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Scottish Government to gain two Green MSPs and boost spending in north-east

Nicola Sturgeon with Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater announcing the SNP-Greens deal
Nicola Sturgeon with Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater announcing the SNP-Greens deal

Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed Green MSPs will join her government in a “historic” political deal including pledges to help Scotland shift away from reliance on oil and gas.

The First Minister was joined by Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater to announce the long-awaited “Bute House agreement”.

It includes the promise of a 10-year £500 million energy transition fund “for the north-east and Moray”, enhanced environmental protection, action on affordable housing – and a reaffirmed commitment to independence.

It also contains the pledge of increased spending on rail and a shift in wider transport policy.

Ms Sturgeon, speaking at her official residence in Edinburgh, said: “The challenges we face have rarely been greater – the climate emergency, recovery from a global pandemic and an assault by the UK government on the powers of our Parliament.

“Today’s politics can too often feel small – polarised, divided and incapable of meeting the moment – and this agreement is intended to change that in Scotland. It is about doing politics and governance better to find the solutions needed to solve the problems confronting the world today.”

Independence back on the agenda

Ms Sturgeon stuck to her line on reassessing licences for oil and gas exploitation, including Cambo off Shetland.

But she stressed there is an accelerated ambition to transition to “net zero” on energy.

The First Minister invited the UK Government to “match” the north-east spending package.

“We are pledging to work together to build a greener, fairer and independent Scotland.”

– Lorna Slater

Ms Slater, speaking alongside the First Minister and Mr Harvie, said: “This deal is about people as well as the planet.

“Together, we would deliver a new deal for tenants, giving tenants more rights and introducing rent controls to help tackle Scotland’s housing crisis, create a new National Park, and much more. That’s why we are pledging to work together to build a greener, fairer and independent Scotland.”

The deal paves the way for a fresh look at reconnecting rail links between Aberdeen and Ellon, potentially on to Fraserburgh and Peterhead.

But the full dualling of the A96 will be reviewed for its impact on the climate. Plans will go ahead to improve safety, dual the road from Inverness to Nairn and bypass towns along the full route.

Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie, co-leaders of the Scottish Greens

More wind turbines will be built, farmers will be encouraged to lower-emission practices.

North East SNP politicians defended the plans which they now have to sell back to their voters.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin said: “I am particularly delighted that Dyce to Ellon rail is being considered properly as this is the infrastructure project I’ve campaigned for since my election, and I hope it’s a springboard for more rail infrastructure in this east corner of Aberdeenshire.

“The £500 million transition funding to secure low carbon jobs in our area is essential as we look to continue our support of the oil and gas industry, while also moving towards a Just Transition, and increasing the number of people working in the renewables sector.”

She “welcomed” the review of the A96 as “an opportunity” to see how improvements can be achieved in a way that takes recent travel patterns and the  carbon footprint into account.

The role of gross domestic product (GDP) in measuring economic growth, public funding for defence companies, membership of Nato in an independent Scotland and the regulation of selling sex are among areas outside the scope of the agreement.

According to the document published by the Scottish Government, there are 10 areas where the SNP and Scottish Greens do not agree and will not support each other.

The parties have also agreed to disagree on the matter of fee-paying schools and field sports such as hunting and shooting – a long-running bone of contention between the two sides.

‘Coalition of chaos’

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The 50-odd pages of their policy programme could be boiled down to one word above everything else – separation.

“This is a nationalist coalition of chaos focused on splitting up the country and dividing Scotland with another bitter referendum.”

Tory leader Douglas Ross.

Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar said: “At long last the SNP and the Greens have formalised the coalition of cuts that has been in action for years.

“This will come as a surprise to no-one, but it is a disaster for Scotland.

“This straitjacket deal covers all but a handful of issues, with the so-called Greens endorsing the SNP’s dismal track record on everything from austerity to the environment.

Green party members still to decide

Details were finalised on Friday morning and rubber stamped by Ms Sturgeon and her senior ministers.

Green leaders agreed to the plan and will take it to their wider membership on August 28 for debate.

Both parties avoided being pinned down on plans for power sharing during the election campaign.

But after the vote in May, talks began for what was soon styled a co-operation agreement, short of a full coalition but stronger than an informal arrangement.

Opposition MSPs were slating the plan before the terms were published.

Today Conservatives wrote to Holyrood presiding officer Alison Johnson, who was elected as a Green MSP in May, to limit her old party’s opportunities to quiz the government from back benches.

Read more from the politics team

Kiwi politics: What does a New Zealand-style coalition look like, and how could it work for the SNP and Greens?

Scotland’s climate crisis: Broken promises and what the Scottish Government plans to do next

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