THE Scottish Greens are set to receive hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayer-funded support intended for opposition parties even if they join the SNP in government.
The Greens received around £230,000 over the last Holyrood term under an obscure arrangement known as “financial assistance to non-government groups”.
The money, which is based on how many MSPs a party has, is paid by the Scottish Parliament to help opposition members “perform their parliamentary duties”.
Scottish Labour and the Scottish Tories both qualified for more than £1million under the scheme over the 2016-21 parliament, with the Liberal Democrats due £170,000.
The SNP, as the party of government, got nothing.
For 2021/22, opposition parties have been told to expect payments of £9,060 per MSP.
However, despite being set to work with the SNP in government, the Scottish Greens are still in line to get for some of the money as they are such a junior partner.
Under the 1999 legislation which set up the payments, an opposition party can still receive the funds if it takes up less than a fifth of the cabinet and junior ministerial posts.
With the Greens expected to have two ministers at most, the party will therefore still qualify.
The only reduction is that money is not paid out in respect of any MSPs who are also ministers.
So if two of the seven Green MSPs serve as ministers, the party would still qualify for £45,000 in respect of the other five this year.
If only one Green MSP was to become a minister, the party would still get £54,000 this year.
And if the SNP and Greens had in a loose joint government deal in which no Green MSPs were ministers, the Greens would qualify for the full amount of £63,000.
Over the five-year term, the money would add up to between £226,000 and £330,000.
Any Green MSPs who do become ministers could come under pressure from their party to give away some or all of their pay bump.
Green MSPs each give between £7,500 and £9,000 a year to the party, according to public records.
Their combined £47,841 in 2019 represented a quarter of all donations to the party and 11 per cent of its total income.
As a ministerial post adds an extra £30,351 to an MSP’s salary of £64,470, any Green recipient could face calls to give even more to the party or good causes or charities.
A Scottish Green spokesperson said the financial implications of any joint government deal would be examined after any deal was struck.
The Greens won eight list seats in May, but Alison Johnstone quit the party to serve as Presiding Officer.
The Parliament said: “Parties connected with the Government but who have fewer than 20% of Cabinet / Ministerial posts can still qualify for [financial assistant to non-government groups], though not for the Members who have joined Government”.