The new draft powershare agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens announced on Friday has received a fair bit of media coverage, as you’d expect.
So far the general response from the conservation world has been cautiously optimistic (e.g. see RSPB response here) whilst the response from land and estate owners has been nervous and uneasy (e.g. see SLE response here) and the response from gamekeepers has been malicious, personally abusive and entirely expected (I won’t post that here).
The best response to the proposed powershare agreement I’ve read so far was from Friends of the Earth Scotland Director (and partner in the REVIVE coalition for grouse moor reform), Dr Richard Dixon, who was quoted in The Guardian on Friday and said that on balance, the proposed deal should lead to stronger climate action:
“When two parties work together there has to be compromise … The question for the environment is whether this agreement pushes the SNP sufficiently further than they would already have gone for it to be worth the Greens having to make their own compromises. On the basis of this draft, the answer is likely yes with strong extra action on areas that make a difference to climate change and a review of oil and gas promised“.
The new draft agreement has been approved by the SNP’s ruling body but members of the Scottish Greens will not vote on it until next weekend.
The draft agreement is based on two key documents:
First there’s the draft ‘cooperation agreement’, which details how this powershare is envisioned to work, the expectations of both parties and the processes put in place to facilitate this new agreement.
Download the draft cooperation agreement here:
The second document is the draft ‘policy programme’ which details the key areas of policy on which the two parties have agreed to cooperate. The policy areas where the two parties have agreed to disagree can be found in Annex 1 of the draft ‘cooperation agreement’.
Download the draft policy agreement here:
If you turn to page 50 of this draft policy programme you’ll find this important statement on species protection:
This policy statement isn’t offering us anything new at all in terms of grouse moor reform and increased powers for the SSPCA, but what it does do is underline the commitment previously made by the SNP (although as ever, we’re still waiting for them to deliver on both issues, even though grouse moor reform & tackling wildlife crime are both described as being ‘a matter of urgency’ in this policy document).
However, as the overall cooperative agreement would place the Scottish Greens right at the heart of the decision-making process on these issues, which are both subjects on which the Greens have campaigned with tenacity and determination, then I think we could expect faster progress than we’d otherwise get with just the SNP in charge.
The very first part of this policy statement on species protection, ‘We will review the wider species licensing system with a view to ensuring that the law is being applied correctly and that lethal control is only licensed where the conditions required for such a licence are demonstrably being met‘ is also of significant interest and it’s worth reading Mark Avery’s take on it (here).
I understand that NatureScot is already engaged in behind-the-scenes discussions with various stakeholders on the subject of a licensing review, and not just those from the dark side either, but it’ll need to go to public consultation if any changes are to be made to improve what is currently a light touch and thus open-to-abuse licensing scheme.
On the whole I don’t think this powershare agreement is going to deliver anything dramatic or particularly game-changing within its five-year duration, but what it does do is provide an important opportunity for the Scottish Greens to apply pressure from within to try and stop the SNP’s can-kicking marathons on issues it has promised to deal with for years and years but still hasn’t.
That’s surely worth a go, right?