Steerpike Steerpike

Scottish Greens chase the green

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Few groups better embody Boris Johnson’s philosophy of ‘cakeism’ than the Scottish Greens. The party is both pro-having cake and pro-eating cake; committed to tackling ‘fuel poverty’ while opposing both fossil and nuclear energy, releasing adverts demanding an end to hardship and penury while disparaging economic growth.

Now though the party seems determined to take the biscuit. Having struck a power-sharing agreement with the SNP, the Greens face the luxury of being in both government and opposition at the same time. As former Green MSP Andy Wightman has pointed out, the deal is functionally a coalition, allowing the Greens to have access to the resources of the civil service, via two junior ministerial roles and two dedicated special advisers. 

And as anybody who has worked in Holyrood knows, the resources of the civil service there are considerable – more spin doctors now work for the Scottish government than actually cover it for the BBC. To counter this, opposition parties are given certain rights and privileges – Short Money to fund their activities and a guaranteed spot at First Ministers’ Questions to hold Nicola Sturgeon to account.

But it appears that the Scottish Greens are keen to retain both the luxuries of opposition along with the trappings of office. The party has refused to rule out keeping its Short Monies funding and FMQs spot, despite its members this week backing the government deal. This leaves open the possibility of countless farcical scenes at future FMQs sessions where one coalition party gets to tell the other how well they are doing in government.

Under the Scottish Parliament (Assistance for Political Parties) Act, passed some six months ago, it will be the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body with ultimate responsibility for oversight of these privileges. And who is in charge of the body? None other than Presiding Officer, ex Greens MSP Alison Johnstone.

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