Willie Rennie: SNP should be wary of agreement with ‘not particularly liberal’ Scottish Greens
Former Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie has warned the SNP against a formal cooperation agreement with the Scottish Greens, describing the party as having “odd views”.
In a wide-ranging interview for Holyrood’s Politically Speaking podcast, Rennie said the Greens, led by Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, were “not particularly liberal”.
Rennie, who announced his decision to step down as party leader earlier this month, said the Greens’ treatment of former MSP Andy Wightman, who left the party following a disagreement over trans rights, had “opened people’s eyes to what the Greens are really like”.
The SNP is currently holding discussions with the Greens over a cooperation agreement which could lead to some of the smaller party’s MSPs taking up ministerial roles.
Asked about a formal agreement between the SNP and the Greens, Rennie said: “I don’t think the SNP know what they’re letting themselves in for. They’ve got some odd views in the Green party, and they’re not particularly liberal.”
Rennie said the Greens are "ideological" and "not particularly liberal"
Asked what he meant, Rennie said: “Our party policy is very much in favour of trans rights, but the way we approach it is much more open and listening and debating and discussing and being respectful of opposing views. You don’t get that sense within the Green party that there’s that basic approach of tolerance and listening and I think that’s quite a culture change from what the SNP try to achieve. I think that will be a challenge.”
Rennie went on to highlight the row over trans rights which led to former MSP Andy Wightman leaving the party last year.
He said: “(Wightman’s) style of politics is very much based on evidence and respectful debate. I thought the way he was ultimately treated was not what I thought would come from the Greens. Everything is very ideological. It’s opened people’s eyes to what the Greens are like.”
Rennie said his own party was exploring ways of working more closely with Labour to head off what he called the “twin nationalisms” of the SNP and the Conservatives.
He said: “It doesn’t mean coalition, it doesn’t mean pacts, it doesn’t mean formal arrangements. In some ways that misses the point.
“The point is to show there is a critical mass of people, energy and ideas to provide a challenge to the twin nationalisms…I hope we can work with them to help solve the problem of people being forced to the extremes.”
Rennie, a former campaign manager for the Lib Dems, became an MP in 2006 before losing his seat in 2010.
In 2011 he was elected the MSP for North East Fife and has led his party at Holyrood ever since.
Fellow MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, one of just four Lib Dem MSPs following May’s election, is favourite to replace him as leader, having announced his decision to stand for the leadership earlier this week.
Rennie, who will continue as an MSP despite stepping down as leader, said he didn’t think an independence referendum would be held in the current session of the Scottish Parliament.
Asked about his relationship with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during his time as leader, Rennie said: “I find (Nicola Sturgeon) reasonably open, but I’ve never had a direct phone call with her in any meaningful way. She’ll phone me out of respect on certain things, but I’ve never had a meaningful, proper (conversation)…
“There’s no doubt Nicola is talented, incredibly talented, and I just don’t know how she managed to be so resolute throughout the pandemic. I’ve got a lot of time for her; I think she’s very able, but she’s not always open as I would want it.”
Listen to the full interview here or wherever you get your podcasts.