John Swinney: New first minister and SNP leader must recommit to progressive policies, say Scottish Greens

Gillian Mackay says her party will work with the new First Minister on an “issue by issue basis”

Green MSP Gillian Mackay says the new first minister needs to recommit to progressive policies and tackling the climate emergency. 

It looks all but certain John Swinney will be crowned first minister after his potential rival Kate Forbes agreed to step aside in exchange for a top job in his Cabinet. Nominations for SNP leader close at noon on Monday, but if Mr Swinney stands unelected, he could become first minister by the end of next week.

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Ms Mackay, who previously broke down in tears during a radio interview following the collapse of the Bute House Agreement, said her party would work with Mr Swinney on an “issue-by-issue basis”.

The Central MSP told the BBC: “We’re still looking for the progressive policy package we agreed on in the Bute House Agreement, and delivering on things like rent controls and my Bill on safe access zones around abortion services. I would like to see these recommitted to by any new first minister.

“It is not certain it will be John [Swinney], but we have worked with him as part of government before. But there are several things we need to see, but obviously we will engage with him on an issue-by-issue basis to deliver the progressive change we are looking for.”

Previously the Greens were expected to support the Government in Holyrood as part of their power-sharing deal, which was signed by former first minister Nicola Sturgeon and Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater back in 2021.

However, last week Humza Yousaf ended that agreement and threw the two Green ministers out of government, kick-starting the chain of events that would eventually lead to his resignation. 

Ms Mackay said this now meant the Greens could support the Government on certain issues, but “challenge the incoming first minister” on others.

She was also asked about the prospect of Ms Forbes being made deputy first minister under Mr Swinney. Ms Forbes has come under criticism for her socially conservative views on gay marriage and abortions, some of the causes championed by the Scottish Greens.

Ms Mackay said: “There’s obviously a great divide between myself and Kate on a variety of issues. It depends on what goes with that deputy first minister portfolio - there’s certainly things we would be more or less inclined to look on favourably, but that’s something we have to watch and wait over the coming weeks to see if Cabinet shakes out.”

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Ms Mackay said the Green MSP group in Holyrood had not yet met to decide whether they would support Mr Swinney’s bid to become first minister.

Her comments came as net zero secretary Mairi McAllan, who introduced Mr Swinney at his campaign launch in Edinburgh on Thursday, said the Perthshire North MSP was the “right man” to unite the party.

Ms McAllan said: “There is a sense within the party that the last contest was a particularly bruising one, and I think there is absolutely a sense among members and activists that many of us would not wish to see that repeated. I think what the biggest deciding factor has been so far is the stature of John Swinney as somebody who has come forward.

“He is well loved and respected within our party, and I think, most importantly actually, he commands the trust and confidence of the people of Scotland, which we in the SNP know is exactly what is needed right now.”



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