Scottish Greens to join SNP in government after members back powersharing deal

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The Scottish Greens will join the SNP in the Scottish Government after party members voted in favour of the “historic” powersharing deal.

The agreement will see the Scottish Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater become government ministers – the first time any Green representative has held political office in a government in the UK.

First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon announced the plans for the parties to work together, having agreed a “transformative” policy programme.

The deal was approved by Scottish Green party members at Saturday’s extraordinary general meeting (EGM) following a two-hour debate, and then formally ratified as required by the party’s constitution.

With a small number of proxy votes still to be counted at 2.30pm, 1,169 members (83%) had backed the deal, 234 voted against and nine abstained.

Negotiated over the summer after the SNP fell one seat short of an overall majority in May’s election, the agreement involves a shared policy platform for the Scottish Government.

This includes an agreement to pursue another vote on Scottish independence before the end of 2023, if the threat of coronavirus has subsided, as well as a raft of environmental policies and a commitment to implement rent controls.

The deal stipulates that public disagreement between the parties would only be allowed on a set of ten agreed topics, such as aviation policy, green ports, direct financial support to businesses involved in the aerospace, defence and security sectors, field sports and the economic principles related to concepts of sustainable growth and inclusive growth.

However, speaking during the EGM, Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer insisted that the list of subjects could be changed if further agreements or disagreements emerge.

Following the party’s approval of the deal, Mr Harvie said there “could not be a more important and more urgent moment for Greens to enter government and take green politics to the next level”.

He told the PA news agency: “This is a really extraordinary moment for the Green movement and for myself, I’ve been going along to Green Party meetings since childhood, I’ve been part of this movement for a very long time and it is a real moment of privilege and responsibility to be taking green politics to the next level as part of the Scottish Government.

“I’m very excited to be able to show what green politics will be like in practice and I think we have a transformational programme from housing, to public transport, to renewable energy and much much more.

“We are going to be able to achieve great things as part of the Scottish government.”

He added: “One of the critical features of this agreement, unlike some of the coalitions that we’ve seen elsewhere, is that it marks out very clearly that there is space for both political parties to retain their distinct voices and identities.

“There are many issues where the Greens and the SNP don’t agree. The ability to continue to speak out on those issues is protected.”

Ms Slater said: “This will be the first time that we have Greens in government in the UK and it will allow us to act as never before to tackle the climate crisis, the housing crisis, and the recovery of our economy after the pandemic.”

She said the the Scottish Green have “always been a constructive opposition in Holyrood” and added: “This deal will allow more to do than we’ve ever done before, implement rent controls in Scotland, create a new national park and really accelerate the development of our renewable energy industry so we will make a significant change in the next five years.”

The draft powersharing agreement was formally announced by Ms Sturgeon and the two Scottish Green co-leaders at her official residence, Bute House in Edinburgh, on August 20.

Solar farm visit
The Scottish Greens co-leaders visit the site of a new solar farm at the University of Edinburgh Easter Bush Campus (Jane Barlow/PA)

“This historic agreement will provide a strong platform for the transformative programme we want to deliver.

“We will work collaboratively to support a fair recovery from Covid, address with urgency the impacts of the climate emergency, and give the people of Scotland a vote on independence.

“The agreement recognises that co-operation and consensus are essential to finding the practical solutions to the big challenges we face, and it echoes the founding principles of our Parliament.

“While our parties do not agree on everything, we have much common ground. We also have a determination – and indeed a responsibility – to look beyond our differences to build a better country.

“I look forward to working collaboratively with the Scottish Greens in government, and with all parties in parliament, to achieve this.”

The Scottish Conservatives called the deal a “coalition of chaos” focused on independence, while Scottish Labour said the “coalition of cuts” is a “disaster for Scotland”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “This coalition of cuts is formalising a long-standing agreement where Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP hammer our public services and the Greens nod along.

“This deal is all about the parties’ constitutional obsession and nothing to do with the climate emergency we should be focused on.

“The SNP is desperate to avoid scrutiny and this coalition with their Green branch office is simply designed to make it harder for parliament to hold the First Minister to account.

“Scottish Labour will focus on providing a real alternative that addresses our national recovery, protects the NHS and tackles the climate crisis.”

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