On Friday, a power-sharing agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Green Party was announced. For the first time in UK history, Green party politicians will be ushered into government, with Scottish Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater handed cabinet positions. On paper, the ‘informal’ coalition is a means of achieving an official, pro-independence majority at Holyrood. The Scottish Government will use this to leverage the UK Government into endorsing a second referendum.
Before independence supporters get too excited, they must ask themselves: ‘what’s the catch?’ The Scottish Greens have been pro-independence for years. Backing the SNP in its quest for another referendum is no compromise for them. Which means they will have demanded something else from the SNP to secure their allegiance. Environmental policies will certainly have featured in discussions. However, a glance at the official ‘Draft Shared Policy Programme’ shows it is on controversial social policies, more than anything else, that the SNP has been forced to ‘cough up’.
For example, the agreement establishes that legislation to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), a policy long called for by the Greens and fiercely contested by some in the SNP, will be introduced next year. The document also announces controversial legislation to implement a ban on conversion therapy which is as “comprehensive as is possible” under current powers. Critics warn this legislation could be used to shut down critics of trans ideology and religious believers who voice historic teaching on sexual ethics.
Some would say the Scottish Government was minded to introduce these policies before an official agreement with the Greens was ratified. This may be true. But regardless of when a decision to back these policies was made, a power-sharing agreement ensures that they will be prioritised in the current parliament ahead of other policy decisions and crafted in a manner acceptable to the Green Party. Given the illiberal tendencies of the Greens, this is a deeply worrying prospect.
Long-time leader of the party Patrick Harvie refuses to entertain any dissenting voices on trans issues. He’s also openly hostile to Christians. In 2006, he attempted to have a catholic archbishop prosecuted for stating that ‘civil partnerships undermine marriage’. Under his leadership, the Green party has become profoundly anti-free speech and hostile to dissenting views.
Other Green MSPs are also accused of intolerance. This month Maggie Chapman, one of their newest Parliamentarians, defended the head of a rape crisis centre in Scotland who said “bigoted” women who seek support from the organisation should have their “unacceptable beliefs” challenged. She was referring to calls by some women, including victims of rape, to ensure that people who are biologically male are not employed in rape crisis centres, to ensure the physical and emotional safety of women.
The hostile atmosphere in the Green Party on social issues even led to former MSP Andy Wightman resigning in the last parliament amidst allegations of bullying. In a blog on his resignation, Wightman wrote: “I resigned because I could no longer work in such an environment…I need an environment that is more tolerant, more questioning, more critical, more empathetic, and more willing to listen. How can Scots be confident that free speech will be upheld at the heart of government with Green MSPs round the table?
Other policies backed by the Green Party will also be alarming to many in Scotland. The Green party has a manifesto commitment to decriminalising sex work. Many women consider prostitution to be a form of violence against women which would be compounded, rather than relieved, by a move to acknowledge it as a legitimate industry. The party also wants to see gender identity theory embedded in schools, and referrals to gender identity clinics streamlined, despite concerns that the ideology is unscientific and deeply damaging to children.
It’s also worth noting policies that do not form part of an agreement between the SNP and the Greens. Scotland is facing a shameful drug deaths crisis, with figures rising to 1,339 in 2020. It continues to have the worst drug death rate in Europe. Yet there is no mention of drugs policy in the draft policy programme agreed to by both parties. The focus seems to be answering the demands of activists to impose radical and unpopular changes on healthcare, schools and families, rather than addressing major societal injustices. The plight of drug users has been pushed aside in favour of a woke agenda.
The SNP may see an agreement with the Green party as a necessary step if the next independence campaign is to prove successful. However, many Scots, including supporters of independence, will be asking if a boost to campaigning on the constitution is worth inviting the profoundly illiberal influence of the Scottish Greens into the corridors of power. This deal could prove rotten for Scottish politics and Scotland as a whole.
A version of this article was published in Sp!ked on 24 August 2021.