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Patrick Harvie launches FMQs attack on 'repressive' Kate Forbes

Patrick Harvie MSP | Alamy

Patrick Harvie launches FMQs attack on 'repressive' Kate Forbes

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie launched an attack on new Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes at First Minister's Questions.

The session is the first to be held since John Swinney became first minister, appointing former leadership hopeful Forbes as his second-in-command.

Harvie accused Swinney of taking Scotland "back to the repressive values of the 1950s" by appointing Forbes and leaving LGBT people "worried" about the future.

The Glasgow MSP, who served with Forbes in Nicola Sturgeon's final administration, said: "The Scottish Greens have been clear that we acknowledge the SNP's right to form a minority government. But we've been equally clear that the first minister must quickly give a signal of the direction his government will take. 

"Yesterday that signal came pretty clearly: progressive ministers sacked and the second most powerful job in government given to someone who has opposed LGBT people's legal equality, who's expressed judgmental attitudes against abortion and who has even expressed the view that people who have families without being married are doing something wrong. 

"Is this the Scottish Government's vision for the future of Scotland: taking us back to the repressive values of the 1950s?"

Harvie's comments follow statements given by Forbes as she stood for the leadership of the SNP in 2023. She said she would not have voted for same-sex marriage, had she been an MSP at the time of that vote, but would not seek to overturn the law, and that while having children outwith marriage is "wrong" in accordance to her Christian faith, she would "celebrate the birth of children irrespective of the family" set-up.

Responding to Harvie, Swinney said: "The government will be led from the moderate left-of-centre position that I have always occupied and which is the policy and position of my party, and which is supported by all of our members. 

"I set out on last Thursday, a week ago today, when I announced my candidacy for the leadership of my party that I wanted to build on the work of the SNP government to create a modern, diverse, dynamic Scotland that will ensure opportunity for all of our citizens. 

"On Tuesday I made it clear to the people of Scotland in my closing words in my speech of acceptance [that] I offer myself to be the first minister for everyone in Scotland, and that is precisely what I will do."

Harvie said: "I'm not yet sure that the first minister acknowledges or understands just how worried many LGBT people and others are in Scotland at the moment. 

"But this is not only about equality and human rights that are at stake here because the new deputy first minister has also explicitly criticised the role of fairer progressive taxation.

"Making sure that people on high incomes pay their fair share is the only way that the Scottish Government has been able to afford investment in climate and nature, [and] cheaper public transport or the Scottish Child Payment.

"Without fairer tax policies, which the Greens repeatedly had to push the SNP into supporting, these things simply couldn't have happened. Now next year, whether it's the Tories or the Labour Party, we know that the UK Government will continue with austerity, imposing deeper cuts than ever on Scotland. 

"So does the first minister accept that continuing on the path toward progressive taxation will be more important than ever? Will that progress continue or will the first minister give in to the right wing of his party?"

Swinney said that, as finance and economy secretary, Forbes had been responsible for introducing progressive taxation. He said: "Kate Forbes took those budget decisions, sought the agreement of the Cabinet, and they were put to parliament and I welcome the fact that of colleagues in the Green Party supported the measures that the government brought forward."

He went on: "I take very seriously the challenge that Mr Harvie puts to me because I want people to be reassured in this country by my leadership. When I say that I want to be the first minister for everyone in Scotland, I deeply mean that. I want to lead a modern, dynamic and diverse in Scotland, a place for everybody where everybody feels at peace, that they have a place, and that their place in our society is protected by my leadership of this country."

Speaking to the media after the session, Forbes said she shared Swinney's values, stating: "When I joined government yesterday in the clear role to support the first minister, I signed up to collective responsibility, so I stand by the government's decisions and stand by the government's agenda to improve and progress rates for all of Scotland's communities."

Swinney added: "I want everyone to feel at peace in our society and I will make it my business to make sure that's the case and if that requires me to try to be a bit more persuasive with colleagues who are not sure about that then I'll put in the time and effort to make sure that's the case." 

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