What is the Bute House Agreement?
The Bute House Agreement is a co-operation deal between the SNP and the Scottish Greens, signed in August 2023. It gave the Greens two ministerial posts and a range of policy concessions, in exchange for their support for the SNP government in the Scottish Parliament. The deal also committed both parties to work together for a second independence referendum.
Why is the deal controversial?
The deal has been criticised by some SNP members and supporters, who fear that it will alienate moderate and pro-union voters, and that it will give too much influence to the Greens, who have radical views on issues such as oil and gas, transport, gender identity and fishing. Some also argue that the deal undermines the SNP’s claim to be a broad-church party that can appeal to all sections of Scottish society.
How did the deal affect the by-election result?
The SNP suffered a humiliating defeat in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election on October 6, losing the seat to Labour by more than 5,000 votes. The swing against the SNP was 20.4%, one of the largest in Scottish political history. The result was widely seen as a backlash against the Bute House Agreement, as well as a reflection of the public dissatisfaction with the SNP’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and the NHS waiting times.
What did Michelle Thomson say about the deal?
Michelle Thomson is an SNP backbencher who represents Falkirk East in the Scottish Parliament. She was also the campaign manager for Kate Forbes, who challenged Humza Yousaf for the SNP leadership earlier this year. Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Show, Ms Thomson said that a “fresh look” should be taken at the agreement with the Greens, and that she was not sure how popular it was. She also said that the SNP needed to improve its policies, proposition and messaging, and to speak for the people of Scotland.
How did Humza Yousaf respond to the criticism?
Humza Yousaf is the leader of the SNP and the First Minister of Scotland. He has defended the agreement with the Greens, saying that it was necessary to secure a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament, and that it would help to tackle the climate crisis, poverty and inequality. He has also promised to “reflect, regroup and reorganise” after the by-election loss, and to listen to the feedback from voters. He has said that he has full confidence in his leadership team and his cabinet.
How did other parties react to the deal?
The Scottish Conservatives have been vocal opponents of the agreement, calling it “toxic” and “destructive”. They have accused Mr Yousaf of being held hostage by the “extremist” Greens, and of pursuing policies that would harm Scotland’s economy, security and identity. They have also called for scrapping the deal and holding an early election. The Scottish Labour Party has also criticised the deal, saying that it showed that Mr Yousaf was out of touch with ordinary people’s concerns, and that he was more interested in independence than in improving public services.
What will happen next?
The Bute House Agreement is likely to face more scrutiny and pressure in the coming months, as both parties prepare for their annual conferences later this month. The deal could also be tested by potential disagreements over key issues such as budget, taxation, education and health. The question of whether Mr Yousaf can deliver on his promise of a second independence referendum before 2026 will also loom large over his leadership. The fate of the agreement could have significant implications for Scotland’s future direction.