Scottish Greens threaten to collapse coalition unless new SNP leader sticks to gender reforms
The Scottish Greens have threatened to collapse their Scottish Government coalition with the SNP unless Nicola Sturgeon’s successor sticks with her controversial self-ID gender reforms.
Patrick Harvie, their co-leader, warned that their power-sharing deal “would come to an end” if the new First Minister “vetoed” any part of it.
With two of the three SNP leadership candidates opposed to the self-ID gender laws, he said it was an “absolute priority” for his party to go to court to try and overturn a UK Government veto of them.
Mr Harvie admitted to being “unsure” whether his party would still be in government at the end of next week, following the announcement of the new SNP leader on Monday.
The so-called Bute House Agreement commits both parties to reform the Gender Recognition Act to simplify the process by which trans people can change their gender.
But Humza Yousaf, the Health Secretary, is the only one of the three SNP leadership candidates to back Ms Sturgeon’s controversial legislation allowing people to self-identify their legal gender.
Kate Forbes, the Finance Secretary, has said she would have voted against the Bill if she had not been on maternity leave and Ash Regan resigned as Community Safety Minister so she could oppose it.
The legislation was blocked by the UK Government over concerns it undermined protections for women’s safe spaces.
Mr Yousaf has said he wants to go to court to get the veto overturned if he wins the contest but the other two have ruled this out, with Ms Forbes pledging to draw up alternative proposals.
If she wins the contest, she may also clash with the Greens over her opposition to a deposit return scheme for drinks containers being introduced in August, which she has warned would cause “economic carnage” for businesses.
In another major split with Mr Harvie, Ms Forbes has pledged to axe plans to ban fishing in a series of new Highly Protected Marine Areas in the seas around Scotland, a proposal that was also in the Bute House Agreement.
The Finance Secretary has repeatedly emphasised during her campaign the need to boost Scotland’s sluggish economy but the hard-Left Scottish Greens are opposed to using growth as a measurement of success.
Mr Harvie set out his red lines for staying in government ahead of a Scottish Green conference in Clydebank on Saturday. He is one of two Green ministers in Ms Sturgeon’s government.
He said: “We would not accept any Scottish Government simply vetoing parts of the Bute House Agreement. Those policies are in the Bute House Agreement, that’s what we’re intended to deliver.
“And if there was a Scottish Government, whether it’s the current First Minister who hadn’t resigned and changed her mind, whether it’s a new first minister wanting to rip out parts of that agreement, clearly that agreement would come to an end.”
Respect deal’s ‘progressive policies’
Ms Forbes has previously said she would be willing to work with the Scottish Greens, but they would have to accept her plan to put “economic prosperity front and centre.”
However, Mr Harvie said it would be “out of kilter” for the next First Minister to state “they’ll have to accept my agenda” while flouting the Bute House Agreement.
Speaking during a visit to the Zakariyya Masjid mosque in Wishaw, North Lanarkshire, Ms Forbes said: “I want to work with Patrick Harvie and the Green Party.
“I have negotiated probably more than any other Cabinet Secretary with the Greens in the past, and I want to work with other parties in Holyrood. I would certainly have a conversation with him very early doors.”
On whether compromise over the gender reforms is possible, she said: “I would hope that as a member of Government, we could both take an approach which is to consider the legal advice, and to make decisions off the back of the legal advice.”
Mr Yousaf said: “I’m the only candidate who is absolutely committed to maintaining the SNP’s pro-independence majority in Government with the Greens.
“Let’s not forget that 95% of SNP members voted in favour of the Bute House Agreement. It will be a blatant dismissal of our members’ will to break away from that agreement.” The other two candidates were also contacted for comment.