The Scottish Greens say they are looking to New Zealand’s example for their potential “cooperation agreement” with the SNP.
It comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the SNP government is in talks to form a cooperation agreement with the party.
The SNP fell short of an overall majority in Holyrood by just one seat, and have been having informal talks with the Greens on the matter since May 6.
Now the Scottish Greens say the cooperation agreement between New Zealand’s ruling Labour Party and the Green Party “works well” as a model for the Scottish Government to consider.
Speaking on Good Morning Scotland on Thursday May 27, co-leader Lorna Slater said: “The New Zealand Greens have a cooperation agreement with the government which means they take responsibility for certain areas like climate change and housing, but are not part of the cabinet.
“That works very well – I don’t know what arrangement we will end up with in Scotland, whether it looks like that or whether it is a different model.”
Fellow co-leader Patrick Harvie added: “Green parties across Europe and in countries like New Zealand have in recent years rolled up their sleeves and worked with other parties to deliver a better future.
“But they have also shown that there is more than one way for government and opposition parties to work together, without losing the ability to challenge one another.”
Ardern: Cooperation brings stability to the New Zealand government
In October 2020 the Labour Party in New Zealand won a majority in the elections, despite the country’s mixed member proportional voting system making it difficult for one political party to win outright.
However, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern invited the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand to join her party in a cooperation agreement, saying it would allow the government to benefit from the party’s expertise on areas such as the environment and climate change.
Co-leaders of the New Zealand Greens now hold two ministerial positions – Marama Davidson is minister for the prevention of family and sexual violence, and James Shaw is the minister of climate change – but neither is part of the cabinet.
The Greens went onto pledge support for Ardern’s government, but the deal does not bind them from speaking out against government policies they disagree with.
At the time, Ms Ardern said: “The agreement is unlike any other.
“It does not require consensus to be formed.
“It allows the parties to take their own positions on issues where that is important, but offers to work together in other areas too.
“The cooperation agreement represents the relationship that the Labour Party and the Green Party have formed over the last three years and the continuation of that.
“Importantly for the government [the deal] brings stability.”
What could a SNP-Green cooperation agreement look like?
A potential cooperation agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens would see the parties working together in something that is stronger than a basic confidence agreement, where the Greens agree to back the government on things such as the budget, but may fall short of a formal coalition.
Despite this the first minister says she cannot rule out Green MSPs taking up posts in her government, despite appointing her new cabinet earlier this month.
This allows the two parties to disagree with each other on a range of subjects, and would mean the government can still be defeated on some matters.
The Greens would be able to wield more influence and could see some of their manifesto pledges being added to the next programme for government.
It also means the Greens are unlikely to suffer the same fate of other junior coalition partners in future elections, such as the Liberal Democrats in the 2015 general election, when the party went from 57 MPs to just eight after their coalition with the Conservatives.
‘Disaster’ for businesses, say Tories
The announcement of cooperation agreement talks has already received criticism from the Scottish Conservatives.
Party leader Douglas Ross has branded the proposal a “disaster” for Scottish businesses and said the government’s approach to business needs a complete overhaul.
Mr Ross said: “Businesses don’t see anyone around the SNP government table who is fighting their corner.
“Instead of bringing in business people who understand how to create jobs, it’s the Greens who may get a seat around the first minister’s table.
“A Green party that doesn’t even believe in economic growth and is willing to risk the tens of thousands of jobs supported by our oil and gas industry.
“A holier-than-thou Green Party that only supports businesses when they’re flouting Covid rules at high-end Edinburgh bars.
“A nationalist coalition with the Greens is a disaster for anyone who was hoping to see an end to the SNP’s anti-business approach.”