THE Scottish Greens are set to receive £230,000 of taxpayer funds intended for opposition parties despite being in government with the SNP, it has been confirmed.
Holyrood’s Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone said the Greens would lose £15,686 of so-called Short Money this year, because two of their seven MSPs would be ministers.
However the party would still qualify for £9,060 for each of its other five MSPs over the five-year parliament, a total of £226,500.
In addition, it would get a share of this year’s short money in respect of co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater for the summer months, before they became ministers.
This adds another £2430 or so to the Greens’ funds.
If Mr Harvie and Ms Slater remain ministers from 2022 to the end of the parliament in 2026, their party will lose out on around £75,000 more in Short Money foregone.
The cash is calculated under a 1999 law that allows opposition parties to keep collecting short money, provided they do not have more than a fifth of Government ministers.
However Ms Johnstone said the Greens, despite being the fourth largest party at Holyrood, will no longer qualify automatically for a leader’s question at FMQs.
Nor will she automatically call the party to speak at the start and close of debates.
The announcement came ahead of Nicola Sturgeon addressing parliament this afternoon on the SNP-Green joint government deal, which is intended to be short of a full coalition.
Ms Johnstone said she hoped all MSPs would agree the changes “recognise” the nature of the Co-operation Agreement and would be fair for all parties across the Chamber.
She said the position of the Scottish Greens as the third largest opposition party in the Parliament had been “fundamentally altered” by the power-sharing deal.
She said: “The Agreement requires a bespoke response here at Holyrood, one which draws on precedents and practices, is fair to all parties represented in the Parliament, and is commensurate with the requirements of robust parliamentary scrutiny.
Instead of having a leader’s question in the third slot at FMQs four weeks out of six and a backbench question on one of the other weeks, the Greens will now get a backbench question three weeks out of six, being called at question 3 in two of those six weeks.
Ms Johnstone, a Green before becoming Presiding Officer in May, also said her old party should lose its opposition debate slots, and Ms Slater and Mr Harvie would, as ministers, be unable to sit on committees.
Tory chief whip Stephen Kerr said: “The Scottish Conservatives had strongly opposed the Greens’ attempts to have their cake and eat it.
“We rejected their efforts to game the system, as they sought to join the government and somehow pretend to still be an opposition party.
“We welcome this firm but fair decision from the Presiding Officer, which removes the Greens from their leader’s position at First Minister’s Questions and takes away their opposition debating time.
“The Greens had tried to undermine the Scottish Parliament but the Presiding Officer has made sure that will not happen.”