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Greens forced out of the Scottish Government

The Scottish Green Party has been ejected from the Scottish Government this morning (25 April) by the First Minister, Humza Yousaf. The move tears up the vaunted Bute House Agreement of 2021 and leaves the SNP leading a minority government, holding 63 seats in the Scottish Parliament against a combined opposition of 65. 

The announcement followed an emergency meeting of the Scottish Cabinet at Bute House preceded by a meeting between Mr Yousaf and the Greens’ co-leaders and now sacked Scottish ministers, Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater. Ms Slater gave the First Minister both barrels. In a statement she slammed the decision as: 

“an act of political cowardice by the SNP, who are selling out future generations to appease the most reactionary forces in the country. 

“They have broken the bonds of trust with members of both parties who have twice chosen the co-operation agreement and climate action over chaos, culture wars and division. They have betrayed the electorate.” 

Mr Yusuf followed with a press conference. He sought to strike a more conciliatory tone but concluded: 

“The Bute House Agreement was intended to bring stability to the Scottish Government… but it has served its purpose. It’s no longer guaranteeing a stable arrangement in Parliament. The events of recent days have made that clear…  

“That is why, following a discussion with my cabinet this morning, I have formally notified Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater that I am terminating the Bute House Agreement with immediate effect… [W]e will now step up our ambition, but we will do so as a minority government.” 

The Green presence in government has impacted rural communities significantly, as was designed from the outset. The Bute House Agreement included major commitments on decarbonisation, agriculture, land reform, woodland creation and wildlife management. Although the flagship pledge to cut carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 was not explicit in the Agreement, its scrappage last week left many grassroots Greens feeling the pledge to make “significant progress” by that date had been betrayed, causing much of the instability Mr Yousaf cited as prompting his decision. 

As Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights, Mr Harvie has worked on the Heat in Buildings Bill with its controversial proposals to ban wood-burning stoves in new housing. Ms Slater, while best known for the Scottish Government’s failed deposit return scheme, led on significant deer legislation. She promoted an additional cull of 150,000 deer per annum but refused to answer questions from the Scottish Countryside Alliance on where the meat would go or how the Scottish Government planned to improve the marketing of venison. 

Rural interests have also repeatedly locked horns with the Greens’ rural affairs and land reform spokesperson, Arianne Burgess MSP. Although not a minister in her own right, her role within a governing party granted her an exaggerated level of influence in shaping the Hunting with Dogs Act 2023. She brought numerous amendments drafted by the League Against Cruel Sports focused on removing lawful exceptions that she described as ‘loopholes’. Although she failed to press her objection to the licensing framework that the Scottish Countryside Alliance and partners secured, she was instrumental in preventing exemptions for rough shooting and ferreting. 

 The next Scottish Parliament election is due to take place on 7 May 2026, but it remains to be seen whether the SNP can survive as a minority government over the coming two years. Its next hurdle will be a motion of no confidence promised by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross. Such a motion being carried is unprecedented, but the result could be an early election. 

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