Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with Green ex-ministers Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater after the creation of the Bute House Agreement

“Selling out of future generations”: what the end of the Bute house agreement could mean for social equality in Scotland and the UK.

On the 25th of May, the former First Minister of Scotland, Humza Yousaf, formally announced the end of the power-sharing agreement between the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Scottish Greens in the Scottish Parliament. The agreement meant that 2 Green Party MSPs were given ministerial posts for the first time in Scottish and UK history. Now leading the Scottish Government as a minority party, the decision has caused major political upheaval and distress in the Scottish government. Co-leader of the Scottish Greens, Patrick Harvie, has spoken out against the “end of a progressive, pro-independence majority government”, adding that “broken trust” between the two parties will negatively impact future relations between them. This decision has the potential for a huge impact on the Scottish and UK-wide political landscape. For one, the impact of this decision on social equality legislation and human rights could be bleak.

While the SNP are often regarded as socially progressive and align themselves politically to the left, the Green party contributed to and supported many of the Scottish government’s most progressive social policies to date. The Scottish Greens are openly and officially pro-LGBTQIA+ rights in their stance, and self-identification for trans people was a key element of the Bute House Agreement. The Greens also had plans to push for the full and comprehensive ban on conversion therapy in Scotland. Co-leader of the Greens, Patrick Harvie, has been publicly open about his own bisexual identity.

These include the Gender Reform Bill, a bill that allowed trans people to self-identify instead of receiving a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, reduced the amount of time that trans people have to live as their ‘acquired gender’ from 2 years to 6 months, and lowered the age that people can obtain a gender recognition certificate from 18 to 16.

Why?

The scrapping of the coalition came as a result of a U-turn on the SNP’s climate targets, which were designed to make Scotland a “world leader” on tackling the climate crisis. However, it has also been suggested that the move has been an appeal to those on the right of the SNP, with Patrick Harvie also accusing Yousaf of appealing to “the most reactionary and backwards-looking forces within the First Minister’s Party”.

Only time will tell if he will continue to encourage socially progressive policies, or will turn to support from those with more conservative stances.

Impact

With only 7 Green MSPs (Members of the Scottish Parliament), the end of the coalition strips the Scottish Green Party of some of their power and influence over parliament affairs. By ending the coalition, it has also caused distrust and hurt between the parties, damaging relationships with the party closest to the SNP’s socially progressive stance.

Politically, this move could signal a move towards the right. The end of the coalition means that incoming First Minister John Swinney may have to turn to support from parties across the political spectrum, including those aligned further-right than the SNP or the Greens (Scottish Labour, Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and the Alba party).

It also marks the end of Humza Yousaf’s premiership as First Minister. Yousaf was open about the challenges he faced as a Scottish-Pakistani Muslim, the first Muslim leader of a Western country. In his resignation speech, Yousaf described how much he had enjoyed his time in the role, stating that as a child, ‘people who looked like me were not in positions of political influence, let alone leading governments’.

Yousaf has also been open about the racism and Islamophobia he has experienced throughout his life and political career. Earlier this year, he faced public attacks from MSPs, MPs, and celebrity Elon Musk after the Hate Crime Bill was introduced, retroactively complaining about a speech Yousaf made in Holyrood 3 years ago in which he spoke out against Scotland’s problem of structural racism.

New First Minister and Perthshire MSP John Swinney has been a vocal supporter of LGBTQIA+ rights, and has voted in favour of the Gender Reform Bill and embedding LGBT-inclusive education into Scottish schools. As he takes up the mantle of First Minister, only time will tell if he will continue to encourage socially progressive policies, or will turn to support from those with more conservative stances.

General elections will be held across the UK this year, and Scottish Parliament elections to be held next year. The Green Party has reported a surge in membership since the announcement. In a statement following Yousaf’s decision, the party appealed to those “SNP members who do care about climate, trans rights, independence and our country to consider if they are in the right party for their values, or if their home should be with us”.

Image: Scottish Government via Flickr