Two Green MSPs to become Government ministers in ‘historic’ deal with SNP

The agreement between the Scottish Greens and the SNP is a “historic moment” in Scottish politics, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Announcing the deal, which has been negotiated since May, the First Minister said it was a chance to do “politics and governance better”.

The agreement also formalises the pro-independence majority in Holyrood, after the SNP fell just one seat short of an overall majority in May’s election, as well as solidifying a timetable for another vote.

The deal says the two sides aim to have another referendum in the first half of the parliamentary session, meaning before the end of 2024, if the Covid-19 pandemic has ended.

Now, Scottish Green members and the SNP national executive committee will have to give the deal their support.

Flanked by Scottish Green co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie, who could find themselves in ministerial office after the deal guaranteed two MSPs would be in Government, the First Minister welcomed the news and credited the pair as “tough” negotiators.

Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater
Scottish Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater went to Bute House to announce the agreement (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Speaking from Bute House in Edinburgh, the First Minister said: “Working together to build a greener, fairer, independent Scotland is groundbreaking.

“Groundbreaking in both Scottish and, perhaps even more so, UK politics.”

The First Minister continued: “And yet, despite the magnitude of those challenges – many of them global – today’s politics can too often feel small, polarised, divided and incapable of meeting the moment.

“This agreement is intended to change that – it is about doing politics and governance better.”

“The publication of this agreement today undoubtedly marks a historic moment.

“It recognises that business as usual is not good enough in the times we are living through.

“It grasps that out of great challenge, a better world and a better Scotland is capable of being born, but it understands that achieving it will take boldness, courage and a will to do things differently.

“That is what we offer.”

Mr Harvie added: “This is indeed a historic moment.

“This deal would see Greens entering Government for the first ever time in Scotland, or anywhere in the UK.

“And it couldn’t come at a more important time.

“The last 18 months have been an incredibly difficult time for us all and as we seek to rebuild our lives and our economy we really must seek to do things differently.

“We must build a fairer, compassionate country and we must do everything in our power to tackle the climate and nature emergencies and deliver a just transition for all of Scotland.

“And that’s what this deal will do.”

The deal covers the vast majority of domestic policy, with 10 areas carved out where the sides could not reach an agreement.

The role of gross domestic product (GDP) in measuring economic growth, public funding for defence companies, membership of Nato in an independent Scotland and the regulation of selling sex are among areas outside the scope of the agreement.

According to a document published by the Scottish Government, there are 10 areas where the SNP and Scottish Greens do not agree and are therefore not expected to support each other.

The parties have also agreed to disagree on the matter of fee-paying schools and field sports such as hunting and shooting – a long-running bone of contention between the two sides.

The two Green MSPs appointed as ministers will not be bound by collective responsibility – meaning they will not be held accountable – in these areas.

The agreement, which also secures Green support in confidence votes and the budget process – if it is deemed the party has had sufficient input – can be severed by the leaders of either side at any time, but is intended to last for the remainder of this session.

Both the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour said the deal means a coalition government in all but name with the SNP and Greens voting together on the majority of issues.

The Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, said: “This is a nationalist coalition of chaos focused on splitting up the country and dividing Scotland with another bitter referendum.”

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.”