Harvie warns of impotence of opposition as Greens await new SNP leader
PATRICK Harvie has suggested the Scottish Greens will try to stay in the joint government regardless of who wins the SNP leadership race by reminding his party of the impotence of being in opposition.
The co-leader and minister for active travel said he planned to speak to the victor tomorrow afternoon, and would then report back to and consult with his own party colleagues.
The online Green party council meeting will include branch delegates and reprersentatives from national committees and interest groups.
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He said whether the Greens stayed in the joint government would depend on whether the new FM shared the values and policies that had characterised the deal to date.
However he also stressed the difference being made by having Green policies put into practice, rather than just shouting from the sidelines.
He said “angry speeches demanding everything can be fun” but they don’t deliver anything.
The pragmatic tone followed Mr Harvie saying on Friday - just before his party's spring conference - that it was “unsure” whether there would still be a joint government by the end of the month.
He said the Scottish Greens “would not accept any Scottish Government simply vetoing parts of the Bute House Agreement”.
READ MORE: Greens will quit government if FM fails to challenge gender law veto
He also suggested the Greens could pull out of the administration if the next SNP leader and First Minister failed to challenge Westminster’s veto of Holyrood’s gender reforms.
MSPs passed the controversial Gender Recognition Reform Bill just before Christmas, but London blocked it in January, arguing it could cut across UK-wide equality law.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf is the only one of the three SNP leadership hopefuls championing the law - or the Bute House Agreement with the Greens - and has advocated a court challenge provided Scottish Government legal advice says it is feasible.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and former minister Ash Regan are both opposed to a legal challenge to the Section 35 Order veto, and would try to reform the Bill at Holyrood instead
Appearing on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, Mr Harvie, an MSP for 18 years before tasting power, was asked if the Greens would quit the Government unless Mr Yousaf won.
He said it would be “troubling” if the winner had been “trashing some of the policies in the agreement, or saying I want to work with the Greens but they have to do it on my terms”, a clear reference to Ms Forbes, who wants a massive new focus on the economy.
He went on: “What we've said is that we are keen to continue in the Bute House agreement if the SNP continues to be clearly committed, not just to the policies, but to the values and the spirit of cooperation.”
He said that if Mr Yousaf won, the Bute House Agreement could be reopened and revised “once the dust had settled” at the midpoint of the parliament this autumn.
He said it was “really important” that Green ideas were taken into account when the Government produced its new climate plan this year, for instance.
Asked if joint government had been a success for the Greens, Mr Harvie said: “There's nowhere near enough time for me to list for you the work that we're doing to deliver policy to deliver change for people in Scotland on social, economic and environmental terms because of the Blue House agreement
“When you're in opposition, it can be fun sometimes to you know, rock up and say whatever you want, make speeches demanding perfection now, and never have to actually deliver anything.
“What we're in now is the opportunity to put Green ideas into practice.
“And of course, like so many other Green parties that have moved into government, it's a cultural change for us. It's a shift in emphasis.
“But you know, opposition... those kind of angry speeches demanding everything can be fun, they can certainly, be easy but it doesn't actually achieve anything.”
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Asked if a legal challenge to London’s veto on the GGR Bill should go ahead, Mr Harvie said: “You obviously have to listen to legal advice, but I think it's implausible to think that there'll be legal advice saying that there's no chance here.
“The UK Government are relying on legal arguments in their Section 35 order that their own consultations from just a few years ago blew out the water.
“They looked at interaction with the Equality Act, they looked at cross border implications north and south of the border.
“The reality is that the Section 35 order is an abuse of power by the UK Government, and that abuse of power does need to be challenged, not just to defend transgender people who've been waiting a long time for this relatively simple change in their admin, which is what this is about, but also to defend the right of the Scottish Parliament to make legislation on clearly devolved matters.”