This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

By any rationale, the Scottish Greens should be out for the count on the canvas. They’ve just been unceremoniously booted from government, after all. However, reports of their demise may be greatly exaggerated.

The Greens are already benefitting from the schism that immediately formed within the SNP over the appointment of Kate Forbes as Deputy First Minister.

John Swinney may have thought that by bringing Forbes in as his number two he’d unite a divided party. That doesn’t seem to be the case, though.

Just take one very public example of discontent. Kelly Given writes for the pro-independence newspaper The National.

An SNP member, she recently hosted a prominent Yes rally in Edinburgh. Earlier this week she penned a column headlined ‘Why the SNP’s shift right runs contrary to all I believe in’.

In the article, Given said of Forbes: “I will never support a candidate that vocally opposes social progress.” Independence, Given added, “cannot come at the sacrifice of social progress.” She went on: “The SNP have sold their soul in the interests of appeasing conservative voters."

It was strong stuff from such a prominent stalwart of the Yes movement. She’s not alone. SNP councillor Lauren Oxley, a member of the party’s National Executive Committee, wrote on social media that “it hurts so much to see someone with such views… in the second highest office in Scotland”.

Read more:

UnspunNeil Mackay: Swinney wanted election with Tory leader change. He should call one.

There’s deep upset within a sizeable caucus of the SNP over Forbes’ views around same-sex marriage, abortion, and sex before marriage. Equally, there’s widespread support for Forbes as well.

Some SNP supporters are now talking openly about ending their membership. The LGBT wing of the SNP said it was concerned about the appointment of Forbes and wanted to “speak directly to FM John Swinney to address these fears”.

A significant number of pro-independence figures were angered at an interview where Forbes was accused of ducking the question when asked if she had “a message for the LGBT community in Scotland”. 

John Swinney, who was standing beside her, had to interject and say: “I will be the First Minister for everyone in Scotland, whether those individuals are in the LGBT community or not.”

There’s an old adage in politics: if you’re explaining, you’re losing. And John Swinney is now in the position of explaining why he appointed Forbes.

The Herald:
It all plays well for the Greens. If the appointment of Forbes is destabilising the SNP’s progressive left-wing, then where else might they seek a home?

The Greens are now out of government, and so no longer in the business of squandering their political capital on supporting SNP policies which run contrary to their principles. 

Grassroots Greens were incensed over housing cuts and the abandonment of climate change targets. The party can now safely use its time in opposition to shore up values undermined in office.

Greens are now able to safely stake out the environment as their sole fiefdom. The Scottish Government has no dedicated Environment Minister, something the Greens are exploiting already.

Swinney dumping the wellbeing portfolio from cabinet also aids the Green’s agenda. He’s also facing discontent from the SNP base over axing the position of Minister for Independence.

Another benefit to the Greens is the disenchantment on the left towards the Labour Party’s position on Gaza. Obviously, the bounce is less for Scottish Greens than English Greens as the SNP owns much of that ground here. However, it was Humza Yousaf who was seen as the face of opposition to the conflict, and he’s now resigned.

Read more:

Neil Mackay's Big Read'It is toxic': The inside story of the Greens in meltdown as rebels demand leaders go

The Greens certainly exceeded expectations at the local elections in England, rising by 74 seats. Evidently, there are two different parties in Scotland and England, but voters on both sides of the border are drawn to them for broadly similar reasons. 

Scottish polls make interesting reading for Greens as well. Latest seat projections for the next Holyrood election have Labour on 47 MSPs, the SNP on 35, Tories on 24, Lib Dems on 12 and the Greens on 11.

Beyond the poll’s headline story of an SNP defeat and an end to nationalist rule at Holyrood, it’s worth noting two other issues. Firstly, Greens are putting on MSPs from the last Scottish election in 2021 when they won eight seats.

Read Neil Mackay every Friday in the Unspun newsletter.

Secondly, given the electoral arithmetic, Labour couldn’t form a majority coalition with the Lib Dems in 2026, if this latest poll holds true. A Lib/Lab government would depend on the Greens, making the party rather powerful indeed, and perhaps propelling them back into government in a three-way coalition.

Revenge for the Greens could well end up as a dish served ice cold in 2026.

One other factor to consider. All that bad press may actually be working for the Greens. Call it the ‘Farage Effect’. Another key adage in politics is: what matters is being talked about. It’s often irrelevant if the press is negative, especially if you’re struggling to get your message out. Think of how the BBC’s endless fascination with Farage made his career.

Perhaps the right-wing press with all its talk of ‘eco-zealots’ has done the Greens a big favour in the long run?