NEARLY 30% of Scottish Green Party members have quit in the last four years, prompting renewed criticism that Patrick Harvie’s team at Holyrood is too close to the SNP.

The pro-independence party had over 9,000 members in the year after the independence referendum, but the total has fallen to below 6,500.

The Greens were a key part of the Yes campaign during the 2014 referendum and enjoyed an unprecedented surge in membership after the vote.

READ MORE: Scottish Greens elect Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater as co-leaders 

At the start of 2014, the party had 1,178 members, but this jumped to 9,001 by December 2015, with income also rising.

An analysis of party accounts reveals there has been a steady drop since that point. The figure fell to to 8,120 in 2016 and dropped to 7,091 twelve months later.

The most up-to-date number was released last week after the party announced the result of their leadership contest, when Harvie and former election candidate Lorna Slater were unveiled as co-leaders.

There were 6,412 “eligible voters” in the contest, which the party confirmed is also the current membership total. This translates as a decrease of around 28% since 2015.

Only 801 votes were cast in the internal election, which works out as a turnout of 12.5%. By contrast, the recent Tory and Liberal Democrat leadership contests were marked by turnouts of 87.4% and 72% respectively.

A party source countered by saying the number of members had increased in every month in 2019, adding that more individuals than ever before are also providing donations.

However, critics believe the membership slump and low turnout reflect badly on a party they believe has lost its identity at Holyrood.

Harvie and his colleagues are the kingmakers in the Parliament and have helped approve budgets proposed by the SNP Government.

The Greens have been accused of selling themselves short, such as during the last Budget talks when they agreed to back the Government's tax and spending proposals in exchange for councils having to right to levy a workplace parking charge.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: "We constantly hear sanctimonious guff from Patrick Harvie, who lectures everyone and anyone about democracy. Then we learn about the internal democracy of the Scottish Greens, where a whopping 12.5% of members took part in their contest. It's hardly a vote of confidence in the new leadership."

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “It is extraordinary that, at a time when Green parties across Europe are surging in popularity, the exception is in Scotland where they have shedded members over the last four years. Perhaps the new leadership should reflect on what their priority should be: environmental politics, or just propping up the SNP Government and demanding another independence referendum.”

READ MORE: A second referendum is the only route to independence, says Patrick Harvie 

A Scottish Greens spokesperson said: "The Scottish Greens have a dynamic young membership, most of whom have joined since 2014 to take action on climate change. Before the independence referendum, the Scottish Greens had only 1,700 members, and this year we have seen a steady increase of new members join."

"The party recognises we now need to give members more opportunities to get engaged and involved in the way the party works, which is one of the reasons our new co-leader Lorna Slater was elected. Lorna stood on a platform of empowering and engaging with our grassroots members."