Greens doubt Sturgeon would have 'changed position' on environment without them

The Scottish Government “aren’t where they need to be” on the environment, Scottish Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie has said.

And Harvie has questioned whether the SNP would have “changed position” on the matter without his party “pushing them out of their comfort zone”.

The Greens and the SNP published an agreement last week that will see two MSPs from the junior party take ministerial office and both sides pursue a joint policy platform.

In recent weeks, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been criticised by environmental campaigners for her response to calls to cancel licences for the Cambo oil field near Shetland.

Scottish Green Party co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater arrive at Bute House, Edinburgh, ahead of an announcement on the finalisation of an agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens to share power in Scotland. Picture: PA

Ms Sturgeon called on the UK Government – which ultimately holds the power over licences in the North Sea – to review all existing permits against environmental standards.

But environmental groups have said the First Minister is “hiding behind” Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the issue.

The Scottish Greens have retained their opposition to Cambo after the deal, but signed on to the Scottish Government’s calls for a review of licences in the 51-page document.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Mr Harvie said: “All political parties are having to change position (on environmental issues); some are going faster than others, but they’re doing that because Greens are in there making the case.

“I don’t think the SNP would have changed position if it wasn’t for the fact that we are in there negotiating with them, pushing them out of their comfort zone.

“I think that is welcome and should be acknowledged that they have begun that journey.

“They haven’t finished that journey, but they’ve begun and that’s really, really important.”

Mr Harvie went on to say there would have been “celebration” among the SNP at the idea of new extraction of oil and gas in the North Sea.

The industry was one of the major talking points in the 2014 independence referendum, with Yes supporters holding it up as a major part of the post-separation economy in Scotland.

“Can you imagine, even a handful of years ago, an SNP First Minister saying a new oil and gas field in Scottish waters should be reviewed?” said Mr Harvie.

“Even just a handful of years ago there would have been celebration at the idea of more oil and gas extraction.

“Now, there is a realistic recognition that this is incompatible with the Paris climate agreement, never mind the stronger agreement that has to come from Cop26 in a couple of months’ time.

“This is not the end of the journey, but it’s a really important first step and it’s happening because Greens are in there pushing for it.”

The agreement between the two sides was rubber-stamped by the SNP’s national executive committee on Saturday, with plans for a non-binding members’ vote to be held this week.

The final hurdle will be passed next week, if Green members at an extraordinary general meeting of the party also vote to approve it.

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