As the Scottish Parliament returned after recess, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered a statement on the historic SNP-Green cooperation agreement, setting out the priorities in the years ahead. Read the full statement here.
Presiding Officer, I am pleased to confirm to Parliament today details of the agreement that has been reached between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party, and endorsed, overwhelmingly, by our respective party memberships.
In nature, scope and intent, this agreement is genuinely ground-breaking – in both Scottish and UK politics.
It represents a new – and I hope, a better – way of doing politics.
Of course, while the agreement is the product of much negotiation and some compromise, it is also a leap of faith for both parties – but one we are taking willingly and for the common good.
The challenge and discipline of working together – of not allowing the issues on which we disagree to obscure those on which we do – will undoubtedly take us out of our comfort zones.
The SNP and the Scottish Greens – albeit joining together in government – are and will remain distinct entities, with different identities and points of view, but this agreement is founded on shared convictions and common principles.
It is based – above all – on our recognition that the times we are living through render a business as usual approach simply not good enough.
Scotland, like the rest of the world, faces significant challenges and opportunities – many of them deeply interrelated.
We must tackle the latest surge in Covid cases, while leading and supporting the country’s economic and social recovery from the pandemic.
We must ensure that the recovery is a green and sustainable one, and address with urgency and determination the climate and nature crises which threaten the planet and the security of this and future generations.
We must, unfortunately, address and mitigate the consequences of Brexit, which are becoming more serious by the week as labour scarcity and interrupted supply chains lead to shortages on supermarket shelves and elsewhere that should be unthinkable in a country like the UK and which are – make no mistake – a direct result of the Brexit disaster.
We must also defend our Parliament against UK government power grabs that are undermining the very principles on which it is founded.
And as we do so, recognise that the best way, not just of protecting this Parliament from Westminster, but also equipping it with the full powers it needs to build a fairer, more prosperous country, is to make it independent of Westminster.
That is why fulfilling our democratic mandate to let the Scottish people choose our own future in a referendum is a key strand of this agreement.
These are the inescapable challenges that confront us – how we respond to them will shape Scotland now and for the decades ahead.
In the face of the magnitude of those challenges – and for this we all bear a share of responsibility – our politics can too often seem small. Polarised, divided, focused on self-interest rather than the national interest.
If we are to meet the moment, we must do politics differently – and in this Agreement, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Greens accept our responsibility to do just that.
Genuine disagreement, honestly and respectfully debated, and resolved through the ballot box is of course the essence of democracy.
But we also have a duty to reach beyond disagreement and, in the interests of progress, maximise the consensus between us.
That’s essential if we are to find the solutions needed to solve the problems confronting the world today.
And, in both my view and my experience, co-operation and collaboration – in place of division and acrimony – is what people want to see much more of from their politicians.
Of course, that spirit of co-operation and consensus-building is also very much in keeping with the founding principles of our Scottish Parliament.
Arguably, it has never been more important for us, all of us, to live up to these principles – and that is the motivation for reaching this agreement.
It is not a full coalition – our parties will retain distinct voices and independent identities – but it sets out processes of co-operation and consultation that will enable a firm foundation for the delivery of our shared and transformative policy objectives, and the Scottish Government’s wider legislative and policy programme.
As part of that, for the first time in UK politics, it will see Greens enter national government as ministers, working in a spirit of common endeavour, mutual challenge and collective responsibility to deliver for the people we serve.
To that end, I look forward later this afternoon to seeking Parliament’s approval for the appointment of Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie as Scottish Ministers.
An agreement like this is not something that would be seen as in any way remarkable or even unusual in other parts of Europe.
But it does represent an important landmark for politics across the UK.
Most importantly of all, however, this agreement provides a strong foundation – across the lifetime of this parliament – for bold and decisive action.
After all, its ultimate test – as with any arrangement of this kind – isn’t about how well the signatories get along. It is about what we deliver.
There is of course a strong environmental theme to our shared policy agreement.
We recognise the urgency of the climate and nature crises, and the challenges inherent in tackling them.
But we also appreciate that with the right approach – and a commitment to climate justice – the transition to net zero will create economic opportunities and improve our wellbeing.
We are determined to seize and realise those opportunities.
Over this session of Parliament we will do more to decarbonise our transport network and support active travel.
We will dedicate at least 10% of the Scottish government’s overall travel budget to active travel – cycling, walking and wheeling.
We will significantly increase investment in public transport. We will cut its emissions and make it more accessible – with a commitment to free bus travel for young people, for example – and we will bring ScotRail into public ownership.
All of these measures will help us reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030, which is vital if we are to meet our climate targets, and improve the environment in communities and neighbourhood across the country.
We will also support the essential transformation in how we heat our homes and buildings.
This term of Parliament will see investment of at least £1.8 billion in energy efficiency and renewable heating.
We will do more to protect our natural environment. We will designate a new national park, plant more trees – including more native species – and protect more of our seas.
And we will work across the economy to support a just transition to net zero – with just transition plans for all sectors and regions and a new green industrial strategy with investment in skills at its heart.
As part of that, we will support and accelerate the necessary and inevitable transition from fossil fuels to renewable and low carbon sources of energy.
Through this agreement we will deliver a stronger package of support for marine renewables and offshore wind, and significantly increase our onshore wind capacity.
We will establish a ten-year £500 million Just Transition Fund for the North East and Moray – to ensure that the jobs and communities dependent on our oil and gas sector are not left behind and that we instead use the considerable infrastructure, skills and expertise of that sector to help drive and speed up the development of cleaner alternatives.
Our agreement will also help make Scotland fairer.
It will deliver stronger rights for tenants, including an effective system of rent controls, so that housing in the rented sector is more affordable and more secure, especially for young people.
We will make the investment in this Parliament to support the delivery of 110,000 new affordable homes between now and 2032.
And we will reform our public services – including the establishment of a National Care Service, improvements in mental health, and work to improve education and close the poverty related attainment gap.
Finally, as I indicated earlier, this agreement confirms our intention to give people in Scotland the choice of independence in a referendum.
The mandate for that is undeniable – between us, the SNP and the Greens hold 72 of the 129 seats in this Parliament and each one of us was elected on a commitment to an independence referendum.
But the reason for a referendum is even more important. As we emerge from the pandemic, the kind country and society that Scotland is and becomes in future – and the decisions that will shape our society and economy and our place in the world – must be determined, democratically, here in Scotland and not imposed upon us, so often against our will, by government at Westminster.
The agreement we have reached offers a clear vision of the sort of country Scotland can become – a greener, fairer independent nation.
It also recognises and puts into practice an approach to politics that sees parties try to work together for the common good. I firmly believe that’s what most people in Scotland want to see.
I hope this agreement will demonstrate that when we step out of our comfort zones, and embrace cooperation, we enhance our ability to deliver the ideas and practical policies that will meet the scale of the challenges we face.
Of course, this agreement is novel in terms of UK constitutional politics. But across Europe and in many countries around the world, arrangements like this are commonplace and based firmly on the idea that cooperation – rather than confrontation – will lead to better outcomes.
This parliament has secured some very significant achievements in the last two decades – and all parties can and should take credit for that fact.
But there have also been times – especially in more recent years – when our politics has been toxic and polarised and, because of that, we have sometimes seemed incapable of properly living up to the expectations of those we serve.
So just as can all take some credit for our successes, we all must bear some responsibility for our shortcomings.
And I believe we all have an obligation to make change.
This agreement represents a renewed commitment from the Scottish Government to do so.
While it is – at political level – an agreement between the SNP and the Greens, I hope, and I mean this sincerely, that over time it will encourage greater cooperation between all parties in this parliament.
There are issues – including, perhaps especially, the constitution – on which we disagree profoundly and passionately. That is unlikely to change – though even on these fundamental issues, perhaps we should all make an effort to disagree more civilly.
But there are many others issues – especially as we recover from the pandemic and address the climate crisis – where I believe acres of common ground can be found, while still acknowledging and respecting our disagreements.
So despite all the risks inherent in a decision of two parties to co-operate more closely – and with a full appreciation of the compromise and the ups and downs that an agreement like this will entail – the SNP and the Greens are choosing to work together.
We are doing so because we believe that, in a time of great challenge, a better, more collaborative politics is needed, so that a better Scotland can be built.
And we are resolving to spend the next 5 years working together to build it.
As we do so, we will seek to work, whenever possible, with others across the chamber too.
This agreement is a milestone in this parliament’s progress.
It sets out how the SNP and the Scottish Greens will work together as the Scottish government.
It demonstrates our commitment to a new, and better, way of doing politics.
And it provides the strong platform needed to deliver the transformative policies that will build a greener, fairer country and make people’s lives better.
For all of these reasons, I commend it to the chamber.