13 February 2009

Man of principle?

I recently quoted from the text fo the agreement between the SNP and Greens after the Budget debate. Let me do so again:

Therefore, the Scottish Green Party is committed to supporting the Scottish National Party in the votes for First Minister and Ministerial appointments. For their part, the Scottish National Party agrees to consult Scottish Green Party MSPs in advance regarding the broad shape of each year’s legislative and policy programme (together with any key measures announced in-year), and in relation to the substance of the budget process. The Scottish National Party also agrees to nominate a Green Party MSP as Convenor of a subject committee for which the SNP is the nominating Party.

Yesterday, Green MSPs voted to abstain on the motion appointing Keith Brown, Roseanna Cunningham and Alex Neil as Junior Ministers. Abstaining is not supporting.

That means the deal is off.

And as the SNP should be the nominating party for the Convenership of the Transport, Infrastructure & Climate Change Committee, that makes Patrick Harvie's continued presence in the chair illegitimate: it is based on an agreement that no longer stands. He has disregarded an agreement but continues to hold an office based on the outcome of that agreement.

Now, Patrick Harvie has, in recent weeks, been lauded as a man of principle. I've been happy to go along with that.

Therefore, as a man of principle, Patrick Harvie has only one course of action available to him. Failure to take that course would expose him as a charlatan.

He must resign as Convener of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee.


Malc said...


polaris said...

Mr Harvie should stick to his principles, dead right!

Jeff said...

If you follow your logic through to the final conclusion Will, should Alex Salmond resign as First Minister?

If we are null and voiding all such deals with Patrick Harvie then that must include the vote for the leader way back in May 2007.

Will said...

I see your point, but Alex Salmond doesn't hold that position as a result of the deal: if the Greens had abstained on the second round of First Ministerial voting like everyone else, AS would still have been elected First Minister. Only if the Greens had signed a deal with Labour instead (which would be in no one's interest as Labour + Greens + one of the Division 2 parties = 64 and so is useless as we found out on Budget Day) would the outcome have changed.

On the other hand, Patrick Harvie would never have held that Convenership were it not for Robin Harper and Shiona Baird signing that agreement.

All the deal delivered was two extra votes for a Convenership. Those two extra votes appear to have vanished, so by that token, the Convenership should go as well.

Will said...

Should clarify that point: if the Greens had abstained on the First Ministerial vote like every other party who didn't have a candidate. Labour stil voted for Jack McConnell, of course.

subrosa said...

Agree too.

James said...

I disagree, as it happens. The phrase you quote is from the agreement, but crucially says "the votes". I know this sounds like sophistry, but the votes we were discussing at the time were those the next week.

If it said just "votes" or "all votes" then not supporting the changes this week would have been a breach. I also accept that it's not very clear drafting, and both sides should take some responsibility for that.

However, here are some rather more serious matters which the agreement commits the SNP to. I recommend reading the whole thing, and then see which side has jeopardised this agreement.

First, we agreed that "..a new Government in Scotland will be established that pursues a progressive programme and which places addressing climate change at the heart of its agenda.."

This would require Ministers to make actual plans for actual reductions in emissions, rather than just targets, and at the very least for them not to remove targets for the first ten years of the Climate Change Bill's operation.

That's specifically against another bit of the agreement, where we agreed that the Bill should "reduce climate-change pollution each year", not "each year from 2020". It would also mean even a little scepticism about all the additional roads projects that come along.

Also, I think the word "progressive" must mean something different to Ministers, but that's too long a set of problems to go into here.

Ministers-to-be also some good commitments in there about sympathetic and constructive cooperation which they seriously forgot about during their utter botching of the Budget discussions, during which we were unable to get a pledge to spend any money at all on the specific scheme we believed was necessary.

Interestingly, on the day of the vote for Ministers, we were told, by a Minister, that we would obviously no option but to abstain, given the last two months.

neil craig said...

Perhaps more important than voting for junior ministers - the Greens got the government to give up £6 million annually just for giving permission to reship oil in the Forth. If the Greens aren't going to earn their money there are other uses for it.