A rebel faction has formed within the Greens and they want vengeance for how party leaders handled the deal with the SNP. Our Writer at Large spent the week with them

The anger among Green Party rebels is palpable. Some are close to tears.

There’s demands for co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater to go. There’s calls for every Green MSP to be “de-selected” for “selling out the party’s values”. There’s accusations of gaslighting and bullying cliques at the top of the party creating a toxic culture of fear and intimidation. 

In the days leading up to Humza Yousaf kicking Greens out of government, the Herald on Sunday was invited to a series of meetings with the party’s ‘rebel faction’. They wanted to see Greens pull out of the Bute House Agreement (BHA) unilaterally, and said they feared if they didn’t act soon, they’d be humiliated by the SNP moving against them first. Their prediction came true.

Among the rebels there’s councillors; current and former General Election candidates; people who sat or sit on key party committees, associations and representative groups; senior branch members; members who sat on the party’s ruling executive and council; party staff; and current and former employees of Green MSPs. More than a dozen rebels, from across Scotland, spoke. Much fury was directed at Ross Greer. 

He’s seen by the rebels as key to the failure of the BHA. They say he was instrumental in the agreement’s mechanics, and hashed out details of the programme for government with SNP leaders, making him culpable for the “corruption of Green values”.

Greer, they say, was “the main liaison between the parliamentary team and the Scottish government - the bridge”. All MSPs were described as “arrogant, high-handed, defensive and dismissive”, and accused of treating internal critics “appallingly”.

Rebels are furious that “so much of what Greens stand for has been destroyed” by the party’s time in government. They hate the council tax freeze; detest the failure over Scotland’s housing emergency and cuts to public services; and see the roll-back on climate targets as intolerable. 

They want Harvie and Slater gone. However, if the co-leaders are removed, rebels say they’d be “horrified” if Greer took over. He’s seen as Harvie’s natural successor. “Ross is the nightmare scenario,” rebels said. Some would quit if he took power.

There’s intense anger that the party voted through policies it opposed. “It’s humiliating.”

Since entering government, the leadership - which includes Greer, in the rebels’ eyes - “refused to listen” to members’ concerns about the deal. 



The rebels claim: “Ross is the guy behind the curtain, the Peter Mandelson figure who runs the show essentially. That’s not widely known - because he doesn’t want it known.”

They say Greer centralised power around himself. He’s co-chair of the party’s executive - which essentially runs the Greens. “That means he controls staff, finances, messaging, everything. He’s been co-chair for five years. In that time, nobody served more than a year alongside him.”

Last year, Ellie Gomersall resigned as co-chair citing “increased factionalism, hostility and toxicity”. When she quit, Gomersall spoke of “interpersonal disputes and feuds”, saying the role impacted her mental health.

Rebels say Greer was central to the BHA unravelling. “He’s the one who hashed out the details when it came to the programme for government. He did the negotiating with the SNP.”

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They said Greer “met with the Scottish government every two weeks. There was a standing meeting between him and the Deputy First Minister - originally John Swinney, now Shona Robison, both of whom have very close personal relationships with Ross”. 

Greer is blamed as much for the “diminution of Green values” as Harvie and Slater.

“Ross oversees what the party does on a day-to-day basis and he oversaw the deal. There’s no checks and balances,” it was said. Around 50% of executive committee members were said to “have personal connections to Ross, Patrick or Lorna”.

Rebels are outraged at the Greens being “walked over”, and say an “unhealthy culture” exists where “there’s no disagreeing with the leadership”.

The Herald: Patrick HarviePatrick Harvie (Image: PA)

Members were continually told that “it’s better to be in the room, than out. But we were never really in the room, at best we stood silently in the corner, at worst we were outside the door listening”.

Harvie, Slater and Greer were accused of “knowing months in advance” that the Scottish government would roll-back on climate targets yet “did nothing. 

The rebels say they were so complacent - thinking the membership would fall in line, even on scrapping climate targets. They’ve surrounded themselves with sycophants who won’t challenge them”.

Rebels referred to those who in Greer’s circle as “the Rosslings”.

Greer, they say, “sees himself as the first Green First Minister”. Rebels say he’s waiting to take a co-leader position should Harvie and Slater fall. It’s claimed: “Patrick would only willingly stand down if Ross was a shoo-in to replace him. Succession planning has been in place for years”.



Rebels say: “In an ideal world, we want a fresh start - a complete change of leadership.” Allowing the SNP to kick the party from government was “a complete failure of leadership”.

Greer as co-leader “would represent the continuity candidate. He’s spent years saying ‘being in opposition was a waste of time’, so would have no credibility leading now we’re out of government”.

The consensus on what should happen if Harvie and Slater go is that another MSP - who isn’t Greer - should lead, with the other co-leader drawn from councillors or prominent party figures. The intention is to limit the power of MSPs, now blamed for what’s happened. Maggie Chapman’s name was raised as the possible MSP to take a co-leader role.

Rebels are furious that the SNP gazumped them, booting Greens from power before they had the chance to vote the BHA down at an emergency meeting.

They say opposition had been building to the deal and there was a “substantial proportion of the party” prepared to vote against. They’re confident that if the vote had been held, the numbers were there to collapse the deal. One said between 70-80% of members were “anti-BHA” after the climate target climbdown.

Rebels have been silent on their anti-deal position due to what they claim is a “culture of fear” if they spoke out. “We’re sick of being overruled by the SNP and humiliated by the leadership’s weakness.”

They say they’re still scared about speaking out as they don’t know who will be in charge in the coming weeks, and fear reprisals. 

Read more on this story: Ross Greer: "I’m proud I’ve stood up against them... I’d rather they continue targeting me than some much more vulnerable people that they’ve spent the last two and half years bullying.”

Rebels feel they can be “more effective in opposition” as the SNP will rely on their votes to get legislation through Holyrood and they can exact concessions. “Instead of being in the room and getting nothing, we’re better battering the door down and making demands.”

They say the party has “undoubtedly been sacrificed on the altar of the ambition” of Harvie, Slater and Greer. 

The Herald on Sunday was told that a staff member was fired by Harvie after criticising both the deal and Greer. 

“There’s been a real chilling effect,” rebels say. It’s said at least one member of the MSP team opposed the deal but didn’t speak out as “they’re scared of how they’d be treated”. Some claim they’ve “taken time away from the party for their mental health” as they were “shouted at and called liars”. Others talk of “much-loved” members of the party being “publicly humiliated”.

“The public will be shocked to learn this about the party,” one said. “Most think we’re this nice bunch. That’s true for ordinary members but once you get to the top it changes. The mask comes off.”

Rebels are furious at the way leaders “rolled over when it came to multiple breaches” of the deal by the SNP. “There was absolutely no action taken.” Leaders “prioritised their proximity to power” rather than “party values”.



“The leadership walked through fire for the SNP but they didn’t do the same for us.” Rebels predict that unless the party resets under new leadership, Greens will “get a kicking at the ballot box”. By being thrown out of government, rather than “walking with our heads held high, we look like the weakest people in Holyrood”.

One said: “Given what’s happened, I’d even struggle to vote Green myself. It’s a disaster.”

There’s unhappiness among rebels over Harvie as many say he inspired them to join the Greens but they no longer “recognise what the party has become”.

They claim: "Ross does the unpleasant stuff Patrick wouldn’t do.” 

They spoke of “attack dogs” used to silence dissent. All agreed a culture of bullying emanated from the top.

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One rebel said their “interactions with Patrick are particularly less pleasant when Ross is around”. Harvie and Greer are described as close friends who spend time socialising together.

There were claims Greer “victim-blames” when criticised, and “gaslighting” is used to silence critics. Many members feel “alienated”. 

In one meeting of rebels, there was universal agreement that the “co-leaders should go”. There was also universal opposition to Greer having any leadership role.

One said Greer “belittled and stamped on” those who crossed him, and his actions “put fear into people”. In the same meeting, there was near universal agreement that if Greer had any leadership role they would resign from the party.

Only one person said they’d consider staying, but described that as being the “violinist” on the Titanic and “getting other people into the lifeboats”.

The Herald: Ross GreerRoss Greer

Another said if Greer took over “I’d be removed before I could quit”.

“There’s an incredibly hostile environment,” said one, who also described leaving meetings and “crying”. Party meetings were described as “incredibly tense with people just going at each other’s throats”.

All agreed Greer “puppeteered” Harvie and Slater, as they were left carrying the can for the BHA.



A number said they feared even speaking anonymously in case they lost positions or jobs. “My heart is racing just saying these things,” one said. Another said: “I’m scared.”

Three women accused Greer of “misogyny” - not inappropriate behaviour or sexist comments, but being “significantly more patronising towards women than men”. Another woman - who didn’t make claims of misogyny - said there was a problem with the lack of “working-class women” in the party.

Others said by “centralising power around himself, Ross has been able to withhold funding from some branches, meaning they can’t run their day-to-day activities”. He was accused of “placing cronies in positions so they’re there to agree with him and further centralise power”.

Most rebels believe that Greer is “playing” Harvie and Slater in order to take power.

Centralising power has “driven people away” from active roles, it’s said. “We’ve only a small number of active members now.”

Although only Maggie Chapman had any support from rebels, there’s deep distrust of the entire parliamentary team as they failed to speak out about flaws in the BHA.

“The wrong people were selected to run for parliament,” it was said. The co-leaders and Greer were described as “in love with power, and that diminishes the way they uphold our values when it comes to the Scottish government”.

In one meeting, all rebels agreed that when it came to the top of the party “Ross is number one”, due to the way he’s “consolidated” power around himself, “yet he’s subject to almost no accountability”.

“There must be a deep culture shift,” one said. “We must return to our values. The damage that’s been done by the leaders and Ross will take a long time to repair.” The first step, they said, “is getting rid of Lorna and Patrick and making sure Ross has no power”.

Some said they’d like Greer “expelled”, and every MSP deselected. “We’re just so demoralised at what they’ve done.”

Harvie was described as a “bad faith actor”, and Slater “out of her depth”. Slater was “thrown into being a minister before she was ready”. One rebel said: “Once, I’d so much respect for Patrick, now I’m just disappointed. Lorna is also part of the problem, she’s enabled what’s happened. She shouldn’t have been put in that position.”

Another said: “There’s poison in the parliament.”

One rebel said they were “utterly demoralised and despondent. The deal changed the party. We were the ones who made all the compromises. We’ve moved too far from our core values. The party feels like it’s left me behind. I don’t know if I’m comfortable here anymore”.

In another meeting, rebels said it was “the erosion of principles that’s been the most difficult for us”. They highlighted Slater saying independence wasn’t a “red line” to a Labour deal.

“The leadership has drifted further and further away from the membership. Power became siloed with MSPs. It was a power grab. We shouldn’t have let that happen. They became very controlling, and activists are drifting away, the people we depend on to get elected. Members don’t respect their leaders. That’s a real problem.

“When the deal began crumbling, and the SNP disrespected the party, the leaders didn’t listen to us. It’s not nice to say, ‘we told you so’, but we told you so.

“Bluntly, we’d like to see the back of Patrick and Lorna. We gave them the benefit of the doubt but since all that’s happened there’s just no trust anymore. They’ve gone too far.”

One said: “They’ve made too many errors to survive, and they haven’t learned from mistakes.” Another added: “Lorna just woke up one day and decided she wanted to be a government minister, but the problem is she doesn’t understand how politics works”.



A rebel said Greer “had no real life experience and it shows. He’s been in a privileged position in the party a long time”. Another called him “Tony Blair on speed”, adding: “If I wanted to be in a party like this, I’d join Labour.” 

It’s claimed Greer “deeply troubled” members when he referred to John Swinney as his “work dad”. One rebel said: “What an idiot, don’t you know the SNP had you twisted around their little finger, sunshine?”

All rebels regret that they didn’t get to vote to leave government before the SNP pushed them out. “It’s humiliating,” they said, adding that Greens should have acted much earlier to leave before being turned into “losers”. 

Leaders were blamed for “doing everything they could to paint this deal in a positive light. The whole idea of ‘being in the room’ with power was an illusion, a delusion”.

Centralising power within the parliamentary group led to MSPs “undermining the party’s values through the deal. They were only talking to themselves in their little echo chamber. They didn’t listen to what the rest of us were saying”.

Critics were “literally torn apart by young staffers in Parliament. It’s been a car crash - a case of power corrupts. Some people got power and liked it and didn’t want to give it up.”

Harvie and Slater’s position is “now untenable. We were part of a government that shredded climate targets. It’s just broken. We can’t continue as if all’s fine”.

One key problem, rebels believe, is that the party’s “national committees were neutered, and there’s been a tendency to force what the leadership wants”. As a result Greens got “little or nothing” from the BHA. Leaders and MSPs “just rolled over again and again, steadily eroding trust. The whole parliamentary team is culpable”.



Rebels said “we selected the wrong people to lead our MSP group, and be in our MSP group. Are they actually doing the job they’re supposed to do? That’s what members and constituents care about. People need a reason to vote Green”.

One said: “We don’t just need a change of leadership. There’s a wider problem with the MSP team. Deselection is something we need to really seriously consider. We’ve got a wide talent pool among councillors and activists, why aren’t we selecting them?”

Rebels believe “our MSPs eroded trust” and “failed to delivered the things that people put them in power to deliver. There were good things in the deal, but MSPs weren’t strong enough to get that over the line”.

The Herald: Lorna SlaterLorna Slater (Image: PA)

They said: “MSPs let us down. Instead of focusing on their future, they should have focused on the jobs they were meant to be doing. They’ve always felt it was more important ‘to be in the room’. That’s disturbed a lot of people. You can’t be a bystander with no red lines.”

If MSPs had “engaged with their critics, we’d be in a far better place, but critics were dismissed and called all sorts of names, behind the scenes and publicly”.

One rebel summed up their fears saying: “What the hell happens now? What’s next? Whatever happens, it’s all the fault of the leadership and MSPs. They won’t be forgiven.”

Another said: “You know what the overwhelming emotion is? Embarrassment.”

A third said: “The day before we’re unceremoniously kicked out, leaders were telling us how great Humza’s government is, then on the day the deal collapses, they’re swanning around Holyrood telling everyone how spineless he is.

“It’s just f**king galling that they now think they can hold the SNP to account after kissing the party’s arse for years.”

What the party says


The Green Party responded with equal fury to allegations by the rebel group. Senior sources said “these are f**king serious accusations”. Sources claimed the rebels were “out to destroy” Ross Greer and “drive him from the party and pubic life”.

The rebels were themselves accused of orchestrating bullying campaigns and misogyny. A number of loyal party members stepped forward to speak.

Only Amy Smith, former co-convenor of the Young Greens and currently co-convenor of the party’s standing orders committee, would go on the record. She was “shocked” by the rebels’ allegations and insisted that she had experienced no “misogyny from Ross”. Nor did she “recognise [claims of] centralisation of power” by Greer.

Smith assumed that she was one of the individuals referred to as “an attack dog”, and said she found the language “sexist and misogynistic”. Smith was not, however, named by the rebel group.

She said there are people in the party “who have a problem with Ross, for reasons I don’t understand”. The party has “processes for dealing with allegations of bullying”, Smith added. “I hope people go down that route and someone is able to look at this in the round to determine whose behaviour is at fault. I’m confident it’s not Ross”.

A member of the party’s National Executive, who’s close to Greer, wouldn’t go on the record, but accepted that “criticism of the leadership, communication and engagement is entirely legitimate”.

However, he added that there “was a small group of people who have hated Ross and been trying to get him for years. They’ve used every opportunity they can to attack Ross, even where it’s not justified”.

Rebels “caricatured Ross as an evil puppet-master and that’s simply not true. The idea he rewards people close to him with position isn’t possible within our party - we’ve mandatory elections”. Claims of cronyism are “manifestly untrue”.

He speculated that rebels were upset at failing in internal elections after running “nasty campaigns”. The source said that “vexatious complaints” had been made against him, and “unfair allegations made about members of staff”.

There was a “long-running cultural issue in the party” and some had “struggled to adjust to the way we’ve grown as a party, and there’s lots of distrust of staff members”.

Claims were made rebels had “bullied and harassed” others, and believed in a “grand conspiracy driven by a small group that Ross pulls the strings”. Rebels, he said, “had tried for years to bring down” the BHA.

Rebels “had horrifically bullied” one member of staff “out of her job”, he claimed. “Ross has stood up, said this is unacceptable, and in return has been accused of bullying”. 

“There’s a very deep bitterness from a small group of people. What they’re saying isn’t representative of Ross and his behaviour”.

A third senior member of the party said: “On the misogyny specifically, I’ve known Ross for nearly ten years and I’ve never experienced what I’d remotely describe as misogynist behaviour from Ross.”

She added: “The idea that he targets women - I’ve no idea where that comes from. He’s an incredibly capable and passionate person who’s dedicated his entire adult life to the party. He can be very decisive but that’s part of being a leader.”

Anyone with grievances has access to the party’s complaints process, she said. “As far as I’m aware there’s never been a single complaint against Ross, certainly never one that’s been upheld.

“If he’d been behaving inappropriately, I don’t doubt for a minute that would have escalated to a complaints committee.”

On Greer’s role, she added: “Ross has been absolutely influential to the BHA, he was central in negotiating the agreement, and whilst it played out in parliament the relationships he built with government were absolutely crucial.

“There’s been a strong faction since day one opposed to the agreement and they often target their opposition at Ross … They want to see Ross brought down as they blame him for [the BHA].”

She said rebels “shouldn’t be going behind the scenes stabbing people in the back, making off-the-record accusations about senior members. It’s quite shameful.”

A source close to the party leadership said: “There’s a small group in the party opposed to the BHA. It’s clear they’ve hardened and radicalised.

“Bluntly and honestly, there is a culture of bullying but it comes from that [rebel] group. They’ve made Ross’s life an absolute misery as he stood up to them. They’ve caused mental health crises and breakdowns and consistently target staff.”

The group are disgruntled as they’re in a minority, he said. Any decision “to withhold money from branches wasn’t Ross’s decision. They accuse Ross of things the party as a whole has made decisions about”.

Although Greer is co-chair of the executive, the source said, “he has very little executive power. His job is to implement decisions”.

He added that the idea Greer was “appointing his allies is just f**king disrespectful, as they’re often talking about women … In one case, where Ross knew a friend was applying [for a staff post] he did the responsible thing and didn’t have anything to do with the process”.

When Greer challenged rebels, the source claimed, “they threatened legal action against both him and the party … It’s a small group who have relentlessly tried to bring down the party. The vast majority don’t agree with them. They’re the equivalent of our militant tendency”.

The source added that rebels “have bullied women, they’ve an appalling record on the way they treat women … If people thought what they’re accusing Ross of was even half-way true, he’d have been hauled in front of the conduct and complaints committee. 

“There’s never been a complaint. What they’re saying is the kind of stuff that Ross might never be able to recover from. It’s malicious and false. It’s awful what they’re saying about him.”

On the issue of the sacked member of staff and Patrick Harvie, a spokesman said: “We can’t comment on specifics as any employee matter is confidential.

“However, there has been no complaint from a former employee. We would always seek to resolve any employee difficulties by mutual agreement, with staff welfare as a high priority, and there has been no situation where that’s happened.”