The idea of a “supermajority” of pro-independence MSPs, which came from Alex Salmond’s Alba Party during the elections, aimed at putting Boris Johnson under pressure for his refusal to grant a section 30 Order in Council for a second independence referendum, has now opened up new doors for the SNP and Greens. Nicola Sturgeon, despite her protests about “gaming the system” during the campaign, intends to conclude an agreement with the Greens for important issues which matter the most to the Scottish people.
Before the May elections, the first minister said the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Greens could write policies together on climate change and the shift to net zero carbon in return for Green votes to back her spending plans and legislation. The deal, which may not last too long, strengthens sturgeon’s hand against Boris Johnson’s government for the legal authority to hold a second independence referendum and ensure that any referendum legislation will lead to a clear parliamentary mandate. Sturgeon has explained that her government’s post-election policies will focus mostly on a post pandemic recovery programme and investment in the NHS, while staging a referendum would be her medium- term goal. She has said the UK government had no right to block that and “to do so would suggest that the Tories no longer consider the UK to be a voluntary Union of Nations”; she added, “it would be profoundly undemocratic”. Lorna Slater, the Scottish Greens’ co-leader who was newly elected to Holyrood on 6 May, said to sturgeon that the deal entailed risks for both parties. She stated, “We need to roll up our sleeves and practise the grown-up politics of negotiation, cooperation and consensus building.”
Sturgeon also told MSPs that the SNP and the Greens were searching for policy issues in which they could cooperate. According to her, informal talks began after the elections, and now structured talks with a view to agreeing a formal arrangement were taking place. However, a full coalition deal is not likely. Ms Sturgeon said ministerial jobs for Green MSPs were a possibility. The talks are expected to conclude before the next parliamentary recess, and may take about a month. Sturgeon said the two parties will discuss specific policy areas where they can cooperate, including the climate emergency and how Scotland can accelerate its progress towards net zero emissions. She added, “As we embark on this process, we are setting no limits on our ambitions”. “The key point for today is that we are both agreeing to come out of our comfort zones to find new ways of working for the common good”, she added.
There are some questions about why the Greens are good to join the SNP; perhaps the promise of junior ministerial positions is one of the attractions. As formal talks have taken place and a formal cooperation agreement is expected, there is a good chance that there will be more than one Green junior minister in Nicola Sturgeon’s government. In truth, the SNP will be giving certain government positions to a party which has only gained 1.2% of votes in the constituencies and 8.12% of votes in the regional lists.
The answer could be that the SNP intends to increase the sphere of cooperation to the extent where they are guaranteed Green support in parliament. In return, the Greens will push Nicola Sturgeon to accelerate progress in key policy areas like addressing climate change. With 64 SNP and seven Green votes, a deal between the two parties would give the Scottish government a very secure majority. This will prevent an ambush in confidence votes at budget time and when passing other key pieces of legislation. It would also underline the majority that exists in Holyrood for another independence referendum. But if a full coalition does not happen, there will be areas where the Greens could still vote against the government they have been supporting.
“So in that vein, let me be clear that while this is not a guaranteed or pre-agreed outcome, it is not inconceivable that a cooperation agreement could lead in future to a Green minister or ministers being part of this government … The key point for today is that we are both agreeing to come out of our comfort zones to find new ways of working for the common good” Sturgeon has said.
COP26 is scheduled to be held in Glasgow this year to discuss climate change. Bringing the Greens inside is much better than leaving them outside criticising the slow pace to net-zero. They would be more effective working with the SNP, putting more political pressure on Sturgeon to agree to a deal, bolstering her government’s pro-climate credentials. Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Greens co-leader, said his party will extract a high price for a deal, swinging changes in transport policy and an end to SNP’s road building programme, reversing the SNP’s commitment to North Sea oil extraction and significant investment in anti-poverty measures.
b.Trans and LGBT Rights
With both parties having declared their support for LGBQTI, Sturgeon said “I absolutely stand here full-square behind trans people in the discrimination and stigma and prejudice they face, and the ongoing battle for equality for which they have as much an entitlement as anyone else in our society.” “We are committed to advancing equality for LGBQTI people, everyone should be able to access the healthcare they need when they need it as part of that overall commitment to equality.” The Scottish Greens have also declared that they intend to make Scotland “a welcoming and safe country for LGBTI+ people” and that they “believe in the right of all people to live free from harassment, discrimination or persecution relating to sexual orientation, gender identity, or any lawful sexual activity between consenting adults.” As talks are progressing for an agreement between the Greens and SNP, both parties are concentrating on commonalities, such as issues pertaining to LGBQTI people.
Speaking to the chamber in Holyrood, the first minister accepted that some improvements need to be made to waiting times for gender identity services. Answering questions about trans and LGBT rights and healthcare posed by Green MSP Gillian Mackay, the party’s health spokesperson, the first minister said, “We are committed to advancing equality for LGBQTI people, everyone should be able to access the healthcare they need when they need it as part of that overall commitment to equality.” “As part of the remobilisation of the NHS, we are considering the impact of the pandemic on sexual health services and how we can improve these further, and that includes, for example, widening access to PREP.” She added, “We are also working with NHS Scotland to improve gender identity services including reducing waiting times, which I think everybody recognises are far too long, and that causes additional trauma and anxiety, and we will shortly be writing to the national gender identity clinical network for Scotland to ask them to review and update the gender reassignment protocol”. Sympathising with the trans, she maintained that, “I absolutely stand here full-square behind trans people in the discrimination and stigma and prejudice they face, and the ongoing battle for equality for which they have as much an entitlement as anyone else in our society.” “There are many things we’ve got to do, not least reducing waiting times for gender identity services and I’ve already commented on that, but I think all of us have to also recognise that progress unfortunately in our society is rarely all one way.”
c.Rejoining the European Union
Both parties also have pro-European attitudes in common. The Greens presume that EU membership has “enriched Scotland culturally, socially and economically and given us all invaluable opportunities to travel, work, live and love across the continent.” They think of Brexit as an undemocratic decision made by the UK government, asserting “There is no democratic mandate for Brexit in Scotland given we overwhelmingly voted to Remain in the 2016 referendum … Scotland’s future is best served as a full member of the European Union, collaborating with our European neighbours to build a Green, prosperous and fair Europe.”
SNP members also have a similar belief saying “EU membership delivers many social, economic and cultural benefits for individuals, businesses and communities across Scotland. We believe that the best way to build a more prosperous and equal Scotland is to be a full independent member of the EU. On 23 June, the people of Scotland voted decisively to remain within the European Union and we firmly believe that EU membership is the best option for Scotland.” As both parties agree on subjects regarding Scottish independence and are both pro-Europe, achieving a full coalition could have an important outcome first and foremost on their path to independence, followed by joining the EU.
Boris Johnson’s policies on Covid, Brexit, and climate change, etc, have pushed the political parties in Scotland to look for new ways to improve the situation for the Scottish people. The SNP sees a coalition with the Greens as currently helping to strengthen it in its stand against Johnson, and reaching the common goals they both have been struggling for in past years. The Greens also see the situation as a good chance to pushing the SNP for government, applying their own Green policies and making efforts to bring justice and equality to Scottish society.