First Minister Humza Yousaf is planning talks with a group of SNP rebels who are furious about the SNP-Green deal and its impact on rural Scotland and crucial north-east energy jobs.
The SNP leader says he will “remind” his party’s MSPs of the popularity of the power-sharing deal amongst members, as he seeks to quell rebellion in the ranks.
Speaking to the Press and Journal during a visit to Port of Aberdeen on Tuesday, he said the coalition agreement between the two parties is a “good deal”.
The new SNP leader made his second ministerial visit to the region one week after his election to unveil £25 million to help with the shift away from oil and gas.
He admitted it is no surprise why he is visiting the region so quickly, suggesting the party leadership wants to get ahead of criticism in the region.
He claimed oil and gas remains “very important” to Scotland and plays key role in developing renewables.
Wine bar pseudo-intellectuals
Meanwhile, Greens clearly feel emboldened to hit back at Mr Ewing, telling the P&J that SNP rebels need to get on board with the agreement.
Mr Yousaf’s remarks come just days after Inverness and Nairn MSP Fergus Ewing hit out at the Greens, dubbing the party “wine bar pseudo-intellectuals”.
The veteran SNP figure took aim at the Greens for their position on oil and gas. He claimed the party wants industries “shut down right now”.
Mr Yousaf told the Press and Journal, it is “no coincidence” his second official visit as first minister is to the north-east.
He wants to “send a really strong signal” that the economy of the north-east of Scotland is a “priority” for him.
When asked if he plans to speak to Mr Ewing, the first minister said: “I’m looking forward to speaking, not just to Fergus but all of our backbenchers, and our frontbenchers, to remind them of the fact the Bute House Agreement – the co-operation agreement with the Greens – was backed by almost 95% of our party membership.”
Mr Yousaf added there should be a “space for disagreement” but added: “I think it’s a good deal with the Greens. It gives us stable government. It gives us a pro-independence majority in parliament and it helps us to be radical and bold in some of the big issues of the day.”
However, North East regional Green MSP Maggie Chapman said Mr Ewing is “in the minority, in his own party, in parliament and across the country.”
She added: “There is absolutely no point in blindly pursuing the status quo in terms of industries and sectors of the 20th century that cannot be sustainable given the crises we face, whether the climate emergency, the cost of living crisis or the nature emergency.”
Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said Mr Yousaf’s visit was a “positive start” in rebuilding relations.
The business chief has called for a “reset” in the strained relationship between business and government in recent years.
Speaking at Port of Aberdeen, he said: “The first minister was clear that he will take a different approach to Scottish Government’s energy strategy which is very, very important and sensible.
On the relationship between the SNP and the Greens, Mr Borthwick said: “It’s no secret that the Green party had a number of stated anti-commerce policies.
“A lot of things that we’re seeing come now into statute have been brought forward by the Green party and they are not pro-business.”
Guy Ingerson, co-convener of Aberdeen Greens, said the “personal attacks” on the party have “no basis in reality”.
He said: “I grew up in Moray, my family have been farmers or worked the boats.
“My party and I wish to see rural Scotland thrive. Last year we saw Green councillors elected from Shetland to Oban, the Highlands to the Borders.”
North-east Green MSP Maggie Chapman said Mr Ewing is “in the minority, in his own party, in parliament and across the country.”
The visit to Aberdeen came on the day we revealed the Scottish Government was announcing an extra £25 million to help with the shift toward renewable energy.
The country’s national investment bank, which is owned by the government, will be expected to dish out the money to projects aiming to support clean energy jobs.