Politics Explained

What the SNP-Green partnership means for Nicola Sturgeon

Never before have Green Party representatives been in power at this level in the UK, but will their political style present conflicts for the first minister? Sean O’Grady on what we can expect

Saturday 21 August 2021 01:00
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<p>The orderly SNP leader may not appreciate her new free-wheeling partners</p>

The orderly SNP leader may not appreciate her new free-wheeling partners

The agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens represents a number of historic firsts, and may well help Nicola Sturgeon in her struggle for independence, but it could also signal a rather more turbulent and difficult time for her government in its new “partnership” (and not coalition, please note).

Soon, Green ministers will take up seats in the Scottish government. It is a remarkable moment. Never before have Green Party representatives been in power at this level in the UK. The most they have won previously is overall control of one local authority (Brighton and Hove), plus power-sharing in 14 principal authority councils, including Oxfordshire, and they are the joint largest party in Bristol. So the change in Scotland from merely supporting an SNP administration (in most areas, especially budgets), to being more closely aligned is a historic one.

Although there was never much doubt that the Greens would back the SNP government in crucial votes, as they have for the past few years, the new deal means that Sturgeon's government, just short of an overall majority in the Scottish parliament can plan for its new few years in power. In particular, it means assurance that the SNP will be able to lobby and legislate for a second referendum on independence in due course. The Westminster government will not be able to rejoinder that the Scottish government doesn’t command a formal majority in the Scottish parliament. The mandate for a second referendum is marginally strengthened and given a “cross-party” gloss. To that extent, Sturgeon will be relieved to have completed this part of the process.

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