HOLYROOD has experienced a variegated slew of governance: Labour/LibDem coalition, minority SNP, majority SNP. This week the latest iteration – the SNP partnership agreement with the Greens – faced renewed tension on two fronts.

Firstly, the environment, the defining issue for the Greens; further pressure upon the First Minister to limit Scotland’s links to oil and gas.

Secondly, independence, the core objective for the SNP. The Greens published their own opaque vision of an independent future, arguably confusing the offer for voters.

This combination prompted me to muse. Does Nicola Sturgeon need the Greens in government? Really? Are they worth the bother they bring?

The climate change discourse in Scotland is, to some extent, a microcosm of the disputes surrounding the COP 27 conference in Egypt.There, it might be summarised as absence and presence. The absence of political leaders from sizeable polluting nations such as China and India, reluctant no doubt to be pursued over their future plans. The presence of delegates from fossil fuel outfits – from oil, gas and coal – fearful, no doubt, over potential constraints upon their business.

Then there is the UK. Rishi Sunak initially indicated that he would absent himself from Sharm el-Sheikh, unable to spare time from domestic economic woes. Eventually present, after a rethink.

And Nicola Sturgeon? Attending the summit for the first few days, keen to encourage action upon the objectives agreed last year in Glasgow, at COP 26. She is incontestably committed to enhancing our environment. She genuinely wants to cut back on carbon.

Ripples in the water only this week. The FM announced an additional £5m to address loss and damage in areas afflicted by climate change. Scotland’s planning framework has been redesigned to help the drive towards net zero emissions.

But, to me, she still seems torn, slightly conflicted. For example, the Greens challenged her this week to commit to the organisation, Beyond Oil and Gas, which does what it says on the tin. In media interviews, she talked of reviewing the issue, of a possible association. Why the equivocation? Answer: the North Sea. As one government source put it to me, it is easier to proclaim “Beyond Oil and Gas” when you have no oil and gas production in your economy. Wales, for example, is a core member.

The SNP and the Greens simply come from different parts of the forest on this one. A forest planted, perhaps, to offset emissions. Anent oil and gas, the Greens say “leave it in the ground, leave it under the sea.” As one Green source averred, their party is in no danger of being mistaken for a friend of the oil industry.

For the SNP, particularly for an older generation of Nationalists, oil and gas is in the DNA. Many were raised chanting: “It’s Scotland’s Oil”. The independence White Paper prior to the 2014 referendum relied substantially upon continuing revenues from the North Sea.

To repeat, Nicola Sturgeon is palpably thirled to environmental campaigning and action. Still, she is acutely aware of her party’s history – and of the thousands of Scottish jobs dependent ultimately upon hydrocarbons.

So, she talks of a just transition. She urges pragmatism alongside principle. She took time to signal clear opposition to new oil and gas licences – and, even now, SNP speakers still tend to stress that this was and remains a UK Government decision.

So do the Greens nip her ear over this? A bit, with issues like Beyond Oil and Gas. But I believe that they, too, are cautious, mindful of that partnership agreement.

The Scottish Government is busily preparing a revised energy strategy document, due for publication later this year. That may clarify some of the uncertainty still lingering in the SNP perspective.

It is my understanding that there is a weekly governmental meeting between the SNP and the Greens designed to iron out any difficulties before they might become public. Designed, as one put it, to “sort out quibbles”.

In practice, the dominant SNP within the Scottish Government recognises that there are also challenges here for the Greens. Their ministers might want pragmatic agreement, some of their activists might be unhappy.

The Greens, too, are aware of that potential dilemma. Ministers remind the party of policy gains, such as the rent freeze secured largely by Green advocacy.

And independence? Both parties desire that outcome, although perhaps with varying degrees of zeal. For Nationalists, it is the prerequisite. Greens tend to argue that climate change can only be tackled with full governmental powers.

The Greens stress that they are signed up to the Scottish Government’s new series of papers, aimed at convincing Scots of the merits of independence. Patrick Harvie attended the initial launch, alongside the FM.

So why did the Greens choose to publish their own document on independence? A document which lacked costings, which differed from SNP policies on key issues such as defence – and which was roundly condemned by the mischievous media as vapid and insubstantial.

Most observers suggest this was an effort by the Greens to differentiate themselves from their bigger chums in government. A reminder, in short, of their distinctive existence.

Senior Nationalists to whom I spoke were diplomatic. One said the paper “looked a bit unprofessional”. Another muttered that it was “a bit of an own goal.”

The Greens are adamant that they were not out to cause trouble. They say their paper was intended to “supplement” the SNP and Scottish Government offerings, with a tilt towards Green opinion.

Not sure that will entirely work. The Green paper talks of an eco-socialist Republic. Cannot quite see a revived Yes Scotland campaign punting that around the doors of Blairgowrie.

The Greens plan to follow this week’s launch with other documents. They will stand their ground on issues like defence, for example, arguing for an independent Scotland to leave NATO.

But could there be compromise elsewhere? The issue of currency will feature in an economy paper and sources suggest the emerging Green position may not depart all that sharply from the present SNP perspective.

Does Nicola Sturgeon need the Greens in government? No. But the alternative – possible votes of confidence and budget defeats – still seems worse. Expect stability.