NICOLA Sturgeon has revealed her SNP Government is holding talks with the Scottish Greens over a possible "formal cooperation agreement". 

The First Minister said the move could see Green MSPs entering the Scottish Government as ministers. 

Speaking in Holyrood, she said structured talks, supported by the civil service, will now take place with a view to reaching a deal between the SNP and the Greens.

Ms Sturgeon called the agreement "potentially groundbreaking" and stressed "we are setting no limits on our ambition".

She said: "So in that vein let me be clear that while this is not a guaranteed or pre-agreed outcome, it is not inconceivable that a cooperation agreement could lead in future to a Green minister or ministers being part of this government."

The Scottish Conservatives branded the plans a "coalition of chaos". 

It came as the First Minister outlined her government's priorities in a statement to MSPs.

The SNP secured 64 seats at the Scottish election - just one short of an overall majority. 

The Greens won eight seats, but Alison Johnstone gave up her party affiliation when she was elected Presiding Officer, leaving the party with seven MSPs.

Together, the parties form a comfortable pro-independence majority at Holyrood, and Ms Sturgeon said denying another referendum would be "profoundly undemocratic". 

She told MSPs she has held "a series of exploratory discussions with the Scottish Green Party about how we might work together more formally in future". 

She said these "informal discussions" will now be moved to the next stage, adding: "I can confirm that the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party will enter structured talks, supported by the civil service, with a view to reaching - if we can - a formal cooperation agreement.

"Exactly what the content, extent and scope of any agreement will be is what the talks will focus on.

"And, of course, any agreement that emerges from these talks will be subject to the necessary approval processes of the Cabinet and each of our parties.

"But what we hope to achieve is potentially groundbreaking.

"In the coming weeks, we will seek to agree specific policy areas in which we would formally co-operate and, within each, identify the shared objectives and policy initiatives we would be agreeing to work together on."

Ms Sturgeon said she was confident these policy areas will include the climate emergency, but said she is "keen to identify other issues too".

She said both sides "will also seek to agree a model of joint working within government to support progress in the areas of co-operation", which could include the involvement of the Greens in policy development and delivery.

The First Minister said the talks will require compromise on both sides, but the "benefits to the country could be significant".

Elsewhere, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs the "most important priority" is to lead Scotland safely out of the pandemic.

She said the Scottish Government will soon set out its "expectations" for what will come after Level 0 of Covid-19 restrictions.

She said: "As we come out of the pandemic, there will be bumps in the road - as we are experiencing in Glasgow just now.

"But the vaccine rollout gives us firm hope that we are on the right track.

"So over the next three weeks, we will also set out our expectations for the stage beyond Level 0 - as we return to a much greater degree of normality."

Ms Sturgeon said in the first 100 days the Scottish Government will publish an NHS recovery plan, "setting out how we will achieve a 10 per cent increase in activity in key services".

She also said legislation to create a national care service will be introduced in the next 12 months, with ministers aiming to have the new service - which would focus on social care - established by the end of the parliamentary term.

She told MSPs: "This will be, in my view, the most important public sector innovation since the establishment of the National Health Service."

Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater said: “Scotland desperately needs a green recovery from the pandemic that leaves no-one behind, while time is running out for meaningful action on the climate emergency.

“The Scottish Greens have always worked constructively with other parties, delivering meaningful change like free bus travel for young people, and earlier this month the public returned the largest ever Green group to parliament to take that work further and faster. We hope that through these talks we can deliver real change.”

Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie added: “Politics does not have to be about point-scoring and short-termism.

"Green parties across Europe and in countries like New Zealand have in recent years rolled up their sleeves and worked with other parties to deliver a better future.

"But they have also shown that there is more than one way for government and opposition parties to work together, without losing the ability to challenge one another.

"We believe the people of Scotland want to see grown-up politics like this, and will approach the forthcoming talks in this spirit."

Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr slammed the plans.

He said: “The Greens seem to have finally given up pretending to be a separate party from their nationalist allies.

"Once again, we see that their true colours are not green but SNP yellow.

"A more formal SNP-Greens coalition is a nightmare scenario for the 100,000 workers in Scotland’s oil and gas industry, who will be concerned that their jobs are at immediate risk.

"The potential economic damage could have wider consequences beyond the oil and gas industry.

"This is a coalition of chaos that could put Scotland’s entire economic recovery at risk by pushing for another divisive referendum while we should be fully focussed on tackling the devastating long-term impact of the pandemic on jobs and businesses."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The First Minister promised this would be a parliament focused on recovery and she would defer a referendum until the effects of the pandemic were over.

“I’m disappointed to see the First Minister announce plans which would push the recovery aside.

“She has re-announced a host of commitments that her government has failed to deliver in their last three terms in power.

“The emerging Green pact is a sign that independence is the overriding priority. It appears they have even swept aside their fundamental differences on oil and gas to smooth the path to a referendum.

“I’ve worked closely with ministers over the last 16 months to help get the country through the pandemic and to agree extra funds for mental health and education. We will continue to hunt for agreement with others.

“It’s important that patients don’t wait longer that twelve weeks for NHS treatment, young people get mental health treatment within eighteen weeks, that we save more people from death from drugs and the poverty related attainment gap is closed completely in schools. 

"All these major issues must be delivered before the government presses for another referendum.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “Scotland now has three parties of cuts and constitutional chaos in the SNP, Greens and the Tories.

“Let's be clear this isn’t day one of an SNP government. It is day 5136.

“If the First Minister is serious about focusing on recovery, she must commit in the first 100 days to make this recovery meaningful.

“That means a genuine jobs guarantee scheme for young people and the long term unemployed.

“She must end the unnecessary anxiety surrounding the SQA’s exam and avoid a second summer of results chaos.

“And confront child poverty by immediately doubling the Scottish child payment and end the NHS cancer backlog.

“The First Minister has pledged to focus on our recovery and not be distracted by divisive old arguments. She must keep that promise.”