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Nicola Sturgeon is on the verge of striking a formal cooperation agreement with the Left-wing Greens, despite warnings the move would pose a serious threat to the Scottish economy's recovery from Covid-19.
Sources familiar with the negotiations said there had been "good progress" and a deal was "95 per cent" done, with an announcement expected as early as the end of this week.
They said nearly all the key policy discussions, around areas such as spending, climate, conservation, transport and local government, were close to being agreed.
Although it would fall short of the full coalition agreed by the Tories and Liberal Democrats at Westminster following the 2010 general election, some Green MSPs could be appointed ministers in Ms Sturgeon's government.
A deal with the pro-independence Greens would also bolster the First Minister's case for another referendum on leaving the UK after the SNP fell one seat short of a majority in May's Holyrood election.
The Telegraph disclosed this week that Ms Sturgeon intends to relaunch her campaign for separation at next month's SNP conference. Together the SNP and the Greens have 72 of Holyrood's 129 MSPs.
Concern over economic impact
However, major concerns have been raised about the economic impact of any deal if she agreed to implement radical Green policies on raising taxes, banning country sports and hitting North Sea oil and gas.
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Among its Holyrood manifesto pledges for a “just transition” away from fossil fuels were a ban on issuing new licences for oil and gas exploration and development, revoking undeveloped licences, and ending subsidies and tax breaks for the North Sea.
Scotland's hunting, shooting, fishing and farming sectors also wrote to Ms Sturgeon in June warning her of the severe damage Green policies would cause their industries.
Liam Kerr, the Scottish Tories' shadow secretary for net zero, energy and transport, said: "The prospect of an SNP-Green coalition of chaos is terrifying for the 100,000 workers and their families in our oil and gas industry.
“The SNP Government are working hand-in-hand with a party that’s happy to see thousands of hardworking families lose their jobs to suit their priorities. They care more about their separatist, ideological grievances than Scotland’s jobs and our wider economy and recovery."
Alex Hogg, chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, said: "There is considerable concern around such a pact in rural communities and, whilst we do not know the details regarding talks, thousands of jobs could potentially be at risk."
Plans outside the SNP's 'comfort zones'
Ms Sturgeon has previously stated that she would work with the Greens on plans that were outside the SNP's "comfort zones".
However, the details of the negotiations are not yet known.
An insider told the Daily Record policy discussions had gone “really well” due to an alignment in the manifestos of both parties.
However, key issues still to be resolved include the extent to which Green ministers would be bound by collective Cabinet responsibility and how the ministerial code would apply to them.
Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, said: "This coalition isn't a surprise it is just formalising a long-standing reality where Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP hammer our public services with cuts, and the Greens nod along."
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