IF the Scottish Greens’ decision to contest marginal SNP seats is puzzling or even enraging, at least the party’s motives are a bit clearer today. Evidently, standing candidates is not a deliberate attempt to sabotage indyref2, or pick a fight with individual SNP candidates – it arises from the Greens’ belief that the climate emergency is far more urgent than Brexit or even Scottish independence and that a presence in the General Election is the only way to be heard.

Of course, it’s a free world and the Scottish Greens are perfectly entitled to stand. The snag is that if they do, the Greens may damage the prospects for indyref2, their own electoral health and planet-saving goals.

But first things first. The Green’s position on the environment and economy is unquestionably distinctive. Yesterday the Greens in England and Wales announced plans to invest £100 billion a year for a decade to tackle climate change, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and make Britain carbon neutral by 2030. The UK Government’s net zero target date is 2050, and the Scottish Government’s 2045.

Tomorrow’s campaign launch by the Scottish Greens will likely be a carbon copy – and that’s surely no surprise. Buoyed by the success of climate strikes, the growing influence of Greta Thunberg, and suggestions that the environment is second only to Brexit as an issue for many 18-24 year-olds, some Scottish Green branches have decided to run candidates (these are local not centrally taken decisions).

Activists feel alarmed by the latest IPCC report claiming there are only 12 years to act against irreversible climate change, disappointed by the Scottish Government’s proposals and irritated by the presumption “little parties” should step aside for the greater good.

After all, the Greens had only three candidates in the 2017 snap election, but the SNP lost 21 seats – a lot more to do with tactical voting by No voters and informal Unionist party pacts than Green competition.

In short, the Scottish Greens have valid reasons for wanting to stand in the December election. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea – or at least not good enough to outweigh the considerable downsides.

Firstly, Unionist parties look set to repeat their informal 2017 pacts, so a Green presence could indeed be the tin lid that lets the Tories retain or the LibDems capture some SNP seats. In fact, local Green branches have opted not to stand candidates against David Mundell, Alister Jack or Douglas Ross, but those selfless gestures have already been overshadowed by a presence in the only Tory-held seat they plan to contest – Stirling where the Tory MP Stephen Kerr has a majority of just 148 votes and is being challenged by SNP MEP Alyn Smith.

If Pete Wishart in Perth and Kinross or Alyn Smith in Stirling lose by a handful of votes, while the Greens (perhaps) lose deposits, resentment will be inevitable amongst SNP members and the wider Yes movement.

Secondly, the Greens’ current position appears to run counter to their stance on candidates in 2017. Explaining his decision to stand for Westminster back then, co-leader Patrick Harvie said; “If I thought Glasgow North might fall to the Tories, I would’ve stopped to think very hard [about standing], but I’m convinced that it won’t.”

So, what’s changed now? The Greens would holler – CLIMATE EMERGENCY. But many Yessers would holler back – BEST TACKLED BY AN SNP-SUPPORTED MINORITY LABOUR GOVERNMENT THAT LEADS TO INDEPENDENCE.

The possibility of a second independence referendum seems tantalisingly close, while the possibility of a Green-led Government is more remote than

Jo Swinson becoming PM. And that’s gey remote.

Politics is about priorities, and many of the progressive voters Greens must convince, believe in independence and further believe that other big changes must wait till Scotland has the levers, cash and control of statehood. It’s a gradualist view I often find maddening. But it’s the majority view nonetheless.

Whether such voters would happily vote SNP 1, Scottish

Greens 2 again in 2021 if SNP MPs lose their seats while Greens compete for votes, I dinnae ken. Losing such second votes will only hinder the Scottish Greens in the very arena that gives them most clout – and that’s the Scottish Parliament. Is a defiant determination to flex Westminster muscles really worth jeopardising that?

It’s true that indyref2 may not happen in 2020, but it’s surely foolish to interrupt the growing momentum, if there’s even the slightest chance of an SNP-supported, Labour minority government. The Greens have already attracted the unjustified charge of being fair weather independence supporters – they really don’t need to feed that beast if they want to make headway at Holyrood in 2021.

Thirdly, standing in key Scottish seats opens the Greens to charges of inconsistency, because south of the border, they’ve done a deal with the LibDems and Plaid Cymru to avoid splitting the Remain vote.

The Scottish Greens are a separate party, but it’s a strange world when the Greens can parlay with the LibDems but not the SNP.

Look at the LibDems’ Green track record. During the ConDem coalition, when Ed Davey was energy minister, subsidies for community hydro and solar panels were cut and vital subsea connectors to the Northern and Western Isles vetoed. Ed approved connectors to Norway and Ireland instead and introduced contracts for difference (CfD) in place of more reliable subsidies for onshore, offshore wind and marine renewables – stunting the development of tidal and wave power. After losing his seat in 2015, Ed was knighted by the Tories and joined the PR firm that represents EDF Energy, the company who had just been awarded the contract for Hinkley C nuclear power station by … Ed Davey – a big supporter of fracking too.

These are the ropey climate credentials of the LibDems – but the English Greens will thole them to stop Brexit. Why are the Scottish Greens much more picky, when Alex Salmond did so much as SNP leader and First Minister to decarbonise Scotland’s energy production?

The answer could be that the LibDems have conceded some seats to the Greens – the SNP haven’t. That’s a fair point, except that the English Greens already have a Westminster seat and are strong contenders in a few more.

In Scotland, the best-known Greens are MSPs, not Westminster candidates, so the party’s chances of winning anywhere in the General Election are small.

In 2017, Patrick Harvie – the most visible Scottish Green – came fourth in Glasgow North. Could a relatively unknown candidate manage to do better? If not, why force the point?

Finally, there’s the backdrop. In Northern Ireland, history’s been made by Sinn Fein’s decision not to field candidates against three rivals including the Alliance Party, SDLP and – astonishingly – the Unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon, in recognition of the fact they all have better local chances of defeating the hated DUP. Even the Green’s Northern Ireland leader won’t run in South Belfast, urging supporters instead to vote for the SDLP.

This is a better narrative to create and a better profile for Greens to gain – especially when gaining seats is so unlikely. There’s still time for local branches to reconsider before the Scottish Green candidate list is finalised next Thursday.

Is hard won cash really better spent riling Yessers or hiring 48-sheet billboards across Scotland to proclaim the party’s climate change objectives directly to the Scottish public? It is a tough decision. But discretion is often the better part of valour.