Welcome to our new Green overlords

As the Scottish Greens go into what looks very much like a Coalition with the SNP, taking 2 yet to be announced ministerial positions, it would be tempting to treat them with exactly the same kindness and empathy they showed us when we were entering coalition at Westminster in 2010.

Before we had even done anything, they were turning hyperbolic abuse into an art form.

But we should be bigger people here. We are, after all, in favour of electoral systems which encourage coalition and cross-party working.

We will have to judge the Greens by their actions.

And it’s not as if this development is anything particularly new. The SNP has relied on their votes for most of the past 14 years. I do have to wonder why they think that now is the right time to join a failing government and start to get the blame for the decline in our public services that the SNP has presided over.

The Greens in Scotland are very much of the watermelon kind rather than the mango. They are socialist in nature rather than liberal, and their support for independence risks them putting nationalism above the climate emergency.

I really don’t get why, with a decade to save the planet, any Green would want to spend at least a quarter of that time faffing about with the constitution. The planet is not going to be saved by us putting up barriers, that’s for sure.

The Greens have negotiated themselves opt-outs from voting with the Government on  a limited number of issues. These include defence, aviation and aerospace related matters and the selling of sex. As the SNP Government looks to adopt the Nordic Model, the Greens have given themselves the right to oppose it. Our policy is similar, but the SNP probably realises it can get it through anyway with Tory and Labour support.

The Not Really a Coalition Agreement sets out the processes by which they will work together. Green ministers will get to attend Cabinet twice a year. The Green group will be consulted on the Government’s legislative programme.

The policy agreement between the two parties is here. It’s interesting that despite the Greens’ position on road building and some words about reviews, the current dualling projects look likely to continue.

One thing that leaps out at me is the very welcome proposal to bring forward legislation to ban conversion therapy in Scotland. Why wait till 2023 though when there is widespread agreement and it could be done pretty quickly now?

Speaking on Good Morning Scotland yesterday, new Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton wished Greens luck, but said that it didn’t look like they were getting much out of it:

“I think it looks like pretty thin gruel for the Green Party, they’ll soon realise that they will have to carry the can for all of the SNP’s inadequacies on public policy.

“Whether that’s the threadbare state of our police force, the waiting times – that people are clutching letters that say they will be seen in 12 weeks when there isn’t a chance they’ll be seen in 50.

“This is all part of the Greens’ deal, they’re going to have to carry the can for all this and, you know, good luck to them.”

I’m not really seeing anything that they can either claim to have stopped or anything really significant that they have brought to the table that wasn’t going to happen anyway.

What would be utterly outrageous, though, is if they were allowed to behave like an opposition party despite being part of the Government Their leaders should not get to question ministers in the Chamber, for example. The new Presiding Officer will have her work cut out for her trying to sort that one out. Elected as a Green MSP, Alison Johnstone now has now political affiliation. It would be astonishing, though, if she didn’t look to the way the Liberal Democrats were treated in their coalition with Labour as a precedent.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Caron, the Greens in England and Wales are primarily disatisfied left wingers.
    By entering a formal coalition they will probably fall to the same pressures and loss of votes another party suffered between 2010 and 2019, wonder who that could be?
    For pure party reasons I celebrate what they have done and look forward to a bonus for both Scottish Labour and Lib Dems over the next few years.

  • I think we’ll have to wait and see how this pans out. The existing SNP government is very good at announcing exiting policies that are quickly forgotten about, or get announced as if new a few months later.

    I’m concerned, but not surprised, that the first item on their list of goals is to bring about another referendum. As you say Caron, if you do prioritise tackling the climate emergency, why would you allocate so many government resources towards setting up a vote, taking those resources away from meaningful change?

    I suggest it’s a sign of the Green’s general inability to translate their aspirations into effective real world policies that they thought they should still get to challenge the FM as an opposition party in parliament, whilst having government ministers in their not-quite-a-coalition.

    Being cynical, I expect we’ll get a lot more announcements of things in the run up to the local elections next year, with the hope of boosting the number of ‘pro-independence’ councillors with a view to using that to prove the public wants a referendum. There will be a definite attempt to squeeze our vote, and I don’t think it was a coincidence at all that after months of chatter, and well over a week of ‘they’re about to announce something’ that they chose to announce it just before the announcement of our new Scottish leader. Some would argue that’s smart politics, but I hope LibDems outside Scotland realise that the cuddly public persona is insincere. The SNP don’t want to work with us – they want to end us.

  • Brad Barrows 22nd Aug '21 - 11:38am

    In many ways I regard this SNP/Green deal as a positive development for Scottish politics. Parties looking for common ground and working together when they can is a good thing in my book. I do not share that view that returning to Scotland’s constitutional position gets in the way of dealing with other priorities – in the USA they say that they expect their politicians ‘to be able to walk and chew gum’, and we should expect our politicians to be able to address several priorities at once. The longer term effect on Scottish politics of this deal could become evident next May if we find that SNP voters and Green voters become even more likely to transfer votes to the other party in our STV elections. Perhaps Glasgow and Edinburgh could end up with SNP/Green coalitions running those councils as well, mirroring what is happening nationally. The challenge for the Liberal Democrats is to not be squeezed further by this development as more voters who place the climate emergency as their top priority feel pulled towards the Greens, from the Lib Dems, due to their access to the heart of power.

  • Brad Barrows 22nd Aug '21 - 11:48am

    On another point, if no independence referendum is held before the next Holyrood elections, this SNP/Green deal will probably mean that there will be a large increase in Green MSPs at that election as SNP voters will be far more inclined to use their List votes to support the Green Party. Even if the SNP and Greens both lose percentage support, the electoral system will probably return a SNP/Green majority government.

  • Oh dear, Caron, when I read your headline I thought the Martians had landed..

    Regarding priorities; as Brad Barrows writes, I expect they’ll be well able to ‘walk and chew gum’. I also note that the Scottish 2021 manifesto doesn’t mention the environment until page 8 (the last of the listed priorities)

  • John Marriott 22nd Aug '21 - 2:24pm

    PR generally does not deliver one party majority government. It tends to deliver coalitions. Weren’t the Lib Dems part of a coalition with Labour in the early years after devolution north of the border? What the Green Party and the SNP have is just short of a coalition but a bit more than supply and confidence. Both say they believe in a fully independent Scotland. So an arrangement makes sense surely. It’s called democracy.

    The Lib Dem’s still support PR. PR tends to deliver coalitions. They had better live with it. After all, they have been there before themselves. As far as the Greens “not getting much out of it”, well, neither did the Lib Dems at Westminster between 2010 and 2015, according to some people.

  • @Fiona

    “The SNP don’t want to work with us – they want to end us.”

    I thought that Willie Rennie until recently took the line that the Lib Dems would not discuss budget and other issues until the SNP dropped its commitment to independence?

    Are you now saying that the Lib Dems will enter into a political arrangement of some sort with the SNP? When was this offer made as I missed it.

  • Hireton – I’ve no idea what you are alluding to.

    People are right to point out that we’ve had coalitions before. They aren’t anything new, and the Scottish Parliament has had Labour-LibDem then SNP-Tory in recent years, so of course a coalition(lite) isn’t anything radical for Holyrood. However, that doesn’t mean as an opposition party we just nod along with everything they say.

    If only running the country was as easy as walking. If only campaigning to break up a country was as benign as chewing gum.

    There’s nothing wrong with multi-tasking, but as the Scottish Government struggles with the basics, and is already years behind in being ready to take over the welfare powers they demanded, perhaps they could devote attention to those things first.

    I think of dealing with the climate crisis as along the lines of performing complex surgery on multiple patients. Recovering from COVID is like running and A&E department. Education is training up new staff. An independence referendum is like demolishing the building. The current independence demands are like demolishing a building while without building a new one, insisting we can decide what it will look like later.

  • @Fiona

    You said the SNP don’t want to work with the Lib Dems. I simply asked when the Lib Dems have offered to work with the SNP given Rennie’s previous policy of not working with the SNP on budget issues unless it dropped its commitment to independence.

    I am not clear what your long response is about.

  • Peter Hirst 24th Aug '21 - 2:56pm

    If only the Greens would stick to environmental issues they would have more support. Once they ventured into the mirky abyss of other issues they lost their clarity. Of course they suffer like us from the lack of PR and preferential voting. With these and especially STV many voters throughout these islands would give their candidates at least one vote.

  • @ Peter Hirst, you say, “If only the Greens would stick to environmental issues they would have more support…….. Of course they suffer like us from the lack of PR and preferential voting. With these and especially STV many voters throughout these islands would give their candidates at least one vote”.

    There you go again, Peter – revealing the limited Lib Dem view in England. You may have missed the fact that we have a form of PR in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland…… and in Scotland thevoters gave the Greens more MSPs than the Lib Dems and are about to enter power sharing with the Scottish Government.

  • David Evans 24th Aug '21 - 4:49pm


    Absolutely correct in what you say.

    Of course the response to your comment ‘As far as the Greens “not getting much out of it”, well, neither did the Lib Dems at Westminster between 2010 and 2015,’ is something like ‘we got 8 MPs and about 1,800 councillors out of it.”

    Of course we went in with 57 MPs and over 3,900 councillors. Probably the nearest MPs got to something like a Dunkirk moment.

  • Andrew MacGregor 24th Aug '21 - 5:40pm

    The history of the Scottish Parliament early on was one of coalitions. The whole voting system is designed to create a ‘cooperative governance’ culture in Holyrood. In the early years the LDs and Labour were in active coalition. In 2007 despite there being a minority administration, neither Labour nor the LDs would agree to a coalition or even a confidence and supply arrangement. From 2007 to the seismic 2011 result the SNP carefully framed policies so that even if the Lab/LDs could not vote for, they could hardly vote against. It’s notable that in 2011 the party lost 12 MSPs.
    2015 saw a return to normal service though and d’Hondt delivering a minority Govt, but only marginally. They worked with the SGP throughout that period and were able to get most of their programme through unhindered, with the opposition railing from the sidelines. What we are seeing now is a more formal arrangement, although still NOT a coalition. That agreement is more in the form of a quid pro quo arrangement.
    In terms of coalition, I don’t believe we as a party vcan suggest that the very small tail is wagging the dog any more than it did at Westminster from 2010 to 2015. Like the LD party in the WM coalition I suspect there will be policies that are Green Policies that will pass through and others that they will forgo in order to get those ones through.
    It’s hardly new ‘masters’ and there’s a bit of histrionics going on with that view in my opinion.

  • Jason Conner 25th Aug '21 - 6:10pm

    No the Lib Dems didn’t but if things go wrong the SNP will get the credit think what happened to the DUP and if they go right even the SNP is in a win-win situation. It’s a bit of a paradox for them but I wonder what the Green party policy is on mass housebuilding in the green belt? They would happily vote labour where their candidates do not stand. However I would support independence for Scotland as an end to Westminster unionist rule and unlike some on here I don’t see the SNP as an inward looking insular party.

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