THE Scottish Greens may pull out of the Bute House deal with the SNP if Kate Forbes becomes First Minister potentially precipitating a Holyrood election, the Herald on Sunday has been told.

Sources indicated it could be difficult for the smaller pro-independence party to maintain a commitment to the agreement under Ms Forbes even if she adopted a pragmatic approach to governing.

She has previously spoken of her deeply held religious beliefs and is a member of the Free Church of Scotland.

The evangelical church is opposed to abortion and same sex marriage and also against banning conversion therapy also known as “gay cure therapy”.

Nicola Sturgeon, who announced her resignation on Wednesday after eight years as First Minister and SNP leader, was seen as a politician the Scottish Greens could work with because of her commitment to socially liberal policies such as gender reform. She was also supportive of plans put forward by the Scottish Greens for “buffer zones” outside abortion clinics.

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The SNP leadership contest is underway with the winner to be announced shortly after the ballot closes on March 27.

Ms Forbes, who is on maternity leave from her role as Finance Secretary in the Scottish Government, has yet to declare if she will stand.

“The risk is that a new SNP leader, a new First Minister comes in and has a different sense of direction to Nicola Sturgeon, maybe is slightly less keen on the socially progressive policies that Sturgeon was very much a supporter of - someone who doesn’t sit favourably with Greens,” said a Scottish Greens source.

“We Greens tend to be very principled political party. Someone like Kate Forbes [could] come in and while she might not like the buffer zones plans or GRA [Gender Recognition Act] reform but is prepared to accept there is a mandate for them.

“But even in that circumstance I believe a lot of Greens would not be happy and point to things she has said in the past and say...’we don’t want our party working with you’.”

The source added that opposition to maintaining the Bute House Agreement could prompt a motion to the Scottish Greens conference in the autumn calling for the party to withdraw from the arrangement.

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James Mitchell, professor of public policy at Edinburgh University, said it “was not inconceivable” that the Bute House Agreement could collapse following the election of a new SNP leader and much depended on who was elected.

He said: “So much will depend on who succeeds Nicola Sturgeon. She leaves her party with a very difficult legacy. The gender recognition issue is bound to be raised in any leadership contest and unless the candidates all agree on a position it is likely to be very divisive.

“It will be difficult, though not impossible, for anyone who sat in Cabinet supporting the policy to reverse the position. But it is clear that this issue needs to be addressed and has the capacity to undermine SNP support. In addition, it is likely that any successor is unlikely to be as positive as Sturgeon about relations with the Greens in general. It is not inconceivable that relations with the Greens will deteriorate and the agreement collapse.”

A second source in the Scottish Greens said if the deal did collapse it would be difficult for the SNP, governing as a minority party, to get its legislation through parliament and it could have to call an election.

“There could be legislative gridlock. The SNP would have to negotiate deals with a hostile Conservative party, a hostile Labour party, a hostile Lib Dem party and, potentially if the Bute House Agreement had fallen, a hostile Green party.”

The source added that as a result of fears over fighting an election half way through the parliamentary term the new First Minister would be keen to keep Greens’ support.

“I think any First Minister coming into the role would be pragmatic and understand that putting [the Bute House Agreement] under strain half way through a parliamentary term would be ill-advised,” they said.

“No party is interested in fighting an election half way through parliament, especially under a new and untested leader.”

The source said while they could “guarantee” that some Green members would be “calling for withdrawal” if the new First Minister did not keep to Ms Sturgeon’s plan to take legal action against the UK Government over blocking the bill, it did not necessarily mean the Greens would walk away from the arrangement.

“It would potentially cause major issues,” they said.

“Green members are very much pro LGBT rights and because of the current climate and because of the rise in hate crimes, the issue is going to be prescient in Green members’ minds for a very long time. That would be until the moral panic subsides and/or the [GRR] bill is approved and gets royal assent.”

The source said an “interesting” debate would take place in the party forcing members to weigh up whether it would be worth compromising on gender issues to deliver other policies in the agreement.

“There are big legislative plans in the Bute House Agreement that Greens really want to get through. A good example of that is rent controls.

“So it would be difficult to say if members more widely would want to withdraw from the Bute House Agreement - but I can guarantee that some members would be calling for withdrawal – and that would lead to a debate in the party about what do we want to do. What are we willing to give up, what are we not willing to give up. I think that would be a very interesting debate to be had.”

While some Greens believe they have considerable influence, there are figures in the SNP who would be happy for the party to ditch the deal with the Greens blaming the association, particularly on gender reform, for the party recently losing support.

Last week it was reported that the Scottish Government may shelve legal action on the GRR Bill in the wake of Ms Sturgeon’s resignation,

Polls have suggested 50 per cent of Scots supported the UK Government’s decision to block the bill while two thirds of Scots were opposed to the reforms despite them being backed across the political parties in Holyrood including by some Conservative MSPs.

The Bute House Agreement was signed in August 2021 and saw the two pro-independence parties commit to work together on a shared policy platform.

In return for Scottish Greens MSPs giving the SNP their support on key Holyrood votes, such as on the Budget and on confidence motions, the party’s two co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, were given roles as junior government ministers.

Scottish Greens members overwhelmingly backed the agreement, however the enthusiasm has cooled over the past year. Sources told the Herald on Sunday that a “sizeable” number of members were now opposed to the deal.

The GRR Bill was designed as a way of making it easier for transgender people to change their legal gender and obtain a gender recognition certificate, a document allowing them to get married or have their death registered in their acquired rather than their birth gender.

The reform proposed lowering the age from 18 to 16, reducing the time someone is required to live in their new gender and remove the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria by allowing gender self-identification.

During the passage of the bill in Holyrood some opponents raised concerns there were a lack of safeguards in the legislation to prevent dangerous men pretending to be transgender to access vulnerable women.

In January the debate around gender self identification erupted when a double rapist Isla Bryson was sent to a segregated unit of Scotland’s only women’s prison. Bryson was removed to the male prison HMP Edinburgh after a political and public outcry.

Ms Forbes has previously said she does not align herself with every doctrine of her church.

She has said: "I make my own decisions of the basis of what decision is right or wrong, according to my faith, not according to the diktat of any church."

She told a pray breakfast in 2018, while a backbencher, that politicians should recognise the treatment of the 'unborn' was a measure of "true progress".

She was on maternity leave while the GRR Bill was going through Holyrood but in 2020 came under attack from SNP's LGBT activists in her party claiming she had "questionable views" on equality because of her religious beliefs. The national co-convener of the Out4Indy group, Josh Mennie said the promotion of Ms Forbes - who at the time was being tipped to replace Mr Mackay as Cabinet Secretary for the Economy - "was the last thing our party needs".

A spokesman for Ms Forbes was approached by The Herald and asked if her views on abortion, same sex marriage, buffer zones and on legal action against the UK Government over the GRRB could be outlined.

He said: “Kate is currently on maternity leave, and she will return to her duties as MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch in due course.”

A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “One of Nicola Sturgeon’s biggest mistakes was inviting the extremist Greens into government.

“It’s crazy to have a party that doesn’t believe in the concept of economic growth anywhere near the levers of power.

“The Greens’ malign influence is evident in the SNP’s decision to abandon Scotland’s oil and gas industry, the unacceptable delays to upgrade the unsafe A9 and A96 and, of course, in Nicola Sturgeon’s reckless pursuit of her gender self-ID policy.

“Most Scots would be relieved if the Greens walked out and anyone serious about leading the SNP should make it clear that there will be no place for them in Scottish Government going forward.”

Lorna Slater, the Scottish Greens co-leader, told the BBC on Thursday: “The Gender Recognition Reform Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament and supported by members of every party in that Parliament. It would be absurd for any First Minister who believed in Scottish devolution to go against the will of the overwhelming number of Scottish MSPs. So of course I expect the new First Minister to carry that forward.”