Harvie and Slater could be removed as Scottish Green co-leaders

Scottish Green members argue that the leadership should be responsible only to the will of the party.

Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater could be removed as Scottish Green co-leaders STV News

Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater could be removed as co-leaders of the Scottish Greens by party members.

A motion is due to be debated at the party’s AGM on Thursday, seeking to separate the leadership of the party from ministerial office.

Currently, Harvie and Slater are co-leaders of the Scottish Greens, while also serving as Scottish Government ministers.

However, party members have raised concerns over an “unfortunate conflict of interest” they say has been created by the present arrangement.

They argue that leaders should be responsible to their party alone, with government ministers at Holyrood accountable to Scotland’s First Minister.

In a letter sent to members clarifying the aims of the motion, signed by Mariusz Cebulski and Damian Sefton, it was suggested that being both a minister and a party leader could lead to an “erosion of democracy”.

Slater and Harvie were appointed as Scottish Government ministers after a co-operation agreement was reached between the Scottish Greens and the SNP following the Holyrood election in May, 2021.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Greens said: “All motions will be debated by our party members this month, where we are looking forward to welcoming back attendees in person as well as those participating online.”

Green members stated in the letter that the party currently stands in a “strong position”, with hard work having been undertaken by members, activists, councillors and MSPs.

“Under our current leadership, our party has achieved its best result ever in both national and local elections, giving us strong position in a number of councils and becoming one of the first Green parties in the world in government,” they wrote.

“Our current polling sees us ahead of the Liberals and level with the Tories at its highest ever, 14%.

“All of this was possible because of the hard work and dedication of our members, our activists, our councillors and our parliamentarians and we are proud that the people of Scotland are feeling the benefits of Greens in government.”

They pointed to actions taken including free bus travel for under 22s, increased wildlife protections, rent freezes and investment in action travel as evidence of the achievements of Greens in government.

However, they described it as a “complex position” for leaders to also be a part of the Government.

“A minister of the Government is responsible to the First Minister of Scotland,” they continued.

“A party leader is responsible to their party alone and it is their duty to provide leadership to that party.

“It is our view that our party leaders should be responsible only to the will of the party only.

“Being both a minister and a leader creates a position that by its very existence can lead to an erosion of democracy and the entrenchment of individual power.

“A party built on democracy should not put its own elected parliamentarians in such a complex position.”

The party members concluded that the Scottish Greens should be able to “express radical views” and push for policies that make the Scottish Government uncomfortable.

“We should never be afraid to do things differently. Scottish Greens are different,” they wrote.

“It’s only be holding fiercely to our differences and our fundamental belief in the core democratic principle that the party and the membership drive the policies that will change the political, social and economic and status quo, that we will continue to flourish and grow.

“Scottish Greens should be able to shift debate, express radical views and push for policies that will make the Scottish Government uncomfortable, even if we are part of the Government.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Sharon Dowey said: “It appears members of the Scottish Greens have reached the same conclusion as the vast majority of Scots – that their leaders have no place being anywhere near government.”

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