PATRICK Harvie has said he will “probably” always support independence – as he was grilled on whether the Greens would split the independence vote at the election.

The Scottish Greens co-leader defended past comments by his colleague Lorna Slater (below), who had said the constitutional question was not a “red line” for working with Labour on progressive issues.

But with the Greens and Alba fielding candidates against the SNP at the upcoming General Election, both parties are now facing questions over whether this will help or hinder the independence cause.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Show, Harvie was asked whether he believed people should vote Green “even if that would push their constituency into Unionist hands”.

He replied: “I’m really absolutely firm in my view that an election is an opportunity for the voters to choose and they have to be given the widest range of choices available to them. I’m certainly an independence supporter, I think I probably always will be.”

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Host Martin Geissler (below) then queried him over Slater’s previous comments, which Harvie argued had been n taken “out of context”.

(Image: BBC)

He added: “She was being asked about if there was a future Labour government, would we refuse to cooperate with them on issues because of independence.

“And of couse, if there was a future Labour government, if they were going to implement something like rent controls in the private rented sector, we would work with them to achieve that.”

Asked if he would be happy to see SNP seats fall to Labour or the Tories if people migrated to the Greens, Harvie said: “I am happy to see every Green vote in every ballot box that we can achieve, if we can persuade voters to vote like their future depends on it because it really, really does.

“The next UK Government, we know it’s going to be a Labour government, we know it’s going to have a really substantial majority unless something utterly dramatic happens in the opinion polls in the next couple of weeks.

“The real danger is that we’ll see a change of government, but not a change of politics. A change of direction is needed in the country and that’s not going to be achieved by a Labour government that’s committed to Tory fiscal rules.”

But later in the programme the Greens were accused of not being “a serious independence party”.

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Alba leader Alex Salmond (below) insisted that voting Alba would not split the independence vote but “mobilise” it.

He said: “The SNP are not campaigning on independence, they are avowedly not campaigning on independence. And nor do I believe the Greens are a serious independence party.”

Salmond added that while he believed some SNP supporters were drifting to Labour, more would stay at home.

He said: “They’re not going to vote, they’re disillusioned, they’re disenfranchised. Alba’s appeal is to that disenfranchised 15-20%. We want people, instead of sitting at home to get out and vote for Alba, instead of voting for the Unionist Labour Party, get out an vote for Alba. That’s our appeal.”

Salmond added: “We’re going to mobilise the independence vote, not split it.”