HAS Nicola Sturgeon ’s climate emergency pulled eco-conscious voters towards the SNP, or strengthened the hand of the Scottish Greens before next week’s European elections? On balance, it’s looking a bit like the latter – the attempt to steal Green thunder has slightly backfired.

Of course, it’s hugely significant that a government – not an opposition party – has taken the lead and promised a just and speedy transition to a sustainable future.

Already the air departure tax cut is toast and all things green are creeping up the news agenda – whether it’s keeping dandelions in lawns to help bees or a report suggesting tens of thousands of jobs will be created by renewably powered transport and heating. Such reports have been published for decades without a sniff of interest from the media. But since Nicola’s announcement that’s all changed.

Which is great.

But somehow the Scottish Greens, not the SNP, seem to be the main beneficiaries.

Last weekend, the Sunday Mail became the first to back the Scottish Greens in a national election, and carried an endorsement from Outlander star Sam Heughan. This prompted speculation on social media that wily Unionist newspaper owners have found a new way to divide and conquer the independence movement.

READ MORE: Greens hit out at BBC over 'anti-independence' Question Time bias

Maybe that’s true, but SNP supporters should be wary lest they exhibit a sense of entitlement like New Labour. It’s a free world and there are many ways to move towards independence. Pretending no other pro-indy party exists is really not one of them.

Meanwhile, the passionate young Green candidate Lorna Slater provoked the only spontaneous applause on BBC Scotland’s Debate Night programme, when she urged governments to apply the proven technology that’s waiting to go and stop talking about distant future plans. And, of course, as a tidal energy engineer, she knows what she’s talking about. This kind of first-hand knowledge is precisely what we need in politics now. Happily, since Ms Slater isn’t the top Euro candidate, she’ll be free to stand in the 2021 Holyrood elections where her expertise and enthusiasm will be invaluable.

And this is why the SNP are struggling to collect the credit for the climate emergency stance. Green issues are simply not its main area of interest or expertise. Now, to be fair, Alex Salmond was almost personally responsible for the huge advance in wind energy across Scotland – using planning powers to block nuclear power, campaign for carbon capture and champion marine energy with the Saltire Prize – all of this despite the fact energy policy is reserved to Westminster.

But Alex was also an oil economist and used oil and gas revenues to reassure voters that Scotland’s independent future was solid. Even if Alex has quietly joined the green bandwagon and now agrees that one-third of all Scotland’s fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground – as the Paris accord demands – he ain’t running the Scottish Government. And the current leadership is more cautious.

The National: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

The SNP specialise in independence – that’s what it says on the tin. Its leaders have thought, fought and strategised about independence for decades. In that arena they are the experts – which is why recent pressure to call indyref2 during First Minister’s Questions earned Patrick Harvie a few pelters. But if the SNP are the “natural party of independence” who are the “natural party of the climate emergency?”

Surely that title belongs to a party that was campaigning for an end to fossil fuels in transport, heating and energy production while the SNP was still insisting “It’s Scotland’s Oil”? The Greens are the experts in sustainable systems and since the First Minister has rightly insisted Scotland must take that path, she’s made many Yessers wonder if her own party contains the expertise and determination to get there unaided.

The climate emergency has put a premium on green credentials. And no matter how many electric car charging points she personally endorses, the SNP leader will never seem more thoughtful about or committed to a green future than Patrick Harvie and his cycling, bus and train using team. By putting climate issues at the top of her priority list, Nicola Sturgeon has essentially picked a fight with the Scottish Greens on their own home turf – and she might be well advised to concede some ground and make common cause.

After all, folk are aware Scottish Government policy is often heavy on targets but light on strategies. Sometimes that’s because the levers lie in Westminster’s hands – but sometimes it’s not. Take the debate about whether to leave oil and gas in the North Sea. A new report by Platform, Oil Change International and Friends of the Earth Scotland blasts Britain’s oil and gas drilling plans for ignoring the climate emergency call.

It insists clean industries could create three jobs for every North Sea oil job at risk, meaning an “equivalent job guarantee” for every oil worker if the transition is managed and doesn’t become a panicky and chaotic “no-deal exit” from fossil fuels, as politicians in denial lose control of a headlong dash away from “stranded assets” like oil and gas.

READ MORE: Greta Thunberg backs Nicola Sturgeon's climate emergency call

Above all, they point out that the 5.7 billion barrels of oil and gas in existing UK fields already exceeds Britain’s allotted share under the Paris climate goals. Yet industry and the UK Government want to extract four times that amount through new exploration. Should we let that happen? Well, without independence, we’ll just have to. Just as Scots oppose Trident but house nuclear weapons, Scots may eventually oppose North Sea drilling (I’ll grant you public opinion isn’t there yet) but have to watch it continue.

Licences in the 31st oil licensing round will be announced in June and the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy bizarrely concludes: “There are no overriding environmental considerations to prevent achievement of that plan.”

No wonder Michael Gove was evasive during his virtual appearance before Holyrood’s Environment Committee, when he refused to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050. Westminster parties facing the economic disaster of Brexit do not intend to disrupt the fossil fuel gravy train. Oil and Gas licences are awarded by the Oil and Gas Authority which is answerable to Westminster, not Holyrood, though the licensing of onshore oil and gas extraction (fracking) was devolved last year. All of which means the Scottish Government can heave a massive sigh of relief. There’s no prospect offshore oil and gas licensing will ever be devolved to Holyrood, so it can call for a moratorium in the certain knowledge the industry will continue to grow apace.

One day soon though, that difficult decision will be taken here – in Scotland, not London. And that’s why many Yessers want the SNP’s caution and closeness to the oil sector offset by a bolder, more impatient and confident set of Green politicians ready to ask some truly awkward questions.

Like – will the First Minister’s new Social Justice Commission oppose new green forestry grants until ownership of land and forestry in Scotland is diversified? Without powerful land reform, each green investment will simply hand subsidy, economic clout and political power to quasi-feudal landowners. Is that what Scots want? Greenwashing our future won’t do and, ironically, it’s Nicola Sturgeon’s bold and unequivocal climate emergency call that’s helped make fudge and compromise look truly shabby.

So, if the Greens do win an MEP next week, and the SNP retain their current clutch of two, many independence supporters will think an important corner’s been turned. After all, the mark of a real statesperson is the ability to push an agenda that’s in the public interest, not the party’s. After 12 years of SNP control, Nicola Sturgeon should be flattered that such a selfless move is what many now expect from her.