Scottish Greens executive co-chair steps down amid internal strife

The co-chair of the Scottish Greens executive committee, James Puchowski, has announced his resignation from the party’s governing body, citing “increased factionalism, hostility and toxicity” within the party. Puchowski, who was elected to the post in September 2022, said he had been “subjected to a campaign of harassment and intimidation” by some party members who disagreed with his views on various issues.

Puchowski’s resignation letter

In a letter to the party’s co-leaders, Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, Puchowski said he had been “deeply disappointed” by the lack of support and solidarity he had received from the party leadership and staff. He said he had faced “constant personal attacks, threats and abuse” from a “small but vocal minority” of party members who had “sought to undermine and discredit” him and his work.

Puchowski said he had tried to foster a “culture of respect, inclusivity and diversity” within the party, but had encountered “resistance and hostility” from some factions who had “a different vision and agenda” for the party. He said he had been “accused of being a traitor, a sell-out, a transphobe, a misogynist, a racist, a homophobe, a Tory, a unionist, a neoliberal, a Blairite, a centrist, a fascist and a Nazi” by some party members.

Puchowski said he had been “appalled” by the party’s handling of the recent controversies over its stance on transgender rights, Scottish independence and the Bute House Agreement with the SNP. He said he had been “silenced and sidelined” by the party leadership and staff, who had “failed to uphold the party’s values and principles” and had “ignored the views and concerns” of many party members and supporters.

Puchowski said he had decided to resign from the executive committee “with a heavy heart”, but felt he had “no other option” given the “deteriorating situation” within the party. He said he hoped his resignation would “serve as a wake-up call” for the party to “address the serious issues and challenges” it faced and to “restore trust and confidence” among its members and supporters.

Reaction from the party leadership

The co-leaders of the Scottish Greens, Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, issued a joint statement thanking Puchowski for his “hard work and dedication” to the party and wishing him “all the best for the future”. They said they were “saddened” by his decision to resign, but respected his choice and understood his reasons.

Scottish Greens executive co-chair steps down amid internal strife

They said they were “aware of the difficulties and challenges” faced by the party’s executive committee and staff, and acknowledged that the party had “experienced some growing pains” as it had “expanded and diversified” its membership and representation. They said they were “committed to ensuring that the party remains a welcoming and supportive environment for everyone who shares our vision and values”.

They said they were “proud of the achievements and progress” made by the party in recent years, and highlighted its role in “delivering a historic power-sharing agreement” with the SNP, “securing a fairer and greener budget” for Scotland, “championing human rights and social justice” and “advancing the cause of Scottish independence”. They said they were “confident that the party will continue to grow and succeed” and urged all party members and supporters to “work together constructively and respectfully” to “build a better future for Scotland and the planet”.

Implications for the party’s future

Puchowski’s resignation is the latest sign of the internal turmoil and division within the Scottish Greens, which has seen several prominent figures leave or criticise the party in recent months. In August 2023, Robin Harper, the party’s first UK parliamentarian, resigned his life membership of the party, saying it had “lost the plot” and had become “too strident” and “too pro-independence”. In October 2023, Andy Wightman, a former MSP and co-founder of the party, said he had “no regrets” about quitting the party in 2020 over its stance on transgender rights, and accused the party of being “undemocratic” and “intolerant”.

The party’s internal strife has also raised questions about its stability and credibility as a partner in government with the SNP, which relies on the Greens’ support to maintain a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament. The Bute House Agreement, signed in 2021, gave the Greens two ministerial posts and a range of policy concessions, but also required them to support the SNP’s legislative programme and budget, and to refrain from criticising the government publicly. Some critics have argued that the agreement has compromised the Greens’ independence and integrity, and has reduced their ability to hold the government to account.

The party’s troubles have also coincided with a decline in its public support and electoral performance. In the 2023 local elections, the party lost six councillors and saw its vote share drop by 1.5 percentage points compared to 2019. In the 2023 UK general election, the party failed to win any seats and saw its vote share fall by 0.7 percentage points compared to 2019. According to the latest opinion polls, the party is currently polling at around 6% for the next Scottish Parliament election, down from 8.1% in 2021.

The party faces a number of challenges and opportunities in the coming months and years, as it seeks to recover from its internal crisis and to reassert its relevance and influence in Scottish politics. The party will have to elect a new co-chair for its executive committee, and to address the grievances and concerns of its members and supporters. The party will also have to balance its commitments and obligations under the Bute House Agreement with its distinctive policies and principles, and to demonstrate its value and contribution to the government and the public. The party will also have to prepare for the next Scottish Parliament election, due in 2025, and to campaign for a second referendum on Scottish independence, which the party hopes to hold before the end of the current parliamentary term.

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

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