The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon is preparing to sign a deal with the Scottish Greens that would establish a pro-independence majority at Holyrood and may see the Greens taking ministerial seats.
Sturgeon has opened formal talks with the Scottish Greens on a cooperation deal in government. The First Minister said the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Scottish Greens should come together to jointly write policies on the climate crisis and shift to net zero emission. In return, Greens will vote to back her spending plans and legislation.
This deal would allow the first minister to present a strong pro-climate agenda ahead of COP26 and outvote anti-independence parties in Holyrood. Sturgeon currently leads a minority government after the SNP won sixty-four of Holyrood’s 129 seats. The pro-independence Greens currently hold seven seats.
The two parties appear to agree on nearly all policy discussions around issues such as spending, climate change, transport and local government. This potential agreement marks the first formal deal the SNP has struck with another party.
The last remaining pieces of the puzzle are around collective responsibility and deciding how much freedom the Greens would have to disagree with the Scottish government’s decision.
The agreement could allow the Greens to criticize Sturgeon’s position on North Sea oil exploration. There is currently pressure on the Scottish government from climate activists to oppose the proposed Cambo oilfield development seventy-seven miles northwest of Shetland. The Scottish government has indicated that it will not oppose Cambo’s approval. Since UK ministers control oil licensing, Sturgeon cannot change this decision.
According to Shell, the Cambo investment will produce an estimated 164 million barrels of oil with emissions the equivalent of running 16 coal-fired power stations for a year. Greenpeace noted that this investment will side track the UK and Scotland’s efforts at achieving net zero emissions targets.
Co-founder of the Scottish Greens, Lorna Slater, demonstrated outside the UK government offices in Edinburgh to protest the decision to approve Cambo. The Scottish Greens said Sturgeon “had to get serious on the climate emergency” in order to agree a deal. Under the Green party’s rules, members must approve a Holyrood deal at a special conference before it may come into force.
The deal introduces a significant political challenge for the Scottish Labour party, as it will likely give Sturgeon a strong centre-left majority and will eliminate her need to seek approval from Labour to get policies through the devolved Parliament.
Where the collaboration could run into problems is if the Scottish Greens begin clashing with Sturgeon and other SNP ministers over policies and spending. It could also increase pressure on the Labour Party to start working with the Liberal democrats in attacking government policies.
Scottish conservative net zero spokesperson, Liam Kerr, criticized the deal to the Scotsman saying “The SNP government is working hand-in-hand with a party that’s happy to see thousands of hardworking families lose their jobs to suit their priorities.”
Scottish labour leader, Anas Sarwar responded in the Scotsman by saying “This coalition isn’t a surprise it is just formalizing a long standing reality where Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP hammer our public services with cuts, and the Greens nod along.“
Sarwar went further, explaining that the Scottish Greens have always had strong ties with the SNP.
“From voting against pay rises for care workers, failing to reform the council tax, and tripling cuts to Scottish councils, this confirms the long held suspicion that the Scottish Greens are just a branch office of the SNP” said Sarwar.
While both parties are still in the negotiating phase of the deal, sources indicate that the agreement is 95% complete. Should the partnership be successful, the Scottish Greens are expected to have greater influence on climate change policy in the coming years.