SCOTLAND | SNP-Scottish Green Government Collapses

Scottish Greens entered the Scottish government in 2021. From left to right: Patrick Harvie, Nicola Sturgeon and Lorna Slater. (Photo: Scottish Government/CC)

We need a New Workers’ Party

The less than 3-year-old power-sharing agreement between the SNP and Scottish Greens has collapsed. What has become a bitter fall out is rooted in falling support in working-class communities for the SNP in particular – facing big losses in the general election – and its pro-capitalist policies.

The trigger for the rupture was last week’s dumping of the Scottish government’s failed climate targets – a measure the two Scottish Green ministers agreed to. Tensions have also been increasing recently between the two parties, including over trans rights and the Cass review which led to an ending of the use of puberty blockers for a small number of under-18s in Scotland, the SNP’s so-called council tax freeze and other issues.

In the wake of the scrapping of the 2030 climate targets many Scottish Green members demanded an end to the Bute House Agreement (BHA). The BHA led to the power-sharing deal between the two parties. A special meeting of the Greens to discuss and vote on the future of the BHA was conceded by the leadership. Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said he would resign if the vote went in favour of ending the power-sharing agreement.

However that possible route to the termination of the de-facto coalition was declared redundant when the SNP’s first minister Humza Yousaf unilaterally brought the deal to an end. The SNP will now be a minority government at Holyrood. In response, the Scottish Green leadership reacted furiously to being abandoned by the SNP after putting their own necks on the line to save the BHA. A section of the Green membership are openly calling for Harvie to be removed in the wake of the collapse of the deal.

Lorna Slater – co-leader of the Scottish Greens and a Scottish government minister – accused Yousaf of an “act of political cowardice by the SNP, who are selling out future generations to appease the most reactionary forces in the country”.

She went on: “I appeal to those SNP members who do care about climate, trans rights, independence and our country to consider if they are in the right party for their values, or if their home should be with us as we prepare to step up our defence of the planet in opposition.”

At root, these events reflect the utterly failed pro-capitalist approach of both the SNP and the Scottish Greens. And the growing working-class opposition to the Scottish government’s cuts and anti-trade union policies.

Copying their European counterparts when in power, the Greens have backed the SNP budgets at Holyrood for years – budgets that have had, and are having, horrific consequences for vital public services like the NHS and local government. Investment in social housing has collapsed. Colleges and universities are facing huge shortfalls in vital investment. Scottish Green councillors have also backed cuts, in Glasgow for example.

The Scottish government has also failed on the environment. And no wonder. How can pro-business policies like handing over licenses for off-shore renewable projects to big energy assist the fight against climate change? The SNP leadership have long been supporters of the oil and gas corporations and a low tax environment in the North Sea.

While the Scottish Greens have driven the introduction of green taxes like low emission zones and the failed deposit return scheme, which hit working-class people and not the multi-national companies responsible for the majority of emissions leading to global warming. Neither have the Greens adopted the absolutely necessary policy of the nationalisation of the energy sector under workers’ control and a rapid socialist transition to publicly owned renewable energy.

SNP splits and division

Within the SNP there was also a growing clamour to end the power sharing deal. Many members and elected representatives see the deal with the Greens as an electoral liability. Significant opposition to self-ID for trans people in the form of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) exists within the nationalists. There have been splits from the SNP, including among MSPs and councillors, to Alba over this issue.

Yousaf’s opponent in the 2023 SNP leadership contest, the pro-business Kate Forbes, was another seen to be opposed to that policy. Forbes won 45% of the vote among SNP members. There is no question that Yousaf sees the ending of the deal with the Greens as a way of trying to unite the SNP under his leadership and concession to the Forbes-supporting base in the party. With a general election this year and the SNP facing losing a large cohort of MPs, Yousaf’s desperate hope is that this move can bolster the chances of saving some seats.

The use of strident identity politics by the middle class Scottish Green leadership has without question alienated a section of the working class. Especially galling when the same Scottish government the Greens are part of are implementing cuts to vital public services that working-class communities rely on, including LGBT+ and women’s services.

The face of the Greens as a radical political force prepared to struggle for the interests of all of the working class is being exposed as a fraud, just as it has been for the SNP. What is vital now is to ensure a real political force emerges in Scotland that can do just that.

A new workers’ party based on the trade unions and committed to fighting socialist policies is vital, including a class approach to ending all forms of oppression. Socialist Party Scotland will be standing in the general election on that platform as part of the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

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April 2024