Greens ‘no longer entitled’ to leader’s question at FMQs

It comes after the Scottish Greens moved into government following a deal with the SNP.

Greens ‘no longer entitled’ to leader’s question at FMQs Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Greens will no longer be entitled to a leader’s question at FMQs following their move into government, Holyrood’s Presiding Officer has confirmed.

In a statement, Alison Johnstone said she will also no longer automatically call the party to speak at the start and close of debates.

It comes after a deal with the SNP was sealed last week, having been confirmed by members of both parties.

As part of the deal, Scottish Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater were named as ministers.

The party’s Short money – public funds which are paid to political parties to assist MSPs perform their parliamentary duties – will also be reduced by £15,687.61, Johnstone added.

In a letter to MSPs ahead of the return of the Scottish Parliament from its summer recess on Tuesday, Johnstone said her intention instead will be to grant the Greens a backbench question in “three weeks out of six”.

“This political agreement is unparalleled in Scotland and indeed the UK,” she wrote.

“While it contains significant areas of agreement and co-operation across a wide range of government portfolios and policies, it stops short of being equivalent to the coalition governments in place during Sessions 1 and 2.

“However, the scope of the Agreement (and accompanying shared policy programme) together with the ‘no surprises’ approach to matters of parliamentary business establishes a different relationship between the Scottish Government and Green Group than exists between any other parties and the position of the Scottish Greens as the third largest opposition party in the Parliament is fundamentally altered.

“The Agreement therefore requires a bespoke response here at Holyrood, one which draws on precedents and practices, is fair to all parties represented in the Parliament, and is commensurate with the requirements of robust parliamentary scrutiny.”

On the arrangements for FMQs, she said: “In my view, the nature of the Co-operation Agreement, which would see the two Greens co-leaders being appointed as Junior Scottish Ministers, removes their entitlement to a leader’s question at FMQs.

“It is, instead, my intention to allocate the Greens a backbench question in three weeks out of six, and further, to call them at question 3 in two of those six weeks.”

Johnstone went on to explain the changes being made following the co-operation agreement for debates.

She said: “In light of the scope of the Agreement and the ‘no surprises’ approach it sets out in relation to parliamentary business, I do not intend to allocate an opening and closing speaking slot to the Greens unless a Green Party amendment to the motion for debate has been selected.

“Selection criteria will be adjusted to take account of the scope of the Agreement. I now plan to allocate to the Greens one speaking slot during each debate in the same way as is allocated to the Liberal Democrats.

“Where no amendment is selected, I now plan to allocate to the Greens one open debate speaking slot during each debate.

“The consequence of this is more time for speakers from the other parties as well as added flexibility to encourage interventions.”

Scottish Conservative chief whip Stephen Kerr welcomed the decision taken by the Presiding Officer.

“The Scottish Conservatives had strongly opposed the Greens’ attempts to have their cake and eat it,” he said.

“We rejected their efforts to game the system, as they sought to join the government and somehow pretend to still be an opposition party.

“We welcome this firm but fair decision from the Presiding Officer, which removes the Greens from their leader’s position at First Minister’s Questions and takes away their opposition debating time.

“The Greens had tried to undermine the Scottish Parliament but the Presiding Officer has made sure that will not happen.”

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