Scotland: SNP and Scottish Greens' power-sharing agreement is 'groundbreaking', Nicola Sturgeon says

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The Scottish Parliament's pro-independence majority has been cemented following a "groundbreaking" power-sharing agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens.

In a move that will put the Greens into government for the first time anywhere in the UK - and see two Green MSPs take ministerial office - a pact was announced between the two parties at Edinburgh's Bute House on Friday.

The deal also sets out a timetable for the SNP and Greens' push for a second Scottish independence referendum, with the agreement stating a fresh vote will be sought before the end of 2024, if the COVID-19 crisis has ended.

However, the pact has thrown fresh scrutiny on Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's stance on the oil and gas industry, which employs tens of thousands of Scots.

The Greens claimed their deal with the SNP had seen Ms Sturgeon perform "a significant change of direction" on her approach to oil and gas.

But the SNP leader said that a move away from fossil fuels must "be a transition that is just for jobs".

Announcing the new pact during a news briefing at Bute House, Ms Sturgeon described the agreement as "groundbreaking".

She said the move would help to create "a greener, fairer, independent Scotland".

The first minister described the partnership as "groundbreaking in both Scottish and, perhaps even more so, UK politics", and said it is "about doing politics and governance better".

"Most importantly though, it is an agreement that meets the challenges and the opportunities of our time," she added.

The announcement comes following a meeting of the Scottish Cabinet on Friday morning.

Both parties had been negotiating the agreement since May after the SNP were left one seat short of an overall majority at the Holyrood election.

The SNP and the Scottish Greens have said this will not be a formal coalition, but a process of working together on key issues.

"The publication of this agreement today undoubtedly marks a historic moment," Ms Sturgeon said.

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie added: "This is indeed a historic moment. This deal would see Greens entering government for the first ever time in Scotland, or anywhere in the UK - and it couldn't come at a more important time.

"The last 18 months have been an incredibly difficult time for us all and as we seek to rebuild our lives and our economy we really must seek to do things differently.

"We must build a fairer, compassionate country and we must do everything in our power to tackle the climate and nature emergencies and deliver a just transition for all of Scotland. And that is what this deal will do."

A 51-page document outlining the agreement confirms the two parties have agreed to work together on a Scottish independence referendum after the pandemic.

"This would be within the current parliamentary session on a specific date to be determined by the Scottish Parliament," the document states.

"If the COVID crisis has passed, our intention is for the referendum to be within the first half of the five-year parliamentary session."

The agreement states that Green MSPs will support the Scottish government on confidence votes and in annual budgets if there is "appropriate funding" for the agreed shared policy programme.

But it adds that some areas are excluded from the agreement, including much of aviation policy, the future of green ports and direct funding to businesses involved in the aerospace, defence and security sectors.

The pact supports the Scottish government's view that oil and gas licences should be reviewed rather than scrapped.

Ms Sturgeon came under fire in July for not being explicit in her opposition to the controversial Cambo oil field near Shetland which could produce more than 800 million barrels of oil.

It also reveals that a Bill to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament in the first year of the parliamentary session.

The Scottish government will seek to "simplify" the process for a transgender person to legally change their gender, the agreement states.

The controversial policy has been blamed for defections to former Scotland first minister Alex Salmond's new Alba Party.

The Scottish government also announced a £500m fund to aid a "transition to a net zero economy" for the northeast and Moray as part of the deal.

"This will support and accelerate the transition of the region and support the role of Aberdeen and the wider northeast as one of Scotland's centres of excellence for the transition to a net zero economy," they said.

Both the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour said the deal means a coalition government in all but name with the SNP and Greens voting together on the majority of issues.

The Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, said: "This is a nationalist coalition of chaos focused on splitting up the country and dividing Scotland with another bitter referendum."

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."

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