Greens will no longer be entitled to FMQs slot as leaders enter government

The Scottish Greens will no longer be entitled to a weekly leaders’ question to the First Minister as the party enters government for the first time.

Holyrood’s Presiding Officer set out changes to the allocation of time at First Minister’s Questions, following the co-operation agreement with the SNP.

Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater will enter the Scottish Government as ministers.

Together, the SNP and Greens have 71 of the Scottish Parliament’s 129 seats.

Alison Johnstone interview
Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone was elected as a Green MSP (Russell Cheyne/PA)

Alison Johnstone, who was elected as a Green MSP before giving up party affiliation to become Presiding Officer, said a “bespoke” response was needed to the deal between the two parties.

She also ruled that the Greens would no longer be automatically called to speak at the start and end of debates.

The party’s short money, the funds paid to parties in order to carry out parliamentary duties, is also being reduced.

In a message to MSPs, Ms Johnstone said: “In my view, the nature of the co-operation agreement, which would see the two Greens co-leaders being appointed as junior Scottish ministers, removes their entitlement to a leader’s question at FMQs.

“It is, instead, my intention to allocate the Greens a backbench question in three weeks out of six and, further, to call them at question three in two of those six weeks.”

Discussing the position on debates, she said: “I now plan to allocate to the Greens one speaking slot during each debate in the same way as is allocated to the Liberal Democrats.”

SNP and Green Party agreement
Scottish Green Party co-leaders Patrick Harvie (centre) and Lorna Slater (left) in their new positions (Jane Barlow/PA)

Scottish Conservative MSP Stephen Kerr said: “The Scottish Conservatives had strongly opposed the Greens’ attempts to have their cake and eat it.

“We rejected their efforts to game the system, as they sought to join the Government and somehow pretend to still be an opposition party.

“We welcome this firm but fair decision from the Presiding Officer, which removes the Greens from their leader’s position at First Minister’s Questions and takes away their opposition debating time.

“The Greens had tried to undermine the Scottish Parliament but the Presiding Officer has made sure that will not happen.”

The Scottish Parliament formally approved the appointment of the two new junior ministers following a debate on Tuesday afternoon, with 69 MSPs voting in favour and 56 against.

Mr Harvie, an MSP for the Glasgow region, will become minister for zero carbon buildings, active travel and tenants’ rights.

Ms Slater, a Lothian MSP, will take on the role of minister for green skills, the circular economy and biodiversity.