Harvie confirms he will stand down if Greens leave Scottish Government

Patrick Harvie has confirmed he will quit as Scottish Green co-leader if party members vote to leave the Bute House Agreement, though he dismissed a no confidence motion in him at Holyrood as “sordid political game-playing”.

The Green minister said he shares the “distress” of some in his party over the Scottish Government dropping its 2030 climate target and last week’s decision to pause the prescription of puberty blockers at Scotland’s only gender clinic.

However he argued leaving the powersharing deal with the SNP would be a “mistake”, insisting the Greens should not be a party which quits when “things get difficult”.

Mr Harvie said his party has been on a “rollercoaster” recently and he accepted some ways of working need to change.

Ash Regan comments
Ash Regan has brought a motion of no confidence in the minister (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Speaking to the PA news agency on Tuesday, he responded to the motion of no confidence in him lodged by Ash Regan of the Alba Party.

Ms Regan criticised his response to the Cass Review of treatments offered to young transgender people, saying Mr Harvie had sided with “ideology over clinical evidence”.

But Mr Harvie, the Scottish Government’s zero carbon buildings minister, said the issue is about the rights of young trans people, saying: “The very small number of young people who have been told that they won’t now get access to the treatment that they need must be extremely distressed about that.

“I think our thoughts should be with them, rather than turning this into a pretty sordid political bit of game-playing.”

The minister said the “hostile toxicity that’s been whipped up against transgender people is if anything worse than the homophobia of the 80s and 90s”.

He said a “full, comprehensive ban” on conversion practices is needed as well as bringing down waiting times for transgender healthcare.

Scottish Green Party conference
Mr Harvie said transphobia today is worse than the homophobia of the 1980s and 90s (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Scottish Green Party is shortly expected to confirm the date of its extraordinary general meeting (EGM), where party members will get a chance to vote on whether they should remain in the Bute House Agreement.

Asked about the mood within the party, Mr Harvie said: “It’s distressing and I share that.

“No-one is saying that if we could reach the 2030 (net zero) target we wouldn’t wish to.

“But what we have to acknowledge is the need to tell the truth, and the truth is that Scotland is years behind where we should be.”

Greens in Government can “accelerate” overdue action on the climate, he said, adding: “I think walking away from that now would be a mistake.”

The deal between the two parties was backed by First Minister Humza Yousaf, who told journalists at the opening of a new JP Morgan office in Glasgow he hoped the agreement – which he said had “achieved a lot” since it was signed in 2021 – would continue.

“I hope that cooperation agreement will continue and I hope that Greens members will also see the benefit of that cooperation,” he said.

He also rejected suggestions that SNP members should have a say on the deal in the same way as the Greens.

Asked if party members can expect new green policies ahead of the EGM, he said the issue of climate change goes beyond party politics and is a “critical” challenge for the world.

He said: “No-one is saying that what was announced last week is the end of the story, absolutely not.

“There’s more than 20 years to go to the net-zero target, it is achievable and we’re going to continue to accelerate.”

If the Greens leave Government many people will think they are “just a party that walks away when things get difficult”, he claimed.

Scottish Green Party conference
The Scottish Greens will hold an EGM on the Bute House Agreement (Jane Barlow/PA)

He continued: “This has been a bit of a rollercoaster for the Greens, our first term in Government.

“It has meant that some party members perhaps feel that people serving as Government ministers might be less accessible, can’t share every detail of what’s happening within Government.

“That’s a cultural change the party has had to get used to.

“There’s issues about how we work together as a party that need to change as well.

“But this is not about bludgeoning people with an aggressive pitch.”

Discussing whether he will stay if the Greens go back into opposition, he said: “I genuinely don’t see how it would be realistic for me to carry on in that way in those circumstances.

“But this is the least important aspect of this. This is about our climate future, this is about the future direction of Scotland, that’s what we’re focused on.”