/20)
At the conclusion of a recent conference, following superb presentations emphasizing the value of principled and interest-based negotiation by William Ury and Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, almost 100 mediators signed the "Edinburgh Declaration," an inspirational expression of belief and commitment. The Edinburgh Declaration explains why we mediate, something that is rarely publicly expressed.

3rd Key-Education: Include Learning in Psychology & Brain Science to Enhance Mediator Practice (07/25/20)
Fundamentally, mediators work with people’s psychologies and identities, their worldviews and self-views - everything that makes up what it is to be a human being.

Mediators Green Pledge (04/03/20)
We still need to face the climate change problem in the future and, in any event, it is very likely that we will need to adapt our working practices in many of the ways suggested in the draft Pledge described below to accommodate the next several months of working in relative isolation.

It Takes Just One Moment to Change, For Good or Bad (11/29/19)
It took just a moment in time: 6 August 1945 at 8:15am.

A Negotiation Emergency? (07/31/19)
The need for a “Conflict Revolution” is clear. We have a Negotiation Emergency at the same time as we have a Climate Emergency.

Bringing Mediation into the Mainstream (07/05/19)
Being a mediator brings surprises along the way. It is remarkable that, after years of waiting for Scotland to pick up the mediation baton, we now have two important initiatives underway.

Mediation in a Changing Climate? - From Consensus to Confrontation? (06/17/19)
It is a privilege to speak here at the Salzburg Global Seminar. I'd like to start with some provocation. Imagine these alternatives to the usual headlines.

It’s Not Just About the Money and Other Food for Thought for Mediators (04/12/19)
A number of recent mediations have reaffirmed some essentials which I share here in the hope that they might be helpful to others.

Mediator Engagement in Politics – and other things we care about (11/12/18)
In his thought-provoking new book, Politics, Dialogue and the Evolution of Democracy the legendary Ken Cloke reflects on an exchange between two distinguished American authors, Lawrence Susskind and Bernie Mayer, reflected upon here.

The Edinburgh Declaration of International Mediators (06/04/18)
I write this in the aftermath of the really uplifting and wonderfully diverse conference which I had the privilege to host and chair recently in my home city, under the auspices of the International Academy of Mediators.

Optimizing the Use of Joint Sessions in Mediation (04/13/18)
Much has been said and written about the demise of the joint meeting in mediation. In my experience, such a view is premature and, I fear, is potentially wasteful of the power that mediation brings for creative problem-solving.

On the Road to Solutions that Work for All (01/05/18)
The idea of our bus tour was to engage local communities in conversations about what was important to them in their area and explore how effective dialogue can aid problem-solving, help resolve contentious issues and reduce conflict.

Mediating Minimally (12/29/17)
As the year comes to an end, I am expanding upon a story to which I referred in a previous blog, in the hope that it may provide a couple of useful reminders of what we do as mediators.

Restoring Autonomy to the Clients – A Mediator’s True Calling? (12/09/17)
A whole day of mediation without a “joint meeting”.

Knowing our Neighbours – a Mediator’s Reflection (08/08/17)
I am travelling back from a couple of days in and around Dublin, discussing an initiative on respectful political dialogue with politicians, academics and conflict resolution professionals.

Did They Teach You This In Law School? (06/30/17)
I recently attended the annual American Bar Association Dispute Resolution conference in San Francisco. Several themes emerged (for me) as fairly critical for modern lawyers. Here’s a top ten.

Sergeant Pepper, Nostalgia, and Missing Socks (06/02/17)
Nostalgia is defined as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.” Apparently, the word nostalgia has its origins in a Greek compound, consisting of nóstos, meaning “homecoming”, and álgos, meaning “pain” or “ache”.

A Pop-Up Mediation: Multi-Party Dialogue Using Mediation Brexit: A Constitutional Crisis? (04/21/17)
On the evening of Tuesday March 28th 2017, a pop-up mediation event on Brexit took place at the Grassmarket Community Centre in Edinburgh.

Putting Away Childish Things (02/24/17)
This article discusses engaging with “the enemy,” building relationships, separating people from the problem, listening to and understanding deeply, finding “win-win” solutions to intractable problems based on interests rather than polarised positions, and accepting and acknowledging our own imperfections.

Mediation Kindness in 2017? (01/03/17)
Even with the inspiration of others, it’s understandable that we sometimes think the world’s problems are so big that we can do little to help.

Mediation Services Matter in Scotland (10/14/16)
This blog synthesises some remarks I have made recently to policy-makers in Scotland.

Olympian Mediation (09/16/16)
The Olympics have come and gone with all of the emotion and inspiration they bring. In our recent, fully-subscribed, residential Summer School on mediation skills for leaders, we reflected on the learning from Rio. We watched a video replay of the men’s taekwondo -80kg final in which Team GB’s Lutalo Muhammad lost to his Ivory Coast opponent in the last second of the bout, giving the latter his country’s first ever Olympic gold medal.

The Pressure is on to Re-train Our Brains (09/02/16)
The fight or flight response of our forebears remains strong when we are under pressure.

Further Thoughts on Brexit and Caledonian Antisyzygy (08/05/16)
This blog is a further reflection on the implications of Brexit, viewed from a Scottish perspective.

The Middle East’s Mediator? (04/29/16)
The Amman Message delivered by the Chief Justice of Jordan in 2004 is an extraordinary statement of tolerance and peace and deserves full reading by all who would comment on Muslim affairs. The Chief Justice emphasises peace, security, neighbourliness, coexistence and respect for others.

Thinking about the Future and the Need for Action by Mediators Part 3 (of 3): A Call to Arms for Mediators? (03/18/16)
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."

Thinking about the Future and the Need for Action by Mediators - Part 2 (03/11/16)
Why is mediation not already transforming the world? Why is a set of tools, ideas, attitudes and aptitudes which nearly always help people resolve difficult situations quickly, cost effectively, creatively, humanely and legally, and is practical-, business-, family- and community-centered, not the primary method of dealing with conflict of all sorts?

Thinking about the Future and the Need for Action by Mediators - Part 1 (02/26/16)
There is danger when speaking in generalities as if one had access to some sort of universal truth. What I say here is a reflection of how I see things. I’ll pose questions and not answer many of them. In a sense, however, that is being true to our mediator calling.

In an Interdependent World There is No Them and Us, Only Us (02/12/16)
We have entered a fascinating period in British politics. The old certainties are gone. Recent disruption will inevitably cause instability - and opportunity.

Negotiating in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar (01/22/16)
Negotiating in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is an experience to relish. I’ve recently returned from three days in that wonderful city. We found an engaged and enthusiastic audience and much interest in the issues which we have all faced – and continue to face – in many jurisdictions.

The Music of Mediation (01/04/16)
Knowing that whoever reads this is probably relaxing with a fine wine in hand, or perhaps a favoured beer, away from the hustle and bustle of the usual diet of mediation work, this blog adopts a similarly indulgent and merry feel. Here is one mediator’s choice of mediation-themed songs (with a UK- and popular music-slant, I accept) with which I would happily be stranded on a desert island.

How You Can Triumph in the Race of Life (12/18/15)
Working hard at the margins can make all the difference between success and relative failure. Little things make a big difference, as gold-medal winning UK cyclists told us and demonstrated.

Open and Closed Doors – A Mediator’s Tale (11/09/15)
Perhaps the lesson is to keep open all possibilities even when to do so does not seem rational. And to look for unexpected openings where they ought not to exist. To keep pushing gently at doors which seem least likely to yield.

Keep Mediation and Arbitration Separate? (09/04/15)
One topic which stimulated some forthright conversation recently was the use of hybrids whereby a mediator takes on the role of arbitrator if the matter does not resolve by mediation. In particular, we discussed the transition from mediator to arbitrator with the consent of the parties.

Some Valuable Learning Points From Recent Mediations (08/13/15)
“What’s been going on in recent mediations”, asked a colleague. “Any highlights?” A trouble with doing anything on a regular basis is that we can omit to sufficiently reflect on the learning from each occasion. I hope to accomplish a bit of that here.

In An Interdependent World There Is No Them And Us, Only Us (06/29/15)
The old certainties are gone. The disruption caused by the General Election result will inevitably cause instability - and opportunity. Now is the time for new thinking, a break from the old paradigms. You don't solve your problems by using the same thinking that got you into them, as Einstein would say.

Making Better Use of Mediation to Resolve Disputes and Manage Difficult Issues (06/19/15)
Mediation encourages parties who have – or who anticipate having – differences, conflict or a dispute to sit down and talk, with a view to finding a mutually acceptable way forward. It is usually most appropriate when, for a number of reasons, people are unable to negotiate effectively for themselves or have reached some sort of impasse or deadlock. It recognises that direct negotiations can be difficult in many situations. It can also be effective to prevent awkward situations escalating.

Getting to Yes – With Yourself -- Book Review (05/08/15)
“In the morning when I look at myself in the mirror, I like to remind myself that I am seeing the person who is probably going to give me the most trouble that day, the opponent who will be the biggest obstacle to me getting what I truly want.”

The Mediator's Log: A Mediation Story - Section 3 (02/13/15)
The Mediator's Log gives a step-by-step diary of a mediator's day as he moves through a complex negotiations. This is the final step of the mediator's negotiations.

Hope for The Future of Mediation Internationally (01/13/15)
My own work has taken me into the legislatures of many of the assemblies and parliaments in the countries of the United Kingdom to train and coach members in “scrutiny skills”. I believe that many politicians do understand the real value of this training at an individual level. I believe that they wish to move away from the time-consuming, energy-depleting, morale-sapping and often futile game of positional politics. They sense that this change is what their constituents want too.

Mediator’s Proposals? A Story… (12/01/14)
I have never been a great fan of mediator’s proposals. I took the view that the mediator’s job, done well, was to help the parties to come to a solution themselves. Party autonomy and all that. Achieving a satisfactory outcome, I thought, shouldn’t require a specific suggestion by the mediator.

The Mediator's Log: A Mediation Story - Section 2 (10/21/14)
Part 1 discusses a typical mediator's morning, where all of the details of the case and the arguments are revealed. This section, Part 2, discusses a mediator's afternoon, where he uses all of his tools to help the parties understand each other.

The Mediator's Log: A Mediation Story - Section 1 (09/12/14)
What happens when you are a mediator and you start another mediation day? We have printed below the details of a mediator's typical morning. The sequel will be printed shortly. Read on as the story unfolds....

Getting to Yes…or No?! (09/02/14)
On Thursday 4 September, Collaborative Scotland hosts a Day of Dialogue which will focus on respect and reconciliation in the lead up to, and after, the independence referendum in Scotland on 18 September. It is not about Yes and No but how we will live and work together regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

Beware of Ultimatums When Negotiating (08/01/14)
Good negotiation involves lots of client moves, client satisfaction, flexible negotiators, . . . and few ultimatums. Remember these tips in order to get the best agreement for your client.

Collaborative Scotland (06/06/14)
Scotland is having a referendum on its constitutional future. As I write this, it is only a few months until we vote. Whatever the outcome in September’s referendum about independence for Scotland, in this country we will all need to work hard to ensure that we can live well together after the referendum.

Legal ‘Gut Feelings’ Can Lead to Hiccups (04/23/14)
Lawyers are as susceptible to errors in decision-making, and in giving advice to clients, as lay people… and this has a significant impact on the timing and quality of settlement of disputes. So we are told in a thought-provoking article in the Southern California Law Review, How Lawyers’ Intuitions Prolong Litigation.

There's Nothing Weak About an Apology (01/17/14)
Breaking the cycle of blame needs someone to have the courage to accept responsibility. It can be hard in mediation, but it is powerful.

Scotland Can Provide Secure Forum for Global Disputes (12/06/13)
This is a difficult time for the world as we face serious tensions in the Middle East. Thirty years ago, the situation was similar. On 1 September that year, fighter jets from the Soviet Union shot down a South Korean jumbo jet near Sakhalin Island, in the Sea of Japan, killing all 269 people on board. The Cold War was at a peak. Relations between East and West were at a low ebb.

The Key to Mediation is to Find the Real Issue: A Congress Case Study (11/08/13)
Identifying all the possible ways forward and assessing these rationally is the hallmark of good mediation, says John Sturrock. The stalemate in the US Congress, now resolved temporarily, has attracted much comment from those interested in how disputes can be resolved. The US press had openly called for mediation to be used, leading to discussion about what mediation could achieve and how it actually works.

Building Better Business Cultures (10/03/13)
A culture shift from conflict to collaboration is taking place, leading mediators believe, in handling difficult situations and disputes, not only in business but in many aspects of public life – a development which presents fresh challenges to the legal profession.

Managing Business Risk (04/26/13)
Managing business risk can be done through effective negotiation and conflict management. Mediators can help to manage that business risk by nipping things in the bud – and resolving difficult disputes.

A New Scotland Can Be Built on Civil Discourse (03/22/13)
Scotland is at a crossroads. As a nation, we face momentous choices. How we go about discussing them, and making them, may well determine how we work together in the future.

Finding Consensus (02/22/13)
Mutual respect and courtesy may be the key to success in finding consensus. It helps people to lower barriers and explore difficult topics.

Book Review: Lawyering with Planned Early Negotiation (07/02/12)
Much has been written about how to be a more effective lawyer in the modern age. If one was to seek to sum up what most lawyers are seeking to achieve it might be this: how you can get good results for clients and make money? This is in fact the sub-title of a new book by Professor John Lande of the University of Missouri and it is more than a clever marketing ploy.

Mediation or Meditation? (05/14/12)
Much has been written about the human brain in recent times. Eolene reminded us that the brain has two components, the limbic brain, which developed as homo sapiens dealt with primitive conditions and learned the importance of fight or flight. Later, the neo-cortex, the more rational part of the brain, was formed. But the two were – and are – not united. Our emotions could still override logic, especially under pressure. We are not Mr. Spock.

A Little More Conversation (03/26/12)
The next two years present Scotland and the rest of the UK with a unique opportunity. How we conduct the discussion of the constitutional question (whether or not Scotland should become an independent nation) could be as important as the outcome.

Moving Towards Better Dialogue? (02/27/12)
There is little doubt that the win-lose, black-white paradigm is costly, in money, time, opportunity and dignity. It denies the obvious fact that life is complex, that most people are trying their best in difficult circumstances and that creativity, imagination and compassion are more likely to achieve better outcomes than zero-sum games where there are often only losers.

Mediation Saves The UK An Annual £1.4bn While The Cost Of The Services That Help To Achieve It Is A Mere £15m (01/17/11)
If the phrase “deficit reduction” characterised the early months of the new Westminster government, for many it has now been superseded by “preventative spending.” Investing wisely at an early stage to avoid spending far more later can save significant sums for the tightly-strung public purse – and one area of huge potential is mediation.

Leaders Need To Focus On The Big Picture And Stop Bickering (10/11/10)
With renewed discussion about the Borders railway line in southern Scotland and the proposed new bridge to cross the Forth estuary north of Edinburgh, we see time and again the familiar tendency to draw a line in the sand, to set a bottom line or to proclaim that a certain position is non-negotiable. For those with different views or who sit on the other side of an issue, one of the challenges is how to deal with a situation where someone or some group has taken a stance and seems unwilling or unable to move from that.

The Role Of Mediation In A Modern Civil Justice System (09/13/10)
As I stood in a hailstorm on a windswept road with a measuring tape in my hand, while two landowners sought to resolve a boundary dispute, I wondered about my change of career. But when, after two hours, they resolved a potentially long running and destructively expensive dispute where the only alternative seemed to be court proceedings, I was reminded of why it is a privilege to do what I do as a mediator.

We All Have A Part To Play In Coalition’s Success . . . Or Failure (08/09/10)
We all know something really interesting happened in British politics with the agreement of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to work in coalition. What is interesting is the reaction. People don't quite know how to deal with it. We are accustomed to an adversarial approach in politics. So, the observations now tend to focus on the differences and potential areas of disagreement – and where it might go wrong.

New Protocol For Resolving Devolution Conflicts Slips In Under Radar (06/13/10)
During April, a month in which the news was dominated by disputes involving British Airways, the railways and the Edinburgh tram works, there was less reporting of a significant agreement reached between the UK government and the three devolved administrations.

UK Election (05/03/10)
An intriguing and unheralded intervention in the general election campaign in the UK came last week from the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution in London. The Centre suggested that, with the prospect of a “hung” parliament, what we need is a Parliamentary Coalition Independent Mediator. Although a bit of a mouthful, the general proposition that there may be a role for an independent mediator or mediators to work with party leaders and civil servants in the event that no party gains an overall majority in seats is worth reflecting on.

Making The Best Of Mediation: From Breakfast To Bedrooms And Beyond (02/08/10)
I find that it is often helpful to set the scene in mediation by bringing together the participants over breakfast: this gives an opportunity for people to mingle informally and for me to say some words about what we are here to do – and how.

Copenhagen Deal Will Require More Than A Little Give And Take (12/21/09)
Last week, I found myself in the Bella Centre in Copenhagen, the location for the negotiations on climate change. It is a vast cavern, with scores of rooms serving as the location for talks, presentations, media activity and lobbying. I was struck by the sheer mass of people, with laptops, leaflets, cameras and TV screens, milling around in the hope of influencing discussions. That image has stayed with me as we hear daily of the difficulties facing negotiations.

Mediation And Climate Change (12/07/09)
Climate change and its effects are no respecters of national borders. We are told that we face unprecedented alterations to weather patterns across the globe. Disruption of this sort may pose potentially serious security risks for many countries as competition for scarce resources grows and the pace of change outstrips our ability to adapt. Mass migration is one such threat. This could bring about dangerous conflicts within and between states. We will need to find ways to address these.

How President Obama Gets To Yes (08/03/09)
President Barack Obama's willingness to acknowledge that he had chosen his words badly in his response to the incident involving Harvard professor Henry Gates and a Massachusetts police sergeant – and his suggestion that all three of them meet up at the White House for a "beer summit" – marks him out yet again as a man who is able to act in a way which is different to that which we often expect of politicians.

The Growth Of Mediation In Practice: A Scottish Perspective (04/20/09)
The founder of Scotland's pre-eminent provider of commercial mediation services discusses growth of mediation in practice in light of the current economic climate.

Mediation Grows As Firms See The Benefit Of Finding Common Ground (09/29/08)
In a mediation a few months back, those involved - some lay people, a growing business and a professional adviser - revealed they had previously spent more than three years in dispute and incurred legal and other costs running well into six figures, an amount that may have significantly outweighed what was at issue between them.

Why Getting To Yes Is the Most Vital Journey We Face (06/30/08)
GETTING to Yes is the seminal work on negotiation by Fisher and Ury. First published in 1983, it has been read by millions of business people, diplomats, lawyers and others around the world and is standard fare in universities in the United States and elsewhere. Recently, General Sumbeiywo, the man at the centre of the Southern Sudanese peace agreement, was asked what one book he would recommend to negotiators. Getting to Yes was his swift reply.

Why World May Be Ready For A New Edinburgh Conversation (11/05/07)
In the early eighties, Edinburgh was the discreet venue for a series of meetings which arguably played a significant role in the ending of the Cold War. Known as The Edinburgh Conversations, the meetings were chaired by the then Principal of Edinburgh University, Sir John Burnett, and were the brainchild of the head of the University’s Centre for Defence Studies, Professor John Erickson. John Erickson was a leading world authority on the Soviet military, admired and welcomed in the Kremlin and the Pentagon.

From John Sturrock (09/05/07)
From afar in Scotland, we find to be an indispensable resource for keeping up to date with what is happening in the US and elsewhere. Our own use of mediation is developing and that is greatly assisted by the extensive network that promotes.

Scotland And The UK Negotiate A New Arrangement? (06/24/07)
“In a joint statement issued yesterday by the Leader of the House of Commons at Westminster and the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament it was announced that negotiations had been successfully completed between the two parliaments on the new constitutional arrangement between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The statement recorded that the guiding principles of co-operation and reciprocity which underscored the historic agreement heralded a new era of prosperity and recognition of mutual interests from which all would benefit.”

Mediation Takes Hold in Scotland (07/22/04)
Scotland is famous for its innovation and willingness to try to address the challenges of modern life through creative thinking. Despite this, in the past few years in Scotland, there has been a cautious approach to mediation and other forms of consensual dispute resolution. However, mediation in Scotland, once closely associated with only family disputes, is now increasingly being chosen by those in civil and commercial disputes as their preferred option for dispute resolution.