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by Louise Wilson
19 April 2024
Humza Yousaf says he ‘values’ Bute House Agreement as Greens face rebellion

Credit: Alamy

Humza Yousaf says he ‘values’ Bute House Agreement as Greens face rebellion

The First Minister has said he values the SNP’s cooperation deal with the Scottish Greens after some members of the smaller party expressed dissatisfaction with the pact.

A number of Green members have moved to hold an emergency meeting on the continuation of the deal after developments related to climate change and NHS gender services earlier in the week.

The Scottish Government yesterday announced it was scrapping its target to reduce carbon emissions by 75 per cent from baseline levels by 2030.

And the Sandyford clinic in Glasgow, which treats gender-questioning young people, confirmed a pause in the prescription of puberty-suppressing hormones for young people.

Speaking to journalists on Friday, Yousaf said:  “Any internal matters and discussions in the Green Party are for the Green Party, not for me as leader of the SNP. Of course, I still value the BHA, the cooperation we have with the Greens.

“And what I would say to every Green member – in fact every member of the public – is that yesterday we brought forward an accelerated policy package of climate measures to tackle the climate crisis.”

The Bute House Agreement was signed by the leaders of the two parties in August 2021, following the election of that year.

It gave the Scottish Government a working majority in Holyrood and allowed two Green MSPs – co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater – to enter government for the first time.

The agreement was backed by members of both parties at the time, but recently there has been growing dissatisfaction with the deal.

Following the statements on climate targets, Harvie admitted he was “angry and disappointed” about it but insisted the government was accelerating climate action as a result of his party’s influence.

However Ellie Gomersall, former co-chair of the Greens’ executive committee, said it was “time to step away”.

She said: “The announcements made [on Thursday] simply don't make up for the destructive loss of climate targets won by young people fighting for our future. I was proud to vote for the BHA, but so much has changed since 2021. The SNP have played us for fools. It's time to step away.”

And Edinburgh Green councillor Chas Booth has written to the party leadership calling for an emergency general meeting (EGM) to consider withdrawal from the Bute House Agreement, saying his party was “being used as a fig leaf for the SNP's woeful and inexcusable climate inaction”.

To force an EGM, either 100 members or 10 per cent of the membership (whichever is fewer) must call for one, according to the party’s constitution.

Members of the party’s LGBT+ representative group have also backed calls for an EGM – but over the issue of puberty blockers.

Jen Bell, co-convener of the Rainbow Greens, said: “In the Bute House Agreement the Scottish Government promised to dismantle the gatekeeper system and put trans patients at the heart of decisions on their own healthcare. Sandyford’s decision breaks that promise.

“If the government fails to keep its promises then the future of the Bute House Agreement is called into question, and the members will demand answers. Greens in government would do well to take heed.”

The group has written an open letter to the executive of the party and is hoping to reach 100 signatures.

Late last year, Yousaf’s decision to freeze council tax also caused some disquiet among his junior partners. The pledge was made during his speech to SNP conference, but the Greens had only been informed about the announcement hours beforehand.

The agreement between the two parties has a “no surprises” clause.

While ultimately the Bute House Agreement held, the party’s finance spokesperson Ross Greer warned in the budget debate that the freeze “is clearly not what the Greens would have chosen and it cannot happen again”.

There has also been some disquiet in the SNP about the Bute House Agreement, with former finance secretary Kate Forbes calling for its repeal and others calling for a fresh vote to be put to members.

A Scottish Green spokesperson said: “The cooperation agreement that saw Green politicians enter government for the first time anywhere in the UK, which has been repeatedly endorsed and voted for by members of both parties, has been the catalyst for driving progressive environmental change over the last two and a half years including moving from targets to an acceleration of climate action with an evidence based route map to 2045.

“As a democratic party we encourage members to engage and participate, and there are a number of ways open for people to do that.”

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