SNP and Greens should go their ‘separate ways’, former minister says

He spoke out in the wake of the Scottish Green Party announcing it will ballot members on the future of the co-operation agreement with the SNP.

SNP and Greens should go their ‘separate ways’, former Scottish Government minister Alex Neil says PA Media

A former member of the Scottish Government has urged the SNP to call time on its powersharing agreement with the Greens, insisting the two parties should go their “own separate ways”.

Alex Neil, who served in both Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond’s cabinets, said voters now think the SNP has “lost the plot a bit”.

With polls suggesting Humza Yousaf’s party is facing losses at this year’s general election, the former Scottish health secretary insisted the party could win back some supporters if it ended its powersharing deal with the Greens.

He spoke out on the issue as the Greens prepare to hold a vote among members on whether the Bute House Agreement – the deal struck between the two parties in 2021 which brought the Greens into the government – should continue.

Scottish Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater became ministers at Holyrood as a result of the Bute House Agreement.PA Media

Neil claimed the co-operation agreement had resulted in the Greens having “got far, far more influence in dictating policy – much more than they should be”.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland’s programme that as it stands the “Greens seem to be dominating” in government and “the SNP seems to just be accepting anything that the Greens propose no matter how electorally unpopular it is”.

He branded that “really bad news for the SNP”, adding: “I think it would be much healthier politically for both parties if we went our own separate ways in terms of coalition.”

He accused the Greens of having forced through cuts of £200 million to the Scottish Government’s housing budget, saying they had insisted reductions be made elsewhere to protect spending on active travel.

Neil said: “We have seen £200 million cuts from the housing budget so that the Greens can protect what is called the active travel budget, which is basically new cycle lanes that are often not wanted and not needed.

“In my view, housing is a far, far higher priority than cycle lanes but the Greens would not agree to cut the active travel budget so we could keep the housing budget intact.”

He insisted the SNP could “retrieve a lot of the situation” if the party “changed direction”, with the former health secretary adding: “One of the ways in which we can change direction and send a more positive message out to our own voters is by ditching the coalition with the Greens.

“I think that overnight would actually help our situation and help us to turn round the polls.

“I honestly believe people are not enthusiastic about Labour, they are only voting for them because they think we have lost the plot a bit.”

Neil’s comments came in the aftermath of the Scottish Greens announcing a fresh vote on the agreement which brought them into government at Holyrood.

Members of both the SNP and Greens voted in favour of the deal after it was agreed in August 2021, but Green co-leader Lorna Slater accepted there was now “anger” in the party in the wake of the Scottish Government ditching a key climate change target last week.

The Bute House Agreement – named after the official residence of the Scottish First Minister – gives the SNP a majority at Holyrood.PA Media

The Green claimed the party would have “much more influence in government” than they would if they pulled out of the coalition, with Slater insisting her party “still have lots to deliver”.

However, she told BBC Radio Scotland: “It’s up to our members to decide if they want us to still be in government to allow us to deliver these things.

“It’s important to know that our party is a democratic party, it’s a grassroots, ground-up party and our members take the lead, they steer us on how they want us to proceed as a party.”

While action has been taken to pause the use of puberty blockers for new patients under the age of 18 at gender identity clinics, Slater stressed the Greens were “very in support of trans rights”.

She added: “We’re, of course, an environmentalist party, the anger and fear around Scotland not being able to reach its 2030 climate targets has got people really concerned about whether the Scottish Greens are having the influence that we would like to have.”

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