It was meant to be another pioneering year of working in government – but things got nasty with some of their coalition partners at Holyrood. But the Scottish Greens in 2023 have seen their support in the polls rise despite difficulties in getting things done.

When the Bute House agreement was signed with the SNP Scottish Government back in August 2021, Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater entered ministerial roles.

This didn’t seem particularly controversial at the time.

Then first minister Nicola Sturgeon wanted to shore up support for independence – a co-operation agreement with the Greens put in place a pro-independence majority in Holyrood.

That strategy had fallen flat on its face before this year had begun after the Supreme Court ruled that Holyrood cannot hold its own independence referendum, leaving plans for separation resembling cooked bread.

When Humza Yousaf took over the keys to Bute House in March, he emphatically gave his support for the co-operation agreement continuing with the Greens, also backed by the vast majority of SNP members.

The two unsuccessful candidates vying to replace Ms Sturgeon made a point of criticising the deal with the Greens.

But legislation brought to the table by the Greens has struggled to get going.

Part of that is down to Mr Yousaf prioritising resetting the Scottish Government’s relationship with business, which had become strained under his predecessor – hampered by some sectors struggling to fully recover from the essential public health measures placed on them during the pandemic.

But the First Minister insisted he wanted a more constructive partnership with businesses and that has meant some of the more ambitious policies tabled by the Greens have hit the rocks.

The first key policy brought forward by the Greens to face the chop was the Highly Protected Marine Areas. The plans, which thoroughly upset fishing businesses, would see up to 10% of Scottish waters earmarked as no-catch zones.

A similar policy, albeit, less ambitious, has been pushed forward by the UK Government south of the Border – but Mr Yousaf’s government binned off any talk of doing similar in Scotland – undermining the Greens’ authority in his government.

When the Bute House Agreement was drawn up, it is fair to say that Ms Sturgeon handed the two Greens co-leaders two of the most challenging roles in government.

Ms Slater’s flagship policy to steer forward, already left in tatters by the SNP before she was even elected an MSP, the deposit return scheme, was meant to roll out in the summer.

But a disastrous few months caused further delays for Ms Slater – who faced then finance and economy secretary, Kate Forbes, calling for it to be halted in an unashamed attempt at launching her failed bid to become the next leader of the SNP.

In June, Ms Slater was forced to announce that the deposit return scheme would not be rolled out until at least 2025 and that was because of the UK Government.

Alister Jack had refused to grant an exemption to the controversial post-Brexit Internal Market Act to allow glass to be included in the deposit return scheme – in a change of policy position by the UK Government.

Despite the Scottish Government due some significant share of the blame for the shambolic lack of preparation for the deposit return scheme, it was an easy problem to blame on Westminster.

Mr Harvie’s unenviable job in government is to clean up how Scotland’s buildings are heated in a very short space of time with very little funding and a price tag of at least £33 billion. Easy peasy.

But Mr Harvie’s year has party been batting away misinformation and scare stories about heat pumps (which will work perfectly fine in most homes in Scotland).

He has finally published his plans to ensure people install renewable heating systems and Mr Harvie is likely to have a fairly high-profile year in 2024 as those proposals get finalised.

Despite being influential in the scrapping of peak fares on key train routes, other Green policies have also struggled to get going.

In recent weeks, Mr Yousaf’s government has confirmed it will not appeal the Court of Session decision that the UK Government was within its right to veto the devolved gender recognition reforms – a key policy aim shared by the Greens (and Labour and the LibDems).

That move to end the fight for better rights for trans people will have angered many within the Green movement in Scotland, with the party’s equalities spokesperson Maggie Chapman admitting that "many trans people will feel let down and hurt” by the decision.

The Greens have been forthright in their support for the gender recognition reforms and whether the decision not to take the fight to the Supreme Court will cause issues with their coalition partners is yet to be seen, but opponents have been quick to point out that it is likely to have caused friction.

More upset was caused in Shona Robison’s Budget – not helped by Mr Yousaf using his keynote speech at SNP conference in October to announce a council tax freeze – in a jaw-dropping pledge for both Cosla and the Greens.

The Greens were quick to raise concerns over the policy, as were Cosla, and the attempt at a pre-election giveaway by the SNP has certainly caused the Greens to ponder what on earth their coalition partners were thinking.

A handful of SNP backbenchers have blamed the party’s troubles seen over the past year on their coalition partners – it obviously must be somebody else’s fault.

The disgruntled has-beens, first stuck their heads above the parapet last year when the gender recognition debate got in full swing – when the SNP faced its biggest-ever rebellion.

One of those vocal, shouty and gammony critics is Fergus Ewing – who has attempted to blame the Greens for most of the SNP’s policy failures.

The A9 duelling project, delayed so much it has felt like a personal insult to pretty much anyone north of Perth, has been blamed on the Greens’ lack of enthusiasm for projects expanding road use in the context of the climate crisis – and not the sheer incompetence of SNP ministers.

The project will now not be delivered until 2035, five years before Scotland is legally obliged to become net zero and new petrol and diesel cars will be consigned to history.

Mr Ewing’s rage has also been pointed at the initial highly protected marine areas, built into the Bute House agreement. He became so fizzing with anger that he felt the need to rip up the Scottish Government’s consultation document during his Holyrood rant.

The SNP whips were happy to ignore all this, but finally decided to discipline the mavarick miffed MSP after he refused to oppose a motion of no confidence in Ms Slater over the deposit return scheme.

It is fair to say the Greens and Mr Ewing were never likely to get on given they disagree on most things – but it is unlikely that the Bute House agreement is going to be ripped up because a couple of SNP backbenchers have taken the huff over their coalition partners helping push forward a more progressive strategy in government.

Alba fail to make an impact again

One of those MSPs who took the huff was Ash Regan.

Having quit her government job as minister in charge of fireworks under Ms Sturgeon amid the gender recognition reforms debate, following a calamitous SNP leadership bid, Ms Regan quit the party to sit as an independent.

It was little surprise that Ms Regan joined the Alba party in November – becoming Alex Salmond’s side project’s first MSP – given her political stance was more aligned with the former first minister’s than the party she became elected with.

It means Alba have two MPs at Westminster and one MSPs at Holyrood. The party promised more names would follow, but only a councillor nobody had heard off joined the ranks.

The three parliamentary politicians were turncoats from the SNP with the two MPs likely to lose their seats at next year’s general election. 2024 doesn't look particularly bright for the Alba party.