Members of the Scottish Green party have voted overwhelmingly to enter government for the first time in their history, in a “cooperation agreement” with the Scottish National Party, whose members also ratified the deal.
Via an Extraordinary General Meeting, Scottish Green members voted 82% in favour of gaining two junior ministerial portfolios for their co-leaders, along with policy concessions and consultations from the Scottish government.
In exchange, the Scottish government will be supported by the Scottish Greens in votes of confidence, enabling the SNP to pass laws and budgets, without relying on abstentions as they did in the last parliament.
SNP members ratified the cooperation agreement by 95 per cent.
The power-sharing agreement between the parties falls short of previous Scottish coalition governments between Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats from 1999 to 2007.
Then, the coalition saw Liberal Democrat ministers attend cabinet and defend the government’s jointly negotiated agenda.
Instead, this agreement is more akin to that currently used in New Zealand, with the Scottish Greens able to dissent on agreed “excluded matters” such as foreign policy, aviation, and economic growth issues.
Despite this, the new ministers will still be obliged to follow the Ministerial Code and its principle of collective responsibility, meaning ministers may be forced to support policies they campaigned against, such as continuing fossil fuel extraction in the North Sea, or road infrastructure investment.
The 50 page “Draft Shared Policy Programme” covers a variety of different ministerial portfolios, such as housing, transport, and energy but does not reach any conclusions around higher education.
Both parties have committed to keeping university tuition-free for Scottish students.
The deal also means that the Scottish government will have an independence majority in parliament, with both parties calling for a second referendum on the issue, after a period of “Covid recovery”.
Speaking to the BBC, the Scottish Green party co-leader Patrick Harvie said he was “delighted that our party members have given their support to this historic co-operation agreement that will see Greens enter government for the first time”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that “this historic agreement will provide a strong platform for the transformative programme we want to deliver.”
Criticising the deal, Scottish Conservative Chief Whip Stephen Kerr wrote on Twitter that the Scottish Government had “no plans to tackle Climate change other than showy announcements, […] and a country that’s fed up of Indyref chat and wants a focus on recovery”.
Image: Flickr, Jorge Franganillo