A meeting of the Scottish Government Cabinet approved the power-sharing deal yesterday based on similar arrangements the New Zealand Greens have with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Both parties, who support a second independence referendum, have been locked in negotiations since May after the SNP fell one seat short of an overall majority at the Holyrood election.
The new agreement, which still needs to be approved by Scottish Green members and the SNP’s National Executive Committee, will see the Greens in national government for the first time in the UK.
The draft deal mirrors a similar agreement between Labour and the Lib Dems in the first two terms of the Scottish Parliament when Jack McConnell served as First Minister between 2001 and 2007.
Under the deal, two Green MSPs will become Scottish Government junior ministers after a nomination process, taking the number of pre-separation MSPs in Holyrood to 72, seven more than the 65 needed for a majority.
It will not be a formal coalition between the two but the deal will see them work together on key issues including the climate emergency, economic recovery, child poverty, the natural environment and energy.
Green MSPs also would support the Scottish Government on confidence votes, as well as in annual budgets if there is “appropriate funding for the shared policy programme”.
But at the heart of the draft policy programme known as the Bute House Agreement, both parties will commit to holding a second referendum on Scottish independence after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed within the current parliamentary session.
It will also see the creation of two new Scottish Government overseas offices in Warsaw and Copenhagen to promote Scotland’s interests in Central Europe and the Nordic countries, a move which has been criticized by the Scottish Tories as a “waste of Scottish taxpayers cash.”
Alongside this, the deal will support the Scottish Government’s view that oil and gas licences should be reviewed rather than scrapped.
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Ms Sturgeon was criticised earlier this month for what was seen as a less than full-throated opposition to the controversial Cambo oil field near Shetland.
The field, which could produce more than 800 million barrels of oil, came to the fore after a UN-backed report was described as “code red for humanity” on climate change with the Scottish Government urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reject the plans.
However, both sides could not reach an agreement on 10 policy areas including 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.
As the confidence and supply agreement was announced, the Scottish Conservatives called for Patrick Harvie’s party to lose their spot at First Minister’s Questions.
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Party chief whip Stephen Kerr wrote to Holyrood’s Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone to request the change.
If Ms Johnstone did strip the Greens of their slot at FMQs, then only the leaders of Labour and the Tories would be able to scrutinise Ms Sturgeon.
Mr Kerr has also pushed for the party to be stripped of the ability to call opposition debates and for Green spokespeople to lose the ability to question ministers following Government statements.
Leader Douglas Ross branded the agreement as a “nationalist coalition of chaos focused on splitting up the country and dividing Scotland with another bitter referendum”.
He also stressed the deal would punish hardworking families, motorists, and the oil and gas industry.
Branding the deal as “anti-jobs and anti-business” the Moray MP added: “Nicola Sturgeon failed to win a majority so she’s had to turn to the extremist Greens to help her push for indyref2 during an economic crisis.
“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.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the agreement would be a “disaster for Scotland”.
He added: “This straitjacket deal covers all but a handful of issues, with the so-called Greens endorsing the SNP’s dismal track record on everything from austerity to the environment.
“It’s hard to believe they will be a strong voice within government when they certainly never were in opposition.”
A UK Government source said: “We don’t feel the agreement changes the SNP’s case of having a second independence referendum very much.
“Now is not the time to have a divisive vote.”
Business groups also slated the deal with one claiming their interests had been “sacrificed” in order to get Scottish Green MSPs into government.
Robert Kilgour, chairman of 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.
“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.”
Andrew McRae, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Scotland policy chair, called for both parties to focus on building on the “fragile optimism” in the Scottish small business community.
But speaking during a media briefing yesterday, Ms Sturgeon defended the deal and made clear it would make “politics and governance better” across the country.
Whilst acknowledging both parties “had their differences”, she stressed they will work together to build a “greener, fairer, independent Scotland”.
She added: “The publication of this agreement today undoubtedly marks a historic moment.
“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.”
When pressed if the deal made a second independence referendum more likely, the Scottish First Minister admitted that she “hoped Scotland would be independent sooner rather than later.”
Ms Sturgeon also said she was “determined” that there would be a referendum within the current term of Parliament stressing it would “better equip ourselves [Scotland] from COVID.”
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said the deal “couldn’t come at a more important time.”
He added: “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.”
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