DEPUTY First Minister Shona Robison has said not having the power-sharing agreement with the Greens would leave the SNP “at the mercy of the Unionist parties every day” in Holyrood.

Speaking to the Sunday National to mark the second anniversary of the Bute House Agreement (BHA), the SNP MSP acknowledged some of the “bold policies” around net zero ambitions have been controversial and it has “not all been plain sailing”.

But she also said doing nothing is “not an option” in order to meet climate change targets and accused Unionist parties of “hypocrisy” over failing to back policies trying to achieve this.

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The BHA, which came into effect on August 31, 2021, brought Green ministers into government for the first time in the UK.

However, there has been criticism of the deal from both within and outwith the SNP over the delivery of policies associated with it.

Robison told the Sunday National that having to rethink policies such as Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) in a way which gets communities on board was a lesson from some of the challenges around “really bold policies”.

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However, she said: “Doing nothing is not an option – we have a cross-party climate change committee that talks about and demands that government delivers and meets its targets, statutory targets.

“But when every policy to be implemented to get to those targets is brought forward in the Scottish Parliament, 99% of the time the opposition parties oppose it.

“We really need to, I think, pull the curtains open on some of that and to challenge the opposition parties that if they want climate-change targets to be met, and if they don’t like the bold policies which are being brought forward which all of the experts and the analysis say needs to be done in order to make progress towards those targets, then what is their alternative?”

She added: “We need to call it out for what it is – hypocrisy, political opportunism and opposition for opposition’s sake.”

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Polling expert Professor John Curtice has said the recent fall in support for the SNP has not been driven by the BHA, suggesting the leadership contest and police investigation into the party’s finances has had more impact.

The latest survey found 48% of 2019 SNP voters backed the agreement with the Greens – down 10 points since May – while 24% were opposed.

Robison said: “Of course there is going to have been an impact from the relentless negative press around the BHA, driven largely by our Unionist opponents who want to undermine the deal because they don’t want us to have a majority in the Scottish Parliament.

“It is as simple as that and they will use every opportunity to attack the deal and to attack Green ministers in particular – it is so transparent, it is so obvious.”

The Deputy First Minister said she suspected there would be a different result if SNP voters were asked to choose between continuing the BHA or the SNP Government having to be “at the mercy of the Unionist parties every day in the Parliament”.

She also raised this when asked if she was disappointed that some of the critics of the agreement have included senior party figures.

Robison said: “I guess the question to them is, well, would you rather be reliant on Unionist parties to get anything done and get any of our Programme for Government progressed?”

Asked whether the SNP could instead go back to seeking backing from the Greens without a power-sharing agreement in place – as happened in the past, for example, to get budgets through – Robison said it would be “very difficult”.

“Of course we would approach the Green party and try to work with Green colleagues, of course we would as we did before, but we wouldn’t know whether or not we could get a piece of legislation through until the eleventh hour,” she said.

“That’s exactly how it was, having to do deals with different parties not knowing until the eleventh hour if you were actually going to get an important piece of legislation through or importantly whether you were going to get the budget through when public finances are relying on it.”

When asked if the SNP would sign the BHA again, Robison said: “I don’t think we should get ahead of ourselves, we are only in a position to agree the BHA because of the election results, and we don’t take anything for granted and wouldn’t be so arrogant as to do so.”

But she said it did show that it is possible for parties to work together in government – a norm in Europe but not the UK.

She added: “It is not to everybody’s liking and it is not all plain sailing and yes there have been challenges.

“But it does show where there is a political will, it is possible despite differences to actually agree important areas for co-operation – and that is what we strive to do.”