NICOLA Sturgeon has said the joint government deal with the Scottish Greens has made her mandate for a second independence referendum “undeniable”.
The First Minister told Holyrood the power-sharing pact was a “ground-breaking” change for Scottish politics, and urged other parties to cooperate more with her Government.
However opposition parties derided it as a “Nationalist coalition” focused on the shared SNP-Green goal of independence.
Under the five-year deal, Scottish Green co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater will serve as ministers, while the other five Green MSPs will technically remain in opposition.
It is the first time Greens have entered government anywhere in the UK.
MSPs this afternoon voted 69 to 56 to approve the appointments, which will now be confirmed by the Queen.
Ms Sturgeon said colossal issues such as climate change and recovery from the pandemic meant there was a growing to “try to do politics differently”.
However she also said the new arrangement, which stops shorts of a full coalition, had implications for a very familiar political issue, Indyref2.
She said: “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.”
She added: “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.”
Ms Sturgeon said the SNP and Greens would “retain distinct voices and independent identities”, but work “in a spirit of common endeavour, mutual challenge and collective responsibility to deliver for the people we serve”.
She urged the other parties to move away from “toxic and polarised” politics, disagree civilly, and consider more collaboration with the SNP on important issues.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross focused branded it a “nationalist coalition with one overriding goal – separating Scotland from the United Kingdom”.
He said: “Trying to claim that this is not a coalition, that is quite simply a joke even by SNP standards.”
Mr Ross said the deal had taken priority over the programme for government – the statement setting out the Government’s legislative plans for the next 12 months – which is normally announced as soon as MSPs return after the summer recess.
It has been delayed a week.
He said: “Yet again a divisive referendum has come first, as it always does with this government. Once again the SNP have got their priorities all wrong.
“This is not a deal that works for Scotland. This is a deal that works for Nicola Sturgeon.
“She failed to get a majority and this deal is a consequence of that.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “This coalition agreement – for that is what is is – is just formalising the agreement from the last parliament where Nicola Sturgeon and the NSP hammer our public services with cuts and the Greens simply nod it through.”
He added: “This is no new government, this is not a clean start, this is a deal that more about the constitution, not the climate. It’s about greater control for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, not co-operation.”
Green MSP Ross Greer hit back at Tory claims the Greens were “extremist”.
He said: “Only two members of this Parliament have ever allowed an extremist party – a homophobic and misogynistic party – to hold sway over a government – and they’re sitting on the Conservatives’ front bench. Douglas Ross and Stephen Kerr [as MPs] were enthusiastic supporters of their party’s cosy relationship with the DUP.
“Those of us committed to working together in the interests of people and planet will be taking no lessons from the extremist-enablers on the Tory benches.”