THE Bute House Agreement has made the Greens more attractive to vote for in Scotland despite recent critical media coverage of their approach to policy, a top polling expert has said.

The partnership between the SNP and the Greens has come under plenty of scrutiny in recent months, with the latter taking much of the flak, given policies they have spearheaded - including the Deposit Return Scheme and highly protected marine areas - have failed to come to fruition.

Several SNP politicians including Joanna Cherry and Fergus Ewing have also questioned the future of the power-sharing agreement. 

Negativity towards the Greens' governance may have sparked a belief they would suffer in the polls, but a Redfield and Wilton Strategies survey last week showed them polling in the Holyrood regional voting intention at 14% - up 5% on last month.

John Curtice (below), professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said the results show the SNP may have – perhaps inadvertently – made the Greens more popular by giving them more power, while they continue to appeal to a section of society with specific views which has felt somewhat under siege.

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The Alba vote was also up 2% on the list which he suggested may link to independence voters not necessarily keeping ties with the SNP.

He told the Sunday National: “The answer to why the Greens are polling strongly is quite simple. They’re appealing to a niche market whose views on environmental issues are very different from those who are criticising them. It’s the wrong argument to undermine the Greens.

“The Greens have been up 13 or 14% in other polls in the last couple of years.

“One of the arguments going on inside the SNP, which is not entirely without substance, is that the Greens seem to be doing alright out of this deal and [the SNP are] not.

The National: GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 06: Professor John Curtice photographed for the Herald Scottish referendum supplement at his home on September 06, 2013 in Glasgow, Scotland. Professor Curtice is currently professor of politics at the University of Strathcly

“There is a risk that they’ve let the cat out of the bag by giving the Greens a higher profile and making it more attractive to vote for them.

“I would say though that the polling for voting intentions on the regional vote should always be taken with a fair pinch of salt because a lot of voters will give you a second preference.

“There can’t be too much taken from it apart from the fact Labour are breathing down the SNP’s neck as far as Westminster is concerned and we know that there’s no longer a guarantee of a pro-independence majority at Holyrood.

“I think there are signs of the independence vote splitting too.”

Curtice also shared his views on the upcoming by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, which is set to take place on October 5, and a predicament for the SNP in the Western Isles.

Labour are favourites to reclaim the seat previously held by ex-SNP MP Margaret Ferrier, who was recalled by the electorate after being suspended from the Commons for breaking Covid rules.

She was suspended by the SNP in October 2020 after her breach of lockdown rules and became an Independent MP for the latter stages of her tenure.

Curtice agrees Labour should win the seat, particularly given it was one of a handful ex-leader Jeremy Corbyn was able to snatch off the SNP in 2017.

But he insisted the devil would be in the details.

He said: “Labour simply winning the seat will not tell us what we want to know, the question is how well do they win.

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“How much is the SNP vote down and do Labour manage to match the kind of rise in their support which is about 15 points or so in the Scotland-wide polls?

“It’s a reasonable seat to use as a benchmark as to whether or not Labour are making the kind of progress we would expect them to make because it’s a West of Scotland seat that was Labour which the SNP now hold, but it will be how well Labour wins that’s crucial, not whether they win.

“This is a by-election that will provide evidence on whether or not it is indeed the case that the Labour Party pose a significant challenge to the SNP north of the Border.”

Another seat which is likely to now cause the SNP more problems at the General Election than they had previously anticipated is Na h-Eileanan an Iar.

It has been a relatively safe seat for much of the past two decades for the SNP but a recent dispute within the party has the potential to change that narrative.

Angus MacNeil – the area’s MP since 2005 – was expelled from the party last month after reportedly clashing with then-chief whip Brendan O’Hara.

MacNeil has now said he will run in the General Election as an Independent.

Former SNP leadership contender Kate Forbes told an Edinburgh Fringe event last month that the fallout would do the party no favours, given MacNeil's seat was previously in Labour's hands.

Curtice agreed the seat could now present a headache for the SNP, given Labour have put forward a candidate from Lewis in Torcuil Crichton combined with the fact MacNeil will likely split the independence vote.

“It’s not going to make the SNP’s hopes of hanging onto this seat any stronger if they’ve got Angus standing against an official SNP candidate. That much seems obvious,” he added.

“It’s the kind of constituency where you might anticipate a personal vote is more likely to matter than in most parts of Scotland. I always remind people that Caithness and Sutherland [abolished in 1997] is the only constituency where the same MP has managed to represent the same constituency for three different parties [Robert Maclennan].

“One might have said if Angus was still standing under the SNP banner, although clearly, Torcuil is going to pose a substantial challenge, maybe they might defend it even if they were a more substantial swing against the SNP nationally.

“But that has to be diminished in the wake of Angus no longer being there and threatening to stand against the party.

“In all honesty, not much counts as safe at the moment [in Scotland].”