THE SCOTTISH Greens have been accused of “a total dereliction of duty” after the party of government shunned a key conference on efforts by rural businesses to tackle climate change.

The Greens, which agreed a co-operation deal with the SNP in August, were the only Holyrood party that failed to turn up to the Scottish Land and Estates conference this week – which set out how rural businesses can contribute to Scotland’s net zero targets.

The party had also ignored a request to meet Edinburgh Airport to discuss its sustainability plans, until approached by the Herald – prompting a response that a potential meeting clashed with parliamentary commitments.

The Scottish Conservatives have suggested that the Greens are not fulfilling their responsibility as a partner in government by refusing to discuss matters with organisations that have differing views. The Scottish Greens have denied this is the case and pointed to diary clashes.

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The Greens and Scottish Land and Estates have previously clashed over proposed reforms to planning rules and have differing ideological views over land ownership.

When the agreement between the Scottish Greens and the SNP was announced, Scottish Land and Estates warned that “there will be significant unease if the new coalition takes an ideological approach rather than one that seeks to bring people together”.

The Conservatives’ Rachael Hamilton, the SNP’s Fiona Hyslop, Labour’s Rhoda Grant and the LibDems’ Molly Nolan all took part in conference earlier this week – but chief executive of Scottish Land and Estates, Sarah-Jane Laing, said that the Greens “didn’t respond to our invite”.

Ms Laing added: “It was disappointing that the Scottish Greens failed to respond to our political debate invitation to our flagship annual conference, particularly as the same outcome happened at last year’s event also.

“We reached out to them again because we want all political parties to have the opportunity to engage with our members.

“Our conference this week focussed on how tools to tackle climate change – not simply setting new targets – must be delivered quickly if rural Scotland is to fulfil its role in helping the planet avoid environmental catastrophe.

“So we really feel it was a missed opportunity for the Greens as our members are also passionate about the environment and are helping the Scottish Government in its efforts to tackle the twin emergencies of climate change and biodiversity loss.

“As a new party of government, we hope that the Greens will reflect on its position and we look forward to working constructively with them and all political parties going forward.”

The Scottish Greens claimed their MSP Ariane Burgess was invited to the conference and sent her apologies as she was busy.

Ms Hamilton, the Scottish Tories’ rural affairs spokesperson, said: “This is a total dereliction of duty by the Greens. It is appalling they couldn’t even be bothered turning up to this key conference.

The Herald: Conservative rural affairs spokesperson, Rachael HamiltonConservative rural affairs spokesperson, Rachael Hamilton

“The Greens are totally obsessed with the central belt and consistently ignore the needs of our rural communities. This was an ideal opportunity for one of their MSPs to take part in a crucial discussion on land management and climate change.

“Our rural communities should be in no doubt about where the Greens prioritise them. I was delighted to be in attendance at Scottish Land and Estates conference and will continue to stand up for their interests at every turn against the SNP-Green Government coalition of chaos.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Greens said: “We had no one available to attend Scottish Land and Estates conference but Green MSPs remain committed to regular meetings with stakeholders.”

Edinburgh Airport asked the Greens’ transport spokesperson, Mark Ruskell, to attend an event based around its sustainability strategy – prompted by Mr Ruskell questioning whether efforts to cut emissions in the aviation sector are genuine.

Mr Ruskell added that the aviation industry “will need to demonstrate through their actions that they are serious about playing their part in tackling the damage their industry does”.

Mr Ruskell had not replied to the invitation until the Herald contacted the Scottish Greens about the matter – which led to the party telling airport bosses in clashed with parliamentary commitments.

An Edinburgh Airport spokesperson said: “Our offer to meet with Green MSPs still stands as we have to be involved in the discussion to help Scotland meet its targets – we hope they will commit to working with us.”