Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie hinted at a potential coalition with the Scottish National Party (SNP) during the reveal of the Greens’ new manifesto.
The manifesto was released last week ahead of the Parliamentary elections on May 6th, 2021. A variety of issues are tackled in the manifesto, ranging from transportation, renewable energy to education. The top priorities in the manifesto regard a fair and green recovery from the pandemic, tackling the climate emergency via direct investments. It also argues that Scotland must join the EU as an independent nation.
The Party experienced a dramatic increase in its popularity in the last few years. A large factor in this new popularity is a general desire in Scotland to secede from the UK and join the European Union. The party believes that leaving the UK and joining the European Union as an independent nation is crucial to achieving Scotland’s climate targets. When asked about independence, co-Leader Lorna Slater answered:
“Independence is one piece of the puzzle for tackling climate change and building a fairer and greener Scotland”
Independence, a common goal
This central point is one of the major reasons for forming a coalition with the Scottish National Party (SNP). Both parties wish for secession and to join the EU, it is a major factor in their popularity. The SNP was in power during the first independence referendum in 2014. However, the majority of citizens voted to remain. The 2016 Brexit referendum is the reason why a second referendum is being discussed. Scottish citizens largely voted to remain in the EU but were forced out by the other UK members. The result of Brexit has since forced a discussion about a second referendum.
In order to hold a second referendum, the parties in favor of independence must hold a majority of the seats in the coming elections. First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP party, Nicola Sturgeon, stated last January:
“If there is a simple, democratic majority in the Scottish parliament for an independence referendum, there will be no democratic, electoral or moral justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson or anyone else to block the right of people in Scotland to decide their own future.”Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland
The results of the votes will determine whether or not a referendum will occur in Scotland. It will also determine if a coalition will occur. Green co-leader Patrick Harvie stated that many green parties in Europe have entered coalitions, further hinting at a potential coalition. He has however downplayed the rumors of any coalition in front of the media. The Greens aspire to take government roles, and the polls estimate that the Greens will double their parliamentary seat numbers.
Why downplay the coalition rumours?
The Greens are downplaying any coalition discussion because it may not prove to be favorable. Co-leader Lorna Slater explained why there is reticence to a potential coalition, as there was a “huge amount of distance” between the parties. Whilst they both wish for independence, the Greens have a much more sound climate change plan. The SNP is still discussing oil extraction in the North Sea, and another polluting project. The Greens believe that Scotland should be distancing itself from such projects and focus on energy transitions. When asked about the coalition, Patrick Harvie stated:
“If we were asked, I suspect a lot of people in party would be willing for us to have the conversation but there are really massive issues that I don’t think the SNP are grappling with yet, like the future transition away from fossil fuels, like the land reform agenda that they haven’t taken forward.”Patrick Harvie on Potential Coalition
The Scottish National Party is the largest party in Scotland with 47% of the parliamentary seats. To secure a majority, a coalition with the Greens could create a serious majority. A coalition with a party that is increasing in popularity is very advantageous for the SNP. SNP strategists have even responded to the coalition rumors and hinted that Greens should be handed government positions.
Whilst the Greens have a lot to win by joining in a coalition, they may also have a lot to lose. They would join a party that does not have the same climate targets and still pursues polluting projects. The Greens are waiting for the results of the elections. If there is not a majority allowing for a referendum, the Greens feel there is little to gain from a coalition.