KATE Forbes has backed calls to “check in” with SNP members on whether the Scottish Government should continue with the Bute House Agreement – suggesting a ballot could take place at this year’s party conference.

She is now the third former Scottish Government minister to call for a ballot on the co-operation agreement which saw the Greens backing the SNP minority Scottish Government on the bulk of its policies in 2021.

It comes after both Fergus Ewing and Alex Neil both said members should have a say when conference takes place in Aberdeen in October following the departure of Greens’ first UK parliamentarian, Robin Harper, from the party.

Forbes made the comments on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland on Wednesday morning. She was appearing to discuss a recent report which revealed slower growth in employment and earnings in the Highlands, Islands and North East since 2014.

READ MORE: POLL: Should SNP continue with the Bute House Agreement? 

Forbes was asked if she thought the Bute House Agreement could damage the efforts being made to grow the economy in her constituency – Skye, Lochalsh and Badenoch – because of controversial issues like HPMAs and the dualling of the A9.

The MSP replied: “I think Neil Gray is doing an excellent job and is focused, very much, on supporting businesses to grow and create those jobs.

“I think it’s all about a government who listens and if we’ve seen anything over the last few months, I think you’ve seen Humza Yousaf as First Minister and his government pivoting and choosing to listen to people and certainly the feedback that I’m getting from businesses is that they recognise the government is trying to do the right thing by them.

“We need to do all that we can to support them and that includes not over-burdening them with bureaucratic requirements at a time that we want them to be focusing on well-paid, secure job opportunities.”

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When asked if she supported calls made by her fellow SNP MSP Fergus Ewing for a ballot of SNP members on whether to continue the Bute House Agreement, Forbes said: “Well, I'm a democrat, so I'm always in favour of checking in with the people, checking in with members – and that's the purpose of conference, to ensure that they are continuing to support certain policies.

“And I think government has a duty to its party, obviously, to ensure that we are delivering in a way that's consistent with the membership's interests.”

The Scottish Greens Party Council unanimously voted to support the election of Humza Yousaf as First Minister and to continue the Bute House Agreement following his leadership election win earlier this year, whilst research by Panelbase for The Times in April found 53% of voters backed the cooperation deal.

Asked how she would vote, she replied: “Well, I think what's critical for me is not just the Bute House Agreement, but the substance of it.

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“Now, the Bute House Agreement, for example, includes a commitment to HPMAs, and we've seen the government shift from HPMAs, it includes a commitment to the Deposit Return Scheme, and we've seen a shift away from the Deposit Return Scheme.

“So I think just asking ideologically about an agreement is less important than asking what should be in that agreement. Cooperation should always characterise our politics.”

In reaction to the MSPs comments, SNP policy convener Toni Giugliano said: "The Bute House Agreement consolidates Holyrood's pro-independence majority - which is precisely what we should be highlighting ahead of an independence election next year. 

"Having said that - we shouldn't be afraid to point out our differences. We're two political parties with two distinct policy agendas - we come together where there is agreement. But it is a strength, not a weakness, to highlight those differences.

"For example on HPMAs it is right that the SNP as a party can stand behind its own policy - which is why I'm pleased that coastal branches intend on bringing forward a resolution to Conference to assert their position on the issue."

Forbes also shared that the dualling of the A9 was a “red line” in delivering for Scotland.

She said: “I drive that road on almost daily basis. I think that should be a commitment that is graven on stone, in terms of its vital importance to be delivered. And for me, it is the red line, it needs to be delivered. And anything that compromises that commitment would be a concern for me.”

READ MORE: Robin Harper resigns from Scottish Greens

The presenter pointed out that it sounded as though there wasn’t anything Forbes actually agreed with in the agreement.

However, the former finance secretary said: “There is plenty, and you will know that as somebody who negotiated multiple budgets with the Greens, I think you can always find common cause with other parties.

“I think the Bute House Agreement allows for legislation to be provided in a more intelligent way than perhaps it was in the last parliament, but ultimately we are democrats, we have to ensure that we are delivering for the people and that means checking in with the public to know what they want.”