PATRICK Harvie and Lorna Slater will remain the co-leaders of the Scottish Greens and government ministers after members of their party voted against separating the roles.

A motion which could have seen Mr Harvie and Ms Slater forced out of their leadership positions was rejected by the grassroots at a meeting yesterday. 

The two politicians became ministers in Nicola Sturgeon's government in August last year after striking a power-sharing agreement with the SNP at Holyrood.

But a motion put to party's members at an EGM proposed to split the leadership posts from any ministerial roles. The proposal was seen as a way of the Scottish Greens being able to voice more criticism of the SNP administration while remaining in power.

One third of members attending the meeting voted for the proposal with two thirds voting against.

A Scottish Greens spokesman said: “The result of the vote is a clear endorsement of the current leadership and arrangements in place.”

“At a moment of vital constitutional history when Tories and Labour are locking arms to block Scotland’s democratic right to choose its own path, the Scottish Greens family and vision for independence has never been stronger. We are grateful to all our members for their involvement and consideration.”

Motions were initially due to be held and voted on at October’s AGM but were postponed until Saturday.

The Bute House Agreement put the Scottish Greens into government with the SNP in an arrangement short of a coalition and handed Mr Harvie and Ms Slater junior ministerial positions allowing them to directly influence policy.

In return, Green MSPs have to support the Scottish Government on key votes including on the budget and on any confidence motions.

The pact also set out out a shared policy programme which the SNP and Scottish Greens agreed to make progress on during the current parliament.

It also established six excluded areas - aviation policy, economic growth, that an independent Scotland should become a member of Nato, field sports such as hunting, the legal status and regulation of selling sex and the role of fee-paying independent schools in Scottish education.

MSPs from each party are free to publicly disagree with one another on policies excluded from the co-operation agreement, but not on areas in the deal.

The motion proposed would have prohibited any active government minister from holding a "major officer position" within the Scottish Greens.

Any person holding such a position who is then appointed as a government minister would have been forced to vacate their party role by the next general meeting.

The motion stated activists hope to "emulate our highly successful sister party in Germany, Alliance90/the Greens, by separating party leadership positions from ministerial offices".

It added: "This model allows ministers to focus on the considerable work involved in running government departments. The separation of these roles also allows the party's major officers to openly disagree with the government, where appropriate.

"This gives party members a greater voice on issues of concern, on policies that may be added to the excluded areas of the cooperation agreement and allows party officers to better focus on their constitutional roles."

Scottish Greens MSPs Gillian Mackay and Ross Greer were quizzed by members last month at their conference about the party’s ability to challenge the SNP during a question and answer session on the Bute House Agreement.

They were asked about a wide range of areas including independence, health, climate change and local government taxation.