The Bute House Agreement is coming under yet more pressure with Humza Yousaf facing growing unhappiness from his backbenchers over the party's coalition deal with the Scottish Greens.

A vote on the pact at the SNP conference in October now looks increasingly likely.

But the First Minister may struggle to muster much enthusiasm to defend the partnership among his Holyrood group. 

“They're killing us,” one SNP MSP told The Herald on Sunday.

READ MORE: Joanna Cherry calls for SNP to renegotiate coalition deal with Greens

In recent days, a number of former ministers and high-profile figures in the party have openly criticised the pact.

Former finance secretary Kate Forbes suggested the party should “check-in” with members about the content of the deal that brought the Greens into government and saw Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater given ministerial positions.

Joanna Cherry had said she would like to see the agreement renegotiated.

This week, the Herald on Sunday contacted all backbench SNP MSPs to ask for their views on the Bute House Agreement, just one responded positively, describing the deal as "the lesser of two evils."

Writing in today's paper, former rural economy secretary, Fergus Ewing says now is the right time for members to have their say.

“After all the original vote was taken before the deal was put into effect, and following the recommendation of the former first minister at the peak of her popularity.

“And now we are halfway through this session of Parliament.

“Now we have all seen just how damaging the deal has been for us and the country.

“So, now is exactly the right time to take stock and let our members have their say.

“What are they afraid of?”

In response, the Greens described Mr Ewing's comments as "tiresome."

The Herald:

The SNP claimed the party did not need to vote on the deal as party members backed Mr Yousaf during the leadership contest when he "stood on a platform endorsing the Scottish Government's cooperation agreement."

Mr Ewing rejected that argument: “Members supported by a majority the two candidates who would likely have scrapped the deal.

“A majority of those members who voted in their first preferences, 52% voted for either Ash Regan or Kate Forbes.

“Both expressed serious concerns about the deal.

“So if that contest proves anything, it’s that the Green deal was not supported by SNP members. And of course, that leadership contest took place before further carnage resulted from the deal.”

The final decision on whether there will be a vote at the conference is in the hands of the party’s Conferences Committee.

Some on the party’s ruling NEC told us they thought it unlikely, and if it was to take place, a majority of the delegates gathered in Aberdeen would back the leadership’s position.

READ MORE: Kate Forbes calls for SNP conference debate on agreement with Greens

The Bute House Agreement gives the minority SNP group in Holyrood a parliamentary majority and helps protect them from votes of no confidence.

As part of the deal, there is a joint policy platform covering a wide range of areas, including independence, housing, transport and tackling climate change.

When it was first put to the party by Nicola Sturgeon following the 2021 election, it received the support of around 95% of SNP members.

However, in the years since a number of policy failures have caused tensions, particularly the chaotic and delayed Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) which was led by Lorna Slater.

“It was quite embarrassing and people felt embarrassed," one SNP MSP said about the Circular Economy minister's performance at the despatch box. 

"You're used to sitting, and you're never going to agree with everything someone else says or, you might think, 'well didn't so and so do brilliantly', or, you know, 'they maybe didn't quite perform so well', but that feeling of actually wanting the ground to swallow you up as you're sitting behind someone is quite difficult.“

The Herald: Scottish Green party co-leader Lorna Slater in the main chamber at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivers a statement on the agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Green Party and formally appoints the party

In recent weeks, there has been a huge amount of unhappiness around a number of potential measures announced by Patrick Harvie to try and encourage homeowners to invest in greener technology in a bid to help Scotland reach its 2045 net zero target.

These include a shake-up of energy efficiency standards which would penalise homes with fossil fuel boilers rather than heat pumps.

READ MORE: Kate Forbes says she 'dodged a bullet' by losing SNP leadership race

“I get why the Bute House Agreement was so attractive to the government,” one MSP who asked to remain anonymous told us.

“At the time obviously we'd faced a number of votes of no confidence. And, you know, there's no doubt that in a number of ways that it will have made getting business through, legislation through easier.”

They added: “There are risks in any alliance and I think that for those of us who perhaps weren't enthusiastic about the arrangement, we've seen a number of our worst fears play out.

“The Scottish Green Party has got pretty extreme views on a number of topics. And they're a minority party and the impression is being given that they're exercising undue influence on government.”

“I think in the short term the government might have felt that it's made them stronger, but there are real tensions,” they added.

“And I think we've seen as rhetoric has hit reality on a number of things there have been issues and I have to say I've heard from more than one colleague, and not just the usual suspects that you'd think of off the top of your head, the phrase, they're killing us.”

John Mason, the MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, was broadly in favour of the deal. He said that between 2016 and 2021 when the party had a minority government it often felt as if “all the other parties were ganging up together just to give the SNP a kicking, no matter what the subject was.”

“So if we did not have the Bute House Agreement or something like it, we would likely be faced with a minority government and a return to the 2016-21 scenario, with anti-SNP votes whatever the subject matter. Perhaps it is a question of the lesser of two evils.”

An SNP spokesperson said: "Only a matter of months ago, SNP members voted to elect Humza Yousaf as SNP leader and First Minister after he stood on a platform endorsing the Scottish Government's cooperation agreement which 95% of party members voted to support.

“The Bute House Agreement has already delivered vital steps to tackle climate change, a better deal for tenants, and action to reduce poverty and inequality, such as an increase to the Scottish Child Payment and free bus travel for under-22s.”

Responding to Mr Ewing’s column, a Scottish Green spokesperson said: “The Scottish Greens will always put people and planet first, with climate and tackling child poverty and inequality at the heart of our social and environmental focus as has been demonstrated over the past two years.

“That is why the Tories, Labour and their supporters are so desperate to attack the Bute House Agreement, because it delivers the kind of steady government Westminster can only dream of.

“Mr Ewing’s tiresome comments and questionable record are, frankly, an irrelevance and a matter for his own party.”