WITH serious talks under way between the SNP and Scottish Greens over a potential co-operation agreement in the future, it’s worth taking a moment to really consider what could be at stake for each party.

I’m not opposed to the idea of the Greens entering into a more formal arrangement with the SNP – though I do view the move with a healthy dose of scepticism. Coalition-style arrangements don’t always work out well for the smaller parties involved.

They often give more than they get – though to be fair, I doubt the Greens would ever be as downright untethered to reality as to follow in the footsteps of the LibDems who, while in coalition with the Tories, offered their support for inhumane benefit sanctions in exchange for a 5p plastic bag tax.

The Greens may be looking to New Zealand as inspiration for how a potential co-operation agreement might work, but it’s difficult to not keep glancing sideways at Ireland for an example of just how badly things can go when a party without the infrastructure to take a seat in government bounces into the room unprepared.

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With risk, however, comes reward. The Scottish Greens are an accelerating force in Scottish politics, with a solid track record of successful parliamentary interventions for a party with only a handful of MSPs. So with both parties looking to update their relationship status, the question really comes down to ... what’s in it for each of them?

For the Greens, it’s an opportunity to make a definitive statement of intent. Between Alison Johnstone becoming Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament and having the opportunity to seriously pursue a green agenda over the next five years, the party would have the means to further establish itself at a time when political allegiances in Scotland are in flux.

The answer for the SNP, however, may be a little more complex. They are a broad-church party; so broad in fact, that over the past parliamentary term they failed to tackle rising intolerance within their own ranks lest it rattle those foundations. Transphobia, in this instance, was just one flag of a more conspiracy-driven faction within the party that managed to grow legs through a lack of action on the part of the party’s high heid yins. And eventually those legs walked out the door and into the arms of Alex Salmond.

The SNP will be looking for a means to refresh itself as a party, and bringing the Greens on board may just give it the opportunity to do so without upsetting too many of its disparate voter bases.

And this is where the real danger for the Scottish Greens appears.

The SNP are not above taking policy wins from other parties under their government and rebranding them as a victory for themselves. Monica Lennon’s bill tackling period poverty is a prime example. Introduced to the Scottish Parliament and later amended by the Labour MSP, this was a definitive (and extremely rare) victory for Scottish Labour.

Yet in February the SNP claimed on Twitter that free sanitary products being made available to anyone who needs them was an example of how they were delivering for Scotland – though they were careful not to make too explicit a claim around just where the bill that led to that outcome had appeared from.

It was a cheap and dishonest trick. Scottish Labour managed to do one good thing in five years. Let them have this.

It’s not unreasonable to be concerned that similar successes under the Greens would also find themselves subsumed into the governing party’s victory machine, the catalogue of SNP successes that with each passing parliamentary term finds itself increasingly weighted toward the earlier years of Nicola Sturgeon’s time in office.

WITHOUT someone playing hardball with the Greens’ role in government, Green MSPs may find themselves in the role of Oscar Wilde’s Happy Prince, giving away endless gifts without credit, and ultimately being taken down from the plinth of parliamentary influence as a result.

On the flipside of this is the possibility of the Greens being left holding the bag when a policy goes wrong, an uneasy scapegoat for the SNP. Without the right approach, the party could find itself a silent source of inspiration for the SNP as much as they are a useful stooge; a means for the SNP to take bolder steps and reap the rewards of success without any real risk of reputational harm in the event of failure.

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There are issues where the SNP are weak at a time when they need to be strong – on a just transition away from fossil fuels, on housing and on progressive taxation. The governing party has been promising to scrap council tax for longer than I’ve been paying it, yet we’re still no closer to actually ditching the regressive system.

As Nicola Sturgeon has made clear, this isn’t an arrangement that is necessary, but rather one born out of a desire to work together. Should the Greens emerge from these talks having taken up ministerial positions in the Scottish Government, but without securing a series of clear concessions, it will be viewed solely as an unnecessary act of self-destruction.

For the time being, however, the potential route into government for the Greens is upsetting all the right people. Tory MSP Liam Kerr even revived the old “coalition of chaos” quip from the days when an SNP/Corbyn coalition was the scare story du jour, further proving that the Scottish Tories really don’t have anything new to offer.

With the right steps, and the right approach, this could be the start of something great for all involved. A fresh start for the SNP. A powerful opportunity for the Greens. And a more radical government for the rest of us.