KATE Forbes has said she is committed to the Bute House Agreement but has said she will look to have “early conversations” with the Greens if she wins the SNP’s leadership contest.

She also said Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater would also need to be “cognisant of the importance of following legal advice” when it comes to mounting a court challenge to the UK Government's veto of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

The comments come ahead of the Scottish Green conference in Clydebank tomorrow, where party activists will discuss the deal agreed by their party and the SNP following the 2021 Holyrood election. 

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Earlier in the day, Mr Harvie had suggested the pact could collapse unless the next first minister committed to a court battle with the UK ministers. 

The legislation - passed by Holyrood just before Christmas - was blocked in January by Scottish Secretary Alister Jack who made an order under Section 35 of the Scotland Act to stop the law from receiving royal assent.

Nicola Sturgeon had been set to lodge a judicial review, but her resignation means it is now a decision for her successor. 

So far, of the three leadership hopefuls, only Ash Regan has explicitly ruled out court action, saying she is “almost 100 per cent” certain the Scottish Government would lose. 

Ms Forbes has said she will first take legal advice on any challenge and only proceed if there was a chance of victory and if there was no other way to end the impasse. 

Humza Yousaf had previously been much more bullish about fighting the ban on principle, saying that his rivals would be dancing to Westminster’s tune if they failed to do so. 

However, this week he modified his position and said it would not be responsible to do so if the legal advice warned that there was no real chance of success.

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Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland on Friday, Mr Harvie made clear that the shared policy programme of the Bute House Agreement included a commitment to reform the Gender Recognition Act and a promise to improve trans healthcare provision, including changes the Gender Identity Services offered on the NHS.

Asked if the Gender Recognition Reform Bill was a red line, Mr Harvie said: “I genuinely struggle to understand how any candidate who even believes in devolution, let alone independence could say that one of their first acts would be to roll over and let the UK Government veto fully devolved legislation that's already been passed by an overwhelming cross-party majority.

“We've made it clear that we think that the challenge to this abuse of the section 35 Order is an absolute priority and that the commitment not only to gender recognition reform but to go further and to improve and reform health care for transgender people, to ensure that they are included in the full conversion practices ban,  all of these issues are hugely important. They are written into Bute House Agreement.”

Speaking to journalists as she visited the Zakariyya Masjid Mosque in Wishaw, Ms Forbes said her priorities if she was to succeed Nicola Sturgeon would “need to be the people's priorities.” 

“And right now, what the people want us to get to grips with is the cost of living crisis, reforming our public services. They also want to see us working together in unity in the parliament to deal with these issues. And that would be my approach, to have early conversations with Patrick Harvie. 

“You know, I have negotiated budget agreements with Patrick Harvie more often than any other cabinet secretary and that would be the approach I will take.”

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Ms Forbes told The Herald she was “committed to continuing to work with the Greens, and I'm committed to the Bute House Agreement. 

“Clearly, the Bute House Agreement has mechanisms in place for where disagreements arise, but it also has mechanisms in place for excluding certain areas.

“So for example, my big focus on economic growth and prosperity is an excluded area. So I think there's scope there to work together.”

Asked if she was committed to taking forward the agreement’s pledges on gender recognition reform, she said she was.

“But remember, that to take forward the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, we have a decision to make about whether to take it to court or not and ultimately that rests on legal advice and I would hope that the Greens, as respected members of government, would themselves be cognisant of the importance of following legal advice.”