Which Green policy priorities could now be ripped up in a minority SNP Government?

Green MSPs could see their policy priorities watered down or axed altogether as Humza Yousaf attempts to shift his agenda

The Scottish Greens have warned that progressive policies risk being torn up after Humza Yousaf ended the Bute House Agreement - but the First Minister’s former allies will be determined to ensure for their priorities to be pushed forward by Holyrood.

The Greens are clearly hurt by what has happened to them.

Yesterday, Greens MSP Gillian Mackay, audibly in tears, told BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime programme that she was “quite upset”.

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The Scottish Greens have been removed from Humza Yousaf's government (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)The Scottish Greens have been removed from Humza Yousaf's government (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
The Scottish Greens have been removed from Humza Yousaf's government (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

She added: “We’ve had two and a half years of working really well together and that’s really sad that that’s been undone by one person.”

But a senior Greens source has told The Scotsman that there was “no guarantee” that they will back plans for SNP Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan to legislate to weaken Scotland’s legal climate commitments, or any policy positions for that matter, adding that “we will need guarantees that the package of policies we helped draw up will actually come forward”.

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But the source stressed that “it wasn’t as simple” as merely opposing the climate targets being withdrawn, stressing that position was “premature”, but warning that “what is important is that progress moves up a notch and the Greens will continue to ensure that happens.”

Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater with Humza Yousaf (Picture: Lisa Ferguson/National World)Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater with Humza Yousaf (Picture: Lisa Ferguson/National World)
Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater with Humza Yousaf (Picture: Lisa Ferguson/National World)

Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie has insisted that progressive policies agreed to be taken forward by his party in partnership with the Scottish Government now face being "watered down, delayed or ditched altogether”, pointing to “rent controls to nature restoration, to new, sustainable transport policies to Scotland’s leading approach to decarbonising homes”.

The Greens are adamant that Humza Yousaf’s decision to dump them out of his government is down to the FM pandering to the “conservative wing” of the SNP. With no material change to circumstances that have been pointed to by Mr Yousaf, the puzzlement from the Greens is understandable.

While in government, in some policy areas, the Greens’s views and priorities were brushed aside.

Written into the Bute House Agreement was a pledge to develop highly protected marine areas - essentially marking up 10 per cent of Scottish waters as no catch zones, as a key measure to help restore biodiversity.

First Minister Humza Yousaf (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)First Minister Humza Yousaf (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
First Minister Humza Yousaf (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

But despite the plans being at a very early stage and no specific areas being earmarked by ministers, the Scottish Government folded to pressure from fishermen and confirmed it would not be pursuing the policy anymore.

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Although for many Scottish Green members, the U-turn over Scotland’s legal 2030 climate change target was the final straw, anger was bubbling over the Scottish Government’s reaction to the landmark Cass review into gender identity services for young people in England.

Mr Harvie received a lot of criticism for his response to the Cass review that warned that puberty blockers should be used with caution and suggested the hormone treatment should b restricted for young people. The Greens co-leader said that he had seen “far too many criticisms” of the study to accept it as a “valid scientific document”, while many Green activists pointed the finger at the Scottish Government for an NHS Scotland decision to pause the use of puberty blockers for young people.

But concerns from some Green members over gender identity services had been coming for some time. Despite a pledge in the Bute House Agreement to push forward self-ID legislation for transgender people, the gender recognition reforms were blocked from becoming law by the UK government. But Mr Yousaf decided not to fully appeal the decision, which will have done nothing to reassure Greens that transgender rights were a top priority for the SNP. On top of that, The Scotsman revealed that funding promised to improve gender identity services will now be delayed and provided over five years instead of three years.

Mr Harvie’s plans for rent controls could be weakened by the SNP minority government. Landlords have pushed back on the measures in recent months and it could be a policy area where Mr Yousaf is forced to move into the centre in order to keep his backbenchers happy, as well as industry and potentially some unionist opposition parties.

Mr Harvie’s centrepiece legislation has been his heat in buildings strategy - a blueprint for decarbonising how we heat our homes. Despite a price-tag of £33 billion, the plans have been slow to get off the ground. A key consultation document was published by Mr Harvie into the proposals, but a Greens insider warned the ambitious plans could be “ruined” to make them more palatable to the public and Mr Yousaf’s backbenchers.

The SNP’s Fergus Ewing has already hit out at a policy to restrict wood burners being installed in newly built homes, which was rolled out from the start of the month. That could potentially be one measure the First Minister looks at reversing in order to placate his MSPs and create some distance between his party and the Greens without rolling back the entire strategy.

The Scottish Government is yet to publish its updated energy strategy, which is now promised by the summer. Although new oil and gas licensing is reversed to the UK government, Scottish ministers’ position on fossil fuel developments is seen as crucial in sending a key message to the industry.

The draft document included a proposal to “accelerate” the transition away from fossil fuels. With the SNP facing accusations it has been cosying up to oil and gas interests over the last few months in a bid to secure votes in the North East at the upcoming Westminster election, it remains to be seen whether the FM will move away from pressure form the Greens to ditch fossil fuels.



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