They are an autonomous party with their own rules, members and candidates.

Yet they are now inextricably linked to another party, whose reputation they affect on a daily basis by word and deed.

They also have been represented at the Scottish Parliament since it reopened for business, diligently slogging away, and have supplied one Presiding Officer and two ministers.

Yet despite a conventional streak, they are portrayed as Holyrood’s crazies, the focus of opposition attacks as the biggest chink in the Scottish Government’s armour.

The Scottish Greens have never been so powerful - or so controversial.

As the SNP heads for its conference in Aberdeen this weekend, some members are openly calling for a rethink of the joint government deal between the two pro-independence parties.

Read more: Sarwar appeals to SNP voters to back Labour to oust Tories from power at Westminster

The row over Green MSP Maggie Chapman will undoubtedly amplify their unhappiness.

In response to the bloody terror attacks over the weekend, SNP External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson was clear. 

“The scale and horror of Hamas terrorism against Israel and Israelis sadly keeps growing. There is no justification for their actions,” he wrote on Twitter/X.

Ms Chapman flatly contradicted that by offering justification in “apartheid, illegal occupation and imperial aggression by the Israel state”.

It added to the sense that the Greens are a source of one-way grief for the SNP.

Whatever the junior partner’s MSPs say or do, it’s the SNP that gets the blame and abuse.

The Herald:

Maggie Chapman

Tory MSP Carlaw Carlaw didn’t dash off a quiet letter to Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater about Ms Chapman’s comments.

No, he sent a public one to Humza Yousaf, saying that if he didn’t throw the Greens out of Government for “disgusting bigotry”, then the First Minister would be “deemed an apologist for antisemitism”.

Mr Yousaf dismissed the linking of Ms Chapman's Tweet and the SNP-Green deal as “crass”, but it nevertheless illustrated the way in which any Green mess always washes up at the SNP’s door.

“Maggie Chapman is responsible for what Maggie Chapman says,” the First Minister said

Which is true as far as it goes, but little match for public perception. 

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, goes the old political adage. 

Read more: Family pay tribute to Scot killed by Hamas

So what should Mr Yousaf do with the Scottish Greens? It’s not an easy choice.

It’s not even easy saying which category they fall under. 

When Nicola Sturgeon brought the smaller party into government through the Bute House Agreement in August 2021, SNP members endorsed the deal almost as one.

More than two years on, support appears to have waned somewhat - certainly among SNP supporters - but it’s still pretty healthy.

But for some in the SNP, notably those vocal MPs and MSPs whose personal instincts and constituency interests have clashed with Green-led policies, the relationship is virtually non-existent.

“They’re a liability as far as I’m concerned,” one SNP MSP told me, trying hard not to swear. 

The Herald:

So far, Mr Yousaf has ruled out revisiting the Bute House deal, but cracks are appearing.

I understand his MSP group has already discussed the possibility, although typically nothing concrete was decided. However the seed has been planted.

There is no formal discussion about a re-think slated for the SNP conference. But discontent has a habit of finding a way to the surface. In fringe meetings, in the cafes and bars, perhaps even in calculated ad libs from the main stage, the Greens will be a focus of discontent. 

Mr Yousaf cannot pretend all is well. 

The Bute House deal was the creation of Ms Sturgeon (pictured above with Greens co-leader Lorna Slater) and John Swinney, with support at Westminster from Ian Blackford. Yesterday’s leaders. He can, brutally speaking, afford to ignore them. 

He has enough problems to deal with. He doesn’t need their hand-me-downs as well. 

Chief among his problems is the narrative that he is a weak leader. 

It was there before the SNP was thrashed in the Hamilton & Rutherglen West by-election. It’s primed to get worse now.

Mr Harvie would leave his fingernails in the doorframe if he lost his ministerial office. He spent 18 grim years in opposition, and really doesn’t want to give up power.

Mr Yousaf therefore has a chance to revisit and revise the Bute House deal without ending it. The Greens would surely bend. He can extract changes to keep his own side happy and start the long backing away that must inevitably happen before the Holyrood election.

If he does not, he risks reinforcing the weak leader narrative, in thrall not just to the Greens but to the greater politicians in the SNP’s past.

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