Greens should lose FMQs slot after striking agreement with SNP, demand Tories

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The Scottish Greens should lose their spot at First Minister’s Questions after striking a powersharing agreement with the SNP, the Scottish Tories have claimed.

The Greens usually go third in the weekly questions session, with co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater taking turns to question Nicola Sturgeon.

But the Scottish Tory chief whip, Stephen Kerr, has written to Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone – who was elected as a Green MSP in May’s election – to urge her to remove the question.

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The two parties announced a co-operation agreement on Friday after months of negotiations with two Green MSPs to be given ministerial office as a result.

Mr Kerr claims the Green leaders will give the First Minister an easy ride.

“It would make a mockery of the Scottish Parliament if members of the Government were allowed to tee up Nicola Sturgeon with waste-of-time queries to help her run the clock out at First Minister’s Questions,” he said.

“Proper opposition scrutiny of the SNP-Green Government is essential.

“How will softball questions from Patrick Harvie, drafted in Nicola Sturgeon’s handwriting, hold the Government to account?”

He added: “The Greens can’t have their cake and eat it. Now that they’re officially forming a nationalist coalition of chaos, they can no longer even pretend to be an opposition party. That would undermine Scottish democracy.

“We have formally started proceedings with the Scottish Parliament and Presiding Officer to remove the Greens from their position at FMQs, in line with the precedent set by the Labour-Lib Dem government.”

Both sides have said any agreement will not be a formal coalition – as was the case between Labour and the Lib Dems in the first two terms of the Scottish Parliament.

If the Presiding Officer did strip the Greens of their slot at FMQs, then only the leaders of Labour and the Tories would be able to scrutinise Ms Sturgeon.

Mr Kerr has also pushed for the party to be stripped of the ability to call opposition debates and for Green spokespeople to lose the ability to question ministers following Government statements.

Questioned on the FMQs issue, Ms Slater told a press briefing: “The questions at FMQs is the prerogative of the Presiding Officer of the Parliament. It is not something that we can decide.”

A Scottish Parliament spokesman said: “The Presiding Officer will respond to Mr Kerr once the detail of the agreement between the Government and the Greens has been considered properly.”

Opposition parties have attacked the Greens and the SNP for the deal.

Anas Sarwar
Anas Sarwar told the Greens to ‘re-discover their principles’ (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “If it looks like a coalition and acts like a coalition, it’s a coalition. No amount of spin from Nicola Sturgeon and the Greens can change that.

“They will work and vote together as one nationalist government on all but a handful of issues.

“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.

“Nicola Sturgeon failed to win a majority so she’s had to turn to the extremist Greens to help her push for indyref2 during an economic crisis.”

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.”

He accused the Greens of having nodded through “the SNP’s most damaging plans”.

He added: “Scotland deserves a government focused on recovery – not on stitching up votes in Parliament.”

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