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Cherry brands Scottish Greens ‘totalitarian' and calls for coalition review

SNP MP Joanna Cherry during her show In Conversation With… at the Grand Hall, New Town Theatre, during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Rebecca McCurdy, PA Scotland Political Reporter

SNP MP Joanna Cherry has urged her party to ditch its Scottish Greens coalition as she branded the party “totalitarian” to a fringe audience.

The Edinburgh South West MP has joined calls from within the SNP to give members a say on whether the power-sharing agreement should continue.

The deal, known as the Bute House Agreement, was formed following the 2021 Holyrood elections, saw the two parties enter a government agreement, with Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater given ministerial posts.

But, in recent months, the agreement has caused friction between parliamentarians from each party on issues such as gender forms, the deposit return scheme and highly protected marine areas (HPMAs).

Scotland power sharing agreement
Scottish Green Party co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater were given ministerial posts following the Bute House Agreement, but some SNP politicians are now calling for the deal to be scrapped (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Ms Cherry has now joined a growing cohort of SNP colleagues – including former leadership candidate Kate Forbes – to call for a rethink of the agreement.

Asked by an audience member during her Edinburgh fringe show In Conversation With, hosted by journalist Graham Spiers, whether the SNP should reconsider the agreement, she replied yes, adding: “I voted against having a deal with the Greens.

“I think the Scottish Greens have become a totalitarian party.”

Ms Cherry also said some of the party’s parliamentarians had “behaved in a disgraceful way” towards women and feminists.

And their solutions to the climate crisis, she said, were “very focused on individualistic” funded by “private capital”.

She added: “I’m not a big fan (of the agreement) but ultimately it’s up to the SNP to decide whether or not we stay in coalition with them.

“I think it’s something we should discuss as a party and I think there’s an appetite to discuss it.

“The bigger question would be why are we afraid of debate, why are we afraid of reviewing an arrangement which could perhaps be terminated or made better?”

First Minister Humza Yousaf has continuously backed the Bute House Agreement, with the membership previously backing the deal by 95%.

And on Wednesday, SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said the power-sharing provides “certainty” to the party.

He said: “We’re all democrats, we can disagree without being disagreeable.

“It’s quite clear to me, certainly from speaking to colleagues in Holyrood, that in terms of the Bute House Agreement it offers certainty in what is a very challenging political landscape.

“Whether we like it or not, Holyrood is very polarised. And we need to make sure we can offer certainty to the people of Scotland in terms of budgets – in terms of the policy agenda that’s being taken forward.”

Ms Cherry also urged the new party leadership to overturn rules which prevent sitting MPs from standing in Holyrood elections.

She ruled herself out of running in the 2021 Holyrood elections after the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) introduced rules meaning MPs would have to resign from Westminster to sit in the Scottish Parliament.

Ms Cherry told the fringe audience she “would really like to be in government” and expressed hope the rule would be overturned as part of a transparency review by Mr Yousaf.

She said: “I don’t want to be in opposition for the rest of my life.

“I would really like to be in government, and that’s why I would like to be able to stand for Holyrood. I also think I would be of benefit to the SNP and other parties at Holyrood.

“The party’s under different management now and clearly we’re having a huge review of transparency and governance and I hope the sense of encouraging some of us who have got Westminster experience to think about coming to Holyrood will come to the fore during that period.”