“We have achieved more for people and planet in the past 32 months than other parties have in decades”, proclaimed Lorna Slater, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, thereby confirming herself as comically delusional.

I would not wish to compete with Ms Slater in the vanity stakes but I do, for example, recall introduction of the Renewables Obligation 20-odd years ago which was possibly the most successful mechanism in the world for driving growth of renewable energy, particularly in Scotland. All done quietly, efficiently and not a Green in sight.

That is the kind of legislation and vision which actually changes things rather than a procession of “rows” created by an obsession with doing things differently. We have had the Deposit Return Scheme (abandoned in ignominy); Highly Protected Marine Areas (abandoned in ignominy); heat pumps (heading down the same path). In each case, people and planet were subordinated to an abject failure to listen.

Given the ball at their feet in Scotland, despite having no electorate mandate, they had the opportunity to give Green politics a good name. Instead, everything they touch has petered out in acrimony while the empty boasts continue.

Ms Slater went on to warn darkly against “destructive forces who would set fire to everything we have achieved” which would amount to a very minor conflagration. We can only assume her fears are for damage which, left to its own devices, the SNP would inflict upon Scotland and the environment.

That’s not a very nice way to label one’s coalition partners. For the rest of us, it represents a bit of a Hobson’s choice. Which is worse: the Nationalists on their own or in coalition with the Scottish Greens as their guiding compass? The depressing prospect is that this dilemma will probably persist for another two years , long enough to do a lot more damage.

Perhaps selfishly, I hope the coalition between SNP and Greens survives. They deserve each other and, in the words of an old Glasgow maxim about the marriage of two bad lots: “It’s only the wan hoose wasted”. They must stick together, dragging each other down; Humza and Lorna; Patrick and Shona.

The Herald: Heat pumps are one of the party's few genuinely green policiesHeat pumps are one of the party's few genuinely green policies (Image: Getty)

But what are the Scottish Greens? As more perceptive people within the SNP recognised all along, they have not married a serious political party but a cult, the rules of which are set by its spiritual leaders. To be a Scottish Green, a general concern about the environment and climate change are well down the list of membership criteria.

For starters, it is necessary to support Scottish independence which immediately rules out 55 per cent of the electorate. Next, and critically, it is essential to buy into an extreme agenda on gender politics in which, as with all cultists, scientific evidence is treated as part of the global conspiracy against them.

Only by ticking these and a few subsidiary, non-environmental boxes can one be accepted into the cult and start talking about bicycle lanes, heat pumps and other matters which normally engage Green activists. Where does this leave a genuine Green in Scotland who does not sign up for the cult’s pre-conditions?

Perhaps he or she recognises, for example, that Scottish renewables depend on a UK market so that creating a political border is not a great green idea and we really are, environmentally speaking, better together? Or what about an environmentalist who does not believe a man becomes a woman just by asserting it to be so..?.

There is no place for such dissenters in the Harvie/Slater cult but that matters little since it is not voters or environmentalists who have taken them to where they are today. The only audience they had to address consisted of Nicola Sturgeon and her acolytes who, post 2021, needed support on the two fronts that mattered most to them:  independence and gender politics. The cult was only too happy to oblige. The Bute House Agreement was padded out, of course, with warm green words but it was driven by these two non-environmental causes, with which most of Scotland profoundly disagrees.

It is all a bit of a con upon the electorate, the vast majority of whom did not vote for the cult to have any part in government. In 2021, it is true, they received 9.2 per cent of the “list” vote but a significant part of that came from voters who used them as proxies where votes for the SNP “list” would not have elected anyone.


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This has now become problematic for the SNP. If the polls are to believed, they might well need “list” seats in 2026 and will therefore have to implore their supporters not to vote Green. At the same time, Alba will be nibbling for the same votes. None of this, you will note, has anything to do with climate change or the environment. The problem with Green politics is that, while always wrapped in sanctimony, they have never quite matched what they say on the label. They grew, in Germany first, out of hostility to civil nuclear power, a cause to which the fight against climate change became subordinated.

Enlightened environmentalists understood this contradiction. Even the Guardian’s saintly columnist, George Monbiot, eventually caught on. They didn’t like nuclear but they feared climate change more. Green politicians did not care. Closing down nuclear was an end in itself.

The result in Germany was that they continued burning filthy coal for decades. In the UK it has been to cancel out much of the carbon reduction benefit which renewable energy has created over the past 20 years. Scotland in particular could have had the perfect net zero and security of supply mix - renewables and nuclear - while the former continued to develop.

The Scottish cult version of greenery is also founded on single issues and Scottish voters are likely to be more inquiring in future about what the prevailing single issue really is. Currently, it is most likely to be defined in a single phrase: “Keeping a place in government for Patrick and Lorna”.

Brian Wilson is a former Labour Party politician. He was MP for Cunninghame North from 1987 until 2005 and served as a Minister of State from 1997 to 2003.