Kate Forbes has said she hopes to negotiate with the Greens, despite suggestions the party could exit its powersharing agreement with the Scottish Government.
The SNP leadership candidate said she is hopeful of continuing to work with the party as part of the Bute House Agreement if she is selected to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as first minister.
But Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie has said the co-operation agreement with the SNP “would come to an end” if the new leader vetoed parts of the deal.
The main disagreement is over controversial gender reforms which would make it easier to self-ID as transgender.
Ms Forbes was on maternity leave at the time of the Holyrood vote on the reforms, but she has since said she would not have supported the legislation.
SNP leadership rival Humza Yousaf has said he would challenge the decision in court, while Ash Regan has vowed to scrap the reforms.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Harvie said his party would not be in Government with any leader who would “rip out” parts of the deal.
During a visit to the Zakariyya Masjid mosque in Wishaw, North Lanarkshire, on Friday afternoon, Ms Forbes said: “I want to work with Patrick Harvie and the Green Party.
“I have negotiated probably more than any other Cabinet Secretary with the Greens in the past, and I want to work with other parties in Holyrood.
“I would certainly have a conversation with him very early doors.”
On whether compromise over the gender reforms is possible, she said: “I would hope that as a member of Government, we could both take an approach which is to consider the legal advice, and to make decisions off the back of the legal advice.”
The Greens became part of the Scottish Government in 2021 in exchange for support for SNP policies, and they have two ministerial posts in Ms Sturgeon’s Cabinet.
He went on to say: “We would not accept any Scottish Government simply vetoing parts of the Bute House Agreement.
“If there was a Scottish Government, whether it’s the current First Minister who hadn’t resigned and changed her mind, whether it’s a new first minister wanting to rip out parts of that agreement, clearly that agreement would come to an end.”
The Scottish Greens are set to address the key issues of the Bute House Agreement at their conference in Clydebank on Saturday.
Mr Harvie added that any future SNP leader who did not respect the “progressive policies” of the deal could not be accepted.
He said: “Our commitment is to the values of the progressive policies and the ethos of collaborative co-working that’s in the Bute House Agreement.
“That would not be respected by anyone who said that they wanted to continue working with the Greens but they’ll have to accept my agenda. That would be out of kilter.”
Ms Sturgeon’s successor will be selected on Monday following a five-week leadership battle.
Ms Forbes also spoke of her “confidence” in the SNP membership’s choice as she approaches the end of her campaign.
She also said she would “absolutely” seek guidance from Ms Sturgeon if she is selected as leader.