Humza Yousaf should ditch Greens, says former Scottish cabinet minister

Yousaf was told he could 'retrieve a lot of the situation' if the party 'changed direction' by ditching the Greens
Yousaf was told he could 'retrieve a lot of the situation' if the party 'changed direction' by ditching the Greens - JEREMY SUTTON-HIBBERT/ALAMY

Humza Yousaf could reverse the SNP’s downward spiral “overnight” by ditching his coalition with Scottish Greens, a former cabinet minister has said.

Alex Neil argued the First Minister should instantly pull the plug on his power-sharing agreement with the Greens, without waiting for their members to vote next month on whether they will continue being part of the Scottish government.

Mr Neil, who served in both Alex Salmond’s and Nicola Sturgeon’s governments, said voters thought the SNP had “lost the plot a bit” by allowing the Greens to have “far, far more influence in dictating policy” than they should be allowed.

But he argued the SNP could “retrieve a lot of the situation” if the party “changed direction” by ditching the Bute House Agreement (BHA), the name of the coalition deal Ms Sturgeon reached with the Greens in 2021.

With the SNP predicted to endure large losses in the upcoming general election, Mr Neil argued this would “help us to turn round the polls” and concluded the two parties should go their “own separate ways”.

The former Scottish health secretary was backed by Joanna Cherry, a senior SNP MP, who said that Mr Yousaf should follow the Greens by giving party members another vote on whether they wanted the BHA to continue.

The Edinburgh South West MP warned that the SNP would only recover in the polls if it tackled “this alliance with a deeply unpopular party on the doorsteps.”

The Scottish Greens are to hold a meeting and vote next month on whether to end their coalition with the SNP and return to Holyrood’s back benches.

This follows an unprecedented rebellion by rank-and-file members over the Scottish government’s decision last week to ditch its keynote target of cutting climate change emissions by 75 per cent by 2030.

Friends of the Earth described it as “the worst environmental decision in the history of the Scottish parliament”.

The Rainbow Greens, who represent the LGBT members in the party, also called for the party to withdraw from the Scottish government over a decision to suspend the use of puberty blockers for new child patients.

Unprecedented rebellion

Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Greens and one of the party’s two ministers in Mr Yousaf’s government, admitted at the weekend he did not know which way the vote will go.

Mr Yousaf has said he values the BHA and predicted the Greens will vote to continue it. However, he said he would lead a minority SNP government if they withdraw.

Referring to the scrapped climate change target, Mr Neil told BBC Radio Scotland: “If I were a Green, I would be saying to myself what’s the point of remaining in government if you can’t achieve your main objective?”

But he continued: “The Greens seem to be dominating and the SNP seems to just be accepting anything the Greens propose, no matter how electorally unpopular it is.

“This is really bad news for the SNP and it would be much healthier politically for both parties actually if we went our own separate ways.”

Mr Neil added: “I think that overnight would actually help our situation and help us to turn round the polls. I honestly believe people are not enthusiastic about Labour, they are only voting for them because they think we have lost the plot a bit.”

He said the SNP should get back to “bread and butter issues” such as the economy and the NHS, arguing that cuts to the housing budget should be reversed using funds earmarked for “new cycle lanes that are often not wanted and not needed.”

Ms Cherry tweeted: “If we are to recover as a party from current challenges we need to address problems like this alliance with a deeply unpopular party on the doorsteps rather than sweeping them under the carpet as per previous practice.”

Lorna Slater, the other Green co-leader and minister, argued her party would have “much more influence in government” but acknowledged it was for members to decide.

An SNP spokesman said: “Individuals are at liberty to express their thoughts. SNP members voted overwhelmingly to support the Bute House Agreement in 2021.”