SNP-Green government deal: Rise of Lorna Slater to the brink of government office has been meteoric – Gina Davidson

Scottish Greens co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie could become ministers in the SNP-led government (Picture: John Devlin)Scottish Greens co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie could become ministers in the SNP-led government (Picture: John Devlin)
Scottish Greens co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie could become ministers in the SNP-led government (Picture: John Devlin)
Put yourself in the shoes of Lorna Slater.

Back in October 2019, the Scottish Greens selected their candidates for the upcoming Holyrood elections in May 2021. On the Lothians list, Lorna Slater came third with 36 votes – behind Alison Johnstone, now the parliament’s Presiding Officer who received 191 votes, and Andy Wightman on 133.

Of course Wightman ultimately quit the party in December 2020, citing a certain level of intolerance and censoriousness around differing views on the reform of the Gender Recognition Act and the Forensic Medical Services Bill to name just two contentious pieces of legislation.

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Slater automatically, and cheerfully, took his slot on the Greens’ candidate list, while at the same time decried Wightman’s resignation as a “kind of male privilege” and questioned whether anyone really knew who the respected politician, author and expert on land reform really was.

That she would get elected as an MSP was a foregone conclusion given the support for the Scottish Greens in Lothian, and the proportional element of the voting system.

So from nowhere to Holyrood in six months – and now, just three months on from the election, she could be about to join the Scottish government, alongside Harvie, as a junior minister.

What a ride. How would you feel if that were you? I’d be torn between excitement and utter terror. Mostly the latter.

However if you watched the announcement of the draft deal in Bute House, one thing was very clear. Despite her lack of experience, Slater looked as comfortable behind her podium as she does on her trapeze.

She is not a woman who seems to suffer from imposter syndrome and undoubtedly she should be cheered for that.

If her party members vote on Saturday to approve the deal – and whispers are it’s not totally in the bag – she is now most likely to take on a government brief which involves energy and green skills which, given her previous job as an engineer in renewables, makes sense.

What could she bring to the role? Political inexperience is not necessarily a bad thing; there are always demands that government ministers should have something in their background that is not just political campaigning. She could pose questions civil servants and ministers had not considered before – push the envelope of what’s possible and demand things move at pace.

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Slater certainly strikes me as a person in a rush – and it’s that energy which is much valued by party members, many of whom have long believed she’s the party’s brightest and best.

But the machinery of government does not move quickly. Good policy, good decisions do not come with haste. Frustration may build more rapidly for her than for Harvie who has spent countless years negotiating with the SNP in budget rounds.

Not known for biting her lip – see her airy dismissal of Wightman and a confident prediction during the May election campaign there’d be no partnership with the SNP, while Harvie was much more cautious – how restricted will she feel when bound by collective responsibility? We can but watch and wait to see how this new style of agreement plays out practically.

Policy gaps or no, this time next week Slater could be in government. Perhaps she will thank Andy Wightman for that.

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