SNP agrees junior minister posts for Green party
New partners: Nicola Sturgeon and Patrick Harvie
Two Scottish Green party MSPs have been given junior ministerial positions in the government in a move to strengthen the SNP’s ability to push through its legislative programme.
Despite cooperation in a number of key areas, the “confidence and supply agreement” will not be a formal coalition on the lines of the Labour-Lib Dem deal between 1999 and 2007.
However, the Green party will back most government policy on issues such as public transport and renewables, but will maintain an independent position in areas such as aviation policy, international relations, policy on fee-paying schools, fox hunting and Nato membership if Scotland becomes independent.
Green party ministers could be invited to attend cabinet meetings when their portfolios being discussed, with the Green co-leaders attending cabinet at least twice a year.
The deal, which is due to be ratified by the Green party next Saturday, includes a commitment to hold a referendum on Scottish independence after the Covid pandemic has passed and within the next five years.
It has come about because the SNP fell short of a majority in the May elections and is now relying on informal support from the Greens, the fourth largest party in the Scottish Parliament after winning eight seats in the election in May, while the SNP won 64 seats.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described it as a ground-breaking agreement “that meets the challenges and opportunities of our time”.
She said: “Today’s politics can too often feel small – polarised, divided and incapable of meeting the moment – and this agreement is intended to change that in Scotland. It is about doing politics and governance better to find the solutions needed to solve the problems confronting the world today.
“The spirit of co-operation and consensus-building is very much in keeping with the founding principles of our Scottish Parliament. We do not agree on everything but we are coming out of our comfort zones to focus on what we do agree on.
“The agreement delivers bold policy action on pressing issues. A commitment to more affordable housing, a better deal for tenants and action to tackle poverty and inequality. Steps to accelerate our transition to net zero – more support for active travel, transformation of home energy and a ten year transition fund for the North East of Scotland. A focus on green jobs and fair work – and a sustainable recovery from COVID.
North Sea oil will be a big focus of attention on the new partnership
“We also reaffirm in this Agreement our shared commitment to securing independence for Scotland, and to giving people the right to choose our country’s future through a referendum.
“It recognises that business as usual is not good enough – we need boldness, courage and a will to do things differently. That is what we offer.”
Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “This is a historic moment, which could not come at a more important time. We must build a fairer and compassionate country and we must do everything in our power to tackle the escalating climate and nature emergencies to deliver a just transition for all.
“That is what this deal will do. Fundamentally this is a new approach to politics. We agree on some things and disagree on others – those distinctive voices can and will remain.”
Green Party co-leader Lorna Slater said: “The stakes could not be higher – with the COP26 climate conference coming to Glasgow, Scotland is in a position show real leadership on climate.
“But this deal is about people as well as the planet. Together, we would deliver a new deal for tenants, giving tenants more rights and introducing rent controls to help tackle Scotland’s housing crisis, create a new National Park, and much more. That’s why we are pledging to work together to build a greener, fairer and independent Scotland.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “At long last the SNP and the Greens have formalised the coalition of cuts that has been in action for years.
“This will come as a surprise to no-one, but it is a disaster for Scotland.”
Scottish Tories claimed that the Greens joining the SNP Government would be a threat to Scotland’s recovery from Covid as they oppose oil and gas development and a number of big infrastructure projects, such as road building.
Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross rubbished claims that the deal was not a coalition and said Nicola Sturgeon had turned to the “extremist Greens” after she failed to win a majority in the Scottish Parliament election.
He added that the “anti-jobs, anti-business” coalition would punish hardworking families, motorists, and the oil and gas industry.
The deal was published just hours after the Scottish Conservatives gained a North East council seat from the SNP.
Douglas Ross: ‘a coalition of chaos’ (pic: Terry Murden)
“They will work and vote together as one nationalist government on all but a handful of issues,” said Mr Ross.
“The 50-odd pages of their policy programme could be boiled down to one word above everything else – separation. This is a nationalist coalition of chaos focused on splitting up the country and dividing Scotland with another bitter referendum.
“It shows just how weak the SNP feel their case is that they’ve had to break bread with a party that is even more anti-jobs, anti-business and ideologically extreme than they are. This SNP-Green deal will punish hardworking families across Scotland, especially anyone who relies on their cars.
“There are now opponents of the oil and gas industry at the very heart of the SNP-Green Government. They will undoubtedly be using their new influence to push for an end to the North Sea sector as soon as possible, risking the 100,000 Scottish jobs it supports.”
The ALBA Party called on the SNP and Scottish Greens to commit to pursuing Scotland’s independence mandate now, and not continue to kick the constitutional issue into the long grass.
Alex Salmond’s pro independence party said that the agreement announced today between the SNP and Greens is a “ Deal for Politicians and not for the people’s benefit.”
Robert Kilgour, chairman of the pro-union Scottish Business UK, said: “It is depressing if predictable to read that item number one on the policy agenda for the SNP and Greens in government is holding another referendum during the first half of the current parliament.
“Scottish ministers have been paying lip service to economic recovery since well before the election but this deal marks a fuller capitulation toward a far less constructive agenda.
“In the same week that the Scottish Government’s own GERS figures showed a yawning, record deficit at the heart of the public finances worth £36.9 billion, the First Minister should instead be working in ways to partner with the UK government to find ways to improve our joint prosperity.
“Businesses will be poring over the fine print of the deal in the days and months ahead to see exactly how many of their interests have been sacrificed in the race to get anti-growth Green MSPs into government and engineer constitutional chaos.”
The agreement includes commitments to:
- hold a referendum on Scottish independence after the COVID pandemic has passed, within the current parliamentary session
- increase investment in active travel and public transport, including a Fair Fares review to provide a realistic and affordable alternative to car use
- a strengthened framework of support for the marine renewables and offshore wind sectors
- take forward a ten-year £500 million Just Transition Fund for the North East and Moray
- significantly increase the level of the Scottish Child Payment, in order to maximise the impact on child poverty, with the full £20 payment being achieved within the lifetime of the Parliament
- designate at least one new National Park by the end of this parliamentary session
- enhance marine environmental protection
- implement an effective national system of rent controls, enhance tenants’ rights and deliver 110,000 affordable homes by 2032
- invest at least £1.8 billion over this parliamentary session in energy efficiency and renewable heating
- establish two new Scottish Government overseas offices in Warsaw and Copenhagen to promote Scotland’s interests in central Europe and the Nordic countries