The Collapse of the Bute House Agreement

Given the dramatic, if inevitable collapse of the Bute House Agreement this morning here are some immediate reactions (we have invited pitches on this topic on social media).

The first response is to say that I think this was inevitable because Humza Yousaf and the SNP were in an impossible situation here or waiting for another political parties membership to decide the fate of a government coalition (don’t tell me it wasn’t a coalition). You can certainly argue that internal party political democracy is vital for the Greens but the real politik of this is that’s not a tenable way to proceed.

The second thing is, does this work?

The political argument is that Yousaf was taking such flack from his opponents (both within and outwith the SNP) that association with the Greens was no longer useful. That the CASS report and the issues around gender had become so divisive and continued support for them was a massive vote-loser. This is political expediency and does mirror the impression that Yousaf in particular and the SNP in general have little of a grounded belief system, beyond an increasingly abstract notion of ‘independence’. But the problem with this idea, that ditching the SGP will be a great reset (to coin a phrase) and allow the SNP government to start afresh with a ‘back to basics’ agenda that will halt their electoral dive, is that it’s not at all clear what their ‘back to basics’ agenda is? You could / should hope that the basis of this would be a strategy for independence but there is none.

In theory it’s a great idea to appease your own right-wing, to try and silence the enrage bloggersphere and the 5th Columnists who hate you with a passion – but to do what? The people who have campaigned against the BHA and who detest everything the Greens stand for are not going to change their tune now they sense there is blood in the water.

There are two bigger questions now at play. The first is what does this mean for a minority SNP government, how will Labour and the now extremely angry and confused (see statement below) Scottish Green Party vote in future critical Holyrood votes? Is there a possibility of Labour and the Greens uniting on issues ‘to the left’? I think there is.


Secondly what does this mean for the leadership of the SNP and the Scottish Greens? I would argue that neither has come out of the BHA with political capital. The Greens can count on a few margin wins, but politically they stand accused of opportunism and expediency in return for very little. The SNP have not succeeded in using the agreement to drive through things they believed in but needed political support for. It’s not particularly clear if this is because they didn’t really believe in anything or because the BHA coincided with their own internal meltdown.

The collapse today of the Bute House Agreement looks like a double failure of politics, both the politics of change required to begin to face our ecological crisis, and the politics of doing politics, which neither party looks particularly good at. The potential for a change of leadership seems imminent as does the potential for the Scottish Government to be brought down in chaos.


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  1. Cathie Lloyd says:

    I’m waiting to see more of what happened this morning but initially downcast as we need to develop coalitions to win independence. I think we need to double down on climate crisis policies and keep an informed watch on how they’re developing. What’s in the pipeline how is it progressing. Dismayed but still fighting those reactionary forces!

  2. Robert says:

    “The CASS report”? It’s not an acronym. Hilary Cass is the author.

    “The people who have campaigned against the BHA and who detest everything the Greens stand for are not going to change their tune now they sense there is blood in the water.”

    More mud in the waters than blood if you ask me, and you’re one of the people who keeps muddying them, deliberately confusing the very obvious difference between what the Greens used to stand for (science, the environment, social justice) and what they now stand for (free puberty blockers, neoliberal identity politics, and their own ministerial careers).
    I, like many others, detest the second but will defend the first to the hilt.
    Bring back Andy Wightman.

    1. SteveH says:

      Absolutely spot on.

      Group Identity politics is a religion promoting division and segregation. It gives real form to the crazy idea that “all people are equal, but some are more equal than others”.

      It’s a form of fascism.

      It’s the madness of crowds.

      The Greens typify this madness and arrogance.

    2. John Monro says:

      Again, spot on. I am in the process of writing on Mike’s article and am saying much the same in my own prolix way……

    3. Graeme Purves says:

      Just so.

  3. Satan says:

    There is always hope that Slater and Harvie will resign from leading the SGP.

  4. Roland Chaplain says:

    Ditch your preconceptions about political Left, Right and Populism. The SNP’s membership needs to seize the moment. If the Party is to remain the vehicle for achieving ‘independence’ now is the time to outflank the Greens and the Left of the Labour Party. However, and this might startle many Bella Caledonia readers, it is also the moment to outflank the Right and Populist movements.
    At a recent Climate Outreach / YouGov meeting it was pointed out that many of those who might potentially vote Reform Party see big corporate and financial sector interests as the enemy. Similarly climate and environment activists identify these as the prime causes of the climate and nature crises, poverty and inequality. All are opposed to the centralising of power and wealth and see these as the main causes of the current crisis of public confidence in all political processes.
    The way ahead lies with explaining the role of what is called ‘Pluralism’ in Economics. i.e that part of what we speak of as the ‘sovereignty of the people’ of Scotland means that it is up to ALL of us to take responsibility for exploring new models for a wellbeing economy which delivers quality of life for all and restores some of the damage to nature.
    Herein lies the scope for the SNP to set up multiple citizens panels, regional assemblies, National Assembly, etc. to develop the raft of policies necessary for Scotland to make COP30 (Brazil, Nov 11 to 20) the ‘Peoples COP’ where Scotland is seen as taking a lead in helping bring together civic movements from around the world to make this happen. Be as we would be as a globally recognised independent Nation. Think strategically and ethically.

    1. Alex McCulloch says:

      Great inspiration Roland!

      Certainly the way forward.

      The 64,000 dollar question(s)! are….

      Can decentralisation start NOW! ?

      Are there any barriers arising from current constitutional set up? (Budget / Finances for transition?)

      Do the SNP have the courage to enable subsidiarity?

      Do we have leaders who can inspire the many people to take responsibility and become more involved in the wellbeing of their communities?

      We certainly have many talents who are aware of the positive approaches around the world that are already reality.

      What are we waiting for! Let’s go!

  5. Meg Macleod says:

    How far back do we have to stand to gain insight into todays politics?
    Step back and back again
    Look beyond the little countries,the sham borders which cause chaos.
    Step back further to the real wielders of power..
    Ah.see ..they are are not here
    in our elected patliaments but in the powerhouses of banks and industry hidden from sight…planning without our consent…

    Greens..snp.labour, conservative, libdems shades of the same….some swimming a little bit against the swift flowing river of corrupted ideaology which has come to sour the principles of ‘democracy’
    What do we do ?
    What power do ordinary ‘us’ have in the face of such overwhelming situations..i would like my vote to mean something.

  6. Radio Jammor says:

    “Humza Yousaf and the SNP were in an impossible situation here or waiting for another political parties membership to decide the fate of a government coalition… You can certainly argue that internal party political democracy is vital for the Greens but the real politik of this is that’s not a tenable way to proceed.”
    Yes, I saw an article that more or less echoed that view. Whilst I can see and take the point that the SNP might have found the situation over the BHA vote untenable, and felt the need to, ahem, take back control, they are the ones ultimately responsible for the situation arising in the first place.
    With Slater and Harvie putting themselves in the firing line to keep it in place, and Yousaf talking it up just a couple of days ago, I think the SGP politicians can be justifiably angry and can also point to the shiny sharp object sticking out of their backs.
    Can the SNP now move and speak with their own voice, as the FM says it can? Sure, it can, but will it? Given events since the Supreme Court’s referendum decision, I doubt it.
    The SNP are in something of a panic mode, with the polling as it is, and perhaps they can pull things out of the fire now, but the real reason we are where we are is because they haven’t produced a viable plan for Independence in the last year and a half.
    This is undoubtedly for me, the reason for the fall in their support, and why some may be looking to the Labour Party again. Would they be doing so if the SNP offered a viable route to independence?
    I think the writing has been on the wall since the SNP turned-away from using the next and now forthcoming General Election as an alternative to a referendum that has been disallowed. Whatever shortcomings that route had in comparison to a referendum, it at least had the benefit of being an actual plan that Indy supporters could get behind. It had a tangibility to it that has not been replaced. This is the heart of the problem that the SNP has. That and the police investigation of the people who had led the SNP until a year or so ago.
    Perhaps this break up with the SGP will lead to the SNP concentrating their minds on what their real electoral issue is – that viable plan for independence. But I think that is wishful thinking. If the SNP had any such plan, beyond continual political pressure for God knows how long and hope that something gives, they would have brought that to light by now. The idea that it has somehow been suppressed because of the BHA is a conceit. Or at least it is as far as the SNP goes. Perhaps that may instead be true for the SGP and maybe they can now break free of the SNP and offer their own route to Indy.
    I doubt this, too, although I have less reason and less to go on to do so. But wouldn’t that be a kick in the head to the SNP if they did?

    1. Roland Chaplain says:

      Many thanks also to Meg and Alex for your insights. Taken together all you have said just reinforces my sense that the route to reasserting Scotland’s historic independence is not through political Parties as currently structured and de-democratised. That is why I feel that the only route left open to us is that of asserting the sovereignty of the people of Scotland and doing it on the international stage rather than through the hopelessly corrupted Westminster system. That is why I am calling for us to make COP30 the ‘de facto’ referendum.
      What I mean by this is that:- coming behind the young people and civic society in Brazil is the way by which a broad cross section of civic society in Scotland can assert our right for international recognition as an independent Nation free to choose our future relationships with RUK and all other Nations. Act as an independent Nation and call the bluff of those who will try and assert that we as a currently defined ‘sub-state’ have no right to behave as an equal with the big powers. That can be done if there is a credible world-wide movement of civic society led by the broadly defined Global South that builds a wordwide movement to make COP30 the first of many COPs that cease to be a carve up of the world’s resources by the currently rich and powerful.

  7. Chris Ballance says:

    “internal party political democracy is vital for the Greens but the real politik of this is that’s not a tenable way to proceed.”

    Mike are you really saying that internal democracy has no role to play in political parties?


    1. No, clearly I am not, just saying that it was politically impossible to wait-out this outcome.

      1. Paddy Farrington says:

        Whereas the mess we’re in now was preferable? Sorry, I don’t get it at all.

        Neither the SNP nor the Scottish Greens come out of this at all well, to be honest. The changes we need will not come from within political parties, but from the wider movement, where we can at least try to nurture political alliances in the hope that they might flourish. But even then we do need political parties to take progressive agendas forward in the institutional sphere. I fear that the end of the BHA signifies that progress of this kind is off the table for the forseeable future.

      2. Graeme Purves says:

        Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater were behaving as if they believed that they had Humza Yousaf trussed up like a turkey. That clearly wasn’t a situation he could allow to continue.

        1. Mark Leslie says:

          Graeme – the parliamentary numbers mean they did have him trussed up – he just didn’t seem to have realised

  8. Niemand says:

    ‘That the CASS report and the issues around gender had become so divisive and continued support for them was a massive vote-loser. This is political expediency . . .’

    Actually it was (if it was) simply the right thing to do. Anyone who takes no notice of the Cass report or says it has no application outside England deserves to be nowhere near government, ever.

    1. Almuth says:

      Let me get this right: You’re saying that any politician who doesn’t think it’s a scandal that 5 (sic) young people were prescribed puberty blockers by NHS Scotland last year shouldn’t be anywhere near government? Or is it the fact that the Scottish Greens say that trans healthcare should be informed by trans people’s lived experience? I thought it was generally accepted that NHS healthcare should be informed by the lived experience of the people who receive – at least I didn’t know that this was controversial.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Almuth, what lived experience do prospective recipients of puberty blockers have of puberty, fertility, having children, adult lives and so on?

      2. Niemand says:

        I am interested in the very serious matters that Cass uncovered, that should be respected and most likely implemented, as should anyone with a brain. The way you twist that is ridiculous and an excellent example of the type of thinking that has got us in this scandalous mess in the first place and should be consigned to the dustbin.

  9. SleepingDog says:

    I find the Green’s priority lists extraordinary, indeed amusing, especially the bit:
    “By contrast we as co-leaders of the Scottish Greens were prepared to put our own political careers on the line with our members”
    Oh no, Patrick, Lorna, you just said the quiet bit out loud!

    Given their eyebrow-raising length of tenure, especially Harvie’s, I wonder if it was wise to emphasise what a personal sacrifice such political careers would be. Well, I expect they’ll get pensions out if it. Surely they should take responsibility for the failure (if down to reasons critics of the Agreement correctly predicted) and go before they are pushed?

    1. Graeme Purves says:


    2. Niemand says:

      People who are high office of whatever sort (politics, business, institutional) rarely take responsibility for anything. What they get good at is placing the blame everywhere else than them. The buck never stops with them even though their position of responsibility is supposed to very much include that.

      The HE sector announces mass redundancies every other day at the moment (50+ institutions ongoing) but there have as far as I know, been no VC resignations or any at the top at all. All are on 6-figure salaries, many upwarsd of 500K. They can partly blame external factors (true) but how they handle the money they do have is down to them and time and again they get that wrong, badly wrong and they cannot manage people. They *are* culpable.

      Harvie is clearly partly to blame for this, people like him have destroyed his party and it has become a laughing stock. Like many, I used to be a strong supporter, have voted for them, and before that, a supporter of the old Ecology Party. But the current Greens are unrecognisable. I could never vote for them now.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Niemand, yes. I’m also considering the contrast with Caroline Lucas, who has had a lot of time to put a foot wrong (and I’m not sure she has).
        Maybe, since Bella is interested in English nationalism, it will review her new book, Another England.

        1. Graeme Purves says:

          But then Caroline Lucas is a well-read, enlightened intellectual, not a zealot and dogmatist. I’m reading and enjoying her ‘Another England’ right now.

          1. Me too, It’s very good.

  10. John says:

    I hope HY has thought this through?
    Scenarios were either:
    1)Green Party members vote to continue with BHA – this would leave SNP in control of alliance.
    2)Green Party members voted against BHA (against PH & LS advice) then they would have looked petulant. The Green MSP’s would have voted with or abstained on votes (including confidence) and it would have been possible for SNP to continue as a minority administration. This would have United all wings of SNP party. HY has antagonised Green MSP’s and left himself, SNP and independence campaign in a more vulnerable position. HY may have made a fatal mistake of trying to act tough from a position of relative weakness.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @John, hardly petulant to stand up for what is supposed to be your core principles, I would have thought? I mean, wasn’t this SNP betrayal widely forecast at the time of the Bute House Agreement? And appropriate action proposed?

      1. John says:

        Time will tell – but if HY loses a confidence vote what happens?
        who takes over?
        will they manage to win a confidence vote?
        Will there have to be a Holyrood election if SNP cannot elect a new FM?
        The SNP are not polling well at present so an early Holyrood election (especially after what will look like a self inflicted debacle) is not going to improve their chances of avoiding a defeat.
        You might call it standing up principles (which ones?) to many it will just look like cutting your nose off to spite your face and SNP incompetence.

  11. Ros Nash says:

    How can Labour and the Greens meaningfully unite while Labour are against independence and the Greens are for it?

    1. Satan says:

      Plenty of nationalists vote for and join Labour and plenty of unionists vote for and join the Greens (possibly including a very quiet Green MSP). New State creation isn’t either party’s prime mover, and Scottish independence is only of singular importance to fanatics, with most people placing it pretty far down on their list of priorities.

  12. John Monro says:

    I’ve been a Green Party member here in NZ for about thirty years. This last year I’ve let my membership lapse. I truly don’t understand how gender politics have so captured the Greens and other left elements. Greens, we face multiple converging existential catastrophes from global warming, pollution, a failing economic and political systems, wars and geopolitical chaos, sixth extinction events, etc. and our society needs urgent action in regard to poverty, inequality, drug abuse, health, justice, taxation, housing – perhaps not existential for the everyone, but certainly so for a large section of the population who deserve so much better. In the face of these issues, how is it that this tiny, unimportant and really peculiar part of our population have managed to insert their own ridiculous ideology to the forefront of Green and earlier SNP political thinking and concern? It truly is bizarre. Whether Yousaf is abandoning this ideology purely out of political expediency, or because he’s eventually realised the nonsense of it all I don’t know. But at least he’s found the courage to do so.

    But SNP, those existential issues, (and independence, remember this one?) are still there, and they need dealing to – dealing to the trivial one is the easy part, your failure in the bigger ones is not so forgivable. .

    1. Alex McCulloch says:

      A good summary John.

      I guess all the division around the topic has been maliciously constructed by the algorithms and perpetuated by a media who do rhe bidding of their masters to create whatever false reality will help them retain control of their assets.

      Of course given proper information and context people in general would be sympathetic to proper care,services and inclusion for any minority that has specific challenges.
      It seems politicians ,blinded by virtue signalling,, were unable to have the courage to state that it is an important but not top priority issue in the grand scale of things and progress the necessary changes in the context of their wider responsibilities , challenges and opportunities.
      That it could now lead to a vote of no confidence by rabid opportunistic politicians with zero to offer other than perpetuating the status quo ( of continual decline , global conflict , increasing poverty , climate inaction etc) is truly a sad reflection of the times we live in.

      Perhaps the SNP and Greens will reflect and have the courage to acknowledge that they both were sucked into giving too much air time and oxygen to the usual suspects on gender issues to the detriment of wider issues , acknowledge that reality and continue to support each other on the priority issues of our time …and at the same time thwart and infuriate the parties opposite!

      1. Niemand says:

        I agree in general but I do think it goes further and it has to be clearly stated – it is not just too much ‘focus’ on gender issues; their attitude to people with different views is wholly wrong, and in the end their actual stance itself is wrong. Most people know this, which is why it is unpopular.

        1. John says:

          GRA was not a policy that was relevant or popular to a majority of population. The SNP is primarily in politics to promote and achieve independence for Scotland. This is why it was unwise for Holyrood government to get ahead of public opinion on this matter.
          Gender recognition is supported by the experts who work in field which is also why it was right for SNP to react to Cass Report.
          Following logic of your last sentence homosexuality would still be illegal, there would be no gay marriage and death penalty would still be in place. All policies that did not have majority public support when implemented but do know.

          1. Niemand says:

            I don’t understand this at all John. The Cass report and questions of gender in its relation to sex has nothing to do with homosexuality, gay marriage or the death penalty. I just heard an SNP politician, even in the light of Yousaf about to resign, saying it is ‘awful’ and he is right to ‘ignore it’. That is infantile at best These people need to be out of office.

          2. John says:

            Niemand – if you do not understand what I am saying . I will try again.
            None of the issues I mentioned had popular support when implemented but are now accepted by majority and not controversial. There is every chance in 15-20 years time that gender reform will be viewed in a similar manner despite all the heat being generated at present.
            Being a 60 + year old heterosexual male the gender identity issue does not affect me and therefore I have no strong opinions on it. I am happily to be guided by medical professionals on this subject (including Cass Teport) than baying mob on either side of argument.

          3. Niemand says:

            I see that correlation but it is all about the specifics of the issue. I do not believe that society will come to accept that gender trumps sex and that we will accept anyone can ‘become’ the opposite gender in law by simply saying so. This is in my view simply wrong and I do not believe we ‘have’ a gender that we are born with, and there is zero biological evidence for this. Gender is a societal construct.

            Saying that is all a bit like when we all thought the death penalty was justified or that it was right that homosexuality was illegal but now we know better, is not an argument that holds up. It is the ‘wrong side of history’ stuff. We could equally cite things that are now illegal but were not before. The way things are shifting right now, those who use the grandstanding branding of others others being on the wrong side of history, look like they may be the ones on the wrong side.

            I accept that society changes and who knows, when I am long gone things may be different but right now that makes zero difference to anything. You cannot go about second guessing the future for any sound end.

  13. Doctor John says:

    Robert 25th April 11:03:

    ….and you’re one of the people who keeps muddying them, deliberately confusing the very obvious difference between what the Greens used to stand for (science, the environment, social justice) and what they now stand for (free puberty blockers, neoliberal identity politics, and their own ministerial careers).

    Just catching up with this having been away. I think this (Robert) is a succinct, accurate and important point that hits the nail on the head.

    I am a socialist who joined the SNP nearly 40 years ago because I had concluded that national liberation had to occur before there was any hope at all of Scotland becoming the kind of country I want it to be. I reckoned I had to make common cause with people of diverse politics who shared a single belief: That Scotland had to be independent.

    I am also an academic bio-scientist (retired) and have been utterly appalled by the dangerous nonsense surrounding the so-called ‘gender’ (non) debate. Cass has done a great service to the victims of this belief in witchcraft. The Scottish ‘Greens’ have lost the plot.

    The last decade – and particularly the past 5 years have been dismal. The betrayal by Sturgeon and her cabal has been desperately painful.

    I left the SNP because of that betrayal.

    The ONLY reason I sank my belief system into this common cause WAS the COMMON cause. The lapse into so-called “identity Politics’ (non-politics) has been the greatest betrayal of all.

    It is total distraction – designed by the neoliberals – to channel ‘progressives’ away from the political battle that really matters; class and the struggle of the poor against the rich.

    If ‘progressives’ are distracted by this (identity) nonsense, they pose no threat at all to the plutocrats who are the real common enemy.

    As a scientist I am only too aware of the climate catastrophe we face. Huge concentrations of wealth and power are the biggest contributors to the climate crisis and the biggest obstacle to confronting it. Gender madness is symptomatic of the distraction from, and betrayal of that fight.

    We need to get real. The matters of climate justice, socialism and Scottish independence are interlinked – and none of them is going in the right direction at the moment. As are the proxy neoliberal ‘wars’ in Palestine and Ukraine. The former is not a war at all – it is genocide pure and simple, carried out for the wider aims of the plutocrats behind neoliberalism in the petroleum-rich Middle East.

    Imperial England and its successor, Imperial America (the City and Wall Street) are a huge element at the core of these matters.

    For Scotland, all of this means that our MOST Urgent task is to gain our freedom, thus ending the evil British state. The rest is a distraction.

    Well said Robert.

  14. Tom Ultuous says:

    The Scottish voting system was designed to make it unlikely any party would have an overall majority. If Holyrood is to pay any attention to these votes of no confidence doesn’t that mean that the opposition can just overrule every FM till they get the one they want? In this case until MI5 are running the party?

    I can see both the SNP & the Greens point of view on this but neither have handled it well. What I will say though is that making big baw face’s day by voting against Humza is a red line for me. If one of the Green Party / Alba vote to oust the FM the other will have my second vote come the Holyrood election. If both choose to stand with the Blue & Red Tories then a plague on both their houses and if any SNP MSP does the same they should be thrown out of the party.

  15. Tom Ultuous says:

    How thick are Alba? Had they promised Humza their vote unconditionally they’d have taken a fair chunk of SNP second votes from the Greens at the next Holyrood election. Instead, they couldn’t see beyond their 5 mins of fame and are now tainted with the same DRoss stench as the Greens. How nauseating was it seeing that nonentity Ross gloating on the news?

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