OK, most of the time they acted as junior partners to the Nationalists and always made sure they got their budgets through, subject to suitable window-dressing.
Occasionally, however, they performed a useful function by joining other opposition parties to threaten the minority government with defeats. That happened over the imminent vote of no confidence in Education Secretary John Swinney and I acknowledged an occasional bulwark against one party arrogance was better than no bulwark at all.
This week, the Greens voluntarily surrendered even that occasional role when one of their number, Alison Johnstone put herself forward as Presiding Officer at Holyrood. In one fell swoop, the will of the electorate not to give the SNP an overall majority has effectively been negated by Ms Johnstone choosing to neutralise herself.
There are no set rules but precedent suggested the new Presiding Officer should come from the ranks of the SNP. The last one was from an opposition party and so it was the governing party’s turn. And they have far more MSPs to choose from. But they, of course, saw the advantage of finding a patsy in the opposition ranks, and where better to look than to the Greens?
Thus, one of the few checks and balances at Holyrood has been removed. Let’s see if Ms Johnstone does something useful about other failed mechanisms for holding ministers to account, starting with the committee system which was supposed to be Holyrood’s great strength but has proved to be one of its greatest weaknesses. I won’t hold my breath.