SNP leadership hopeful Humza Yousaf has said his party cannot afford to risk a minority government amid concerns over the future of the powersharing agreement with the Scottish Greens.
The Health Secretary – who will find out on Monday if he has beaten Kate Forbes and Ash Regan to replace Nicola Sturgeon as party leader and first minister – said any move away from the Bute House agreement would “destabilise” the Scottish Government.
It comes as the Greens sent a strong signal that they may not work with Ms Forbes if she is elected as Scotland’s next leader.
Ms Forbes has been clear she would seek to negotiate with the Greens – but co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie said the party would not be prepared to put their “principles to one side”, with issues like gender reform set to cause a clear division.
Speaking on a visit to the proposed site for the Eden Project in Dundee, Mr Yousaf said the agreement – which has seen the Greens in government since 2021 – would be one of his “first priorities” if selected.
He urged his rivals not to jeopardise the deal, saying: “I would say to anybody who ends up being the next leader of the SNP, you have to find a way of co-operating with the Greens.
“If you don’t, you end up not just in a minority government, but I have to say one of the most toxic parliaments I’ve ever been in, in terms of, I’m afraid, the opposition who will not look to co-operate with the SNP very often, even if there’s a good reason to do so.
“I can’t imagine being the new leader of the SNP and the first thing I do is destabilise the government by going into a minority government and having to rely on Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar to pass Bills.
“I think that would be a tremendously foolish thing to do.”
Mr Yousaf added that “maintaining the deal will be one of my first priorities if I am elected as leader of the SNP on Monday.
“I can’t understand why any new leader of the SNP wouldn’t want to make sure that they are standing full square behind that Bute House agreement, which, remember, has been backed by 95% of the party’s membership.”
Of the three candidates vying to be SNP leader, Mr Yousaf is the only leadership hopeful who has committed to challenging Westminster’s block on gender reforms passed in Holyrood.
Mr Yousaf also said his other immediate priorities would be on tackling the cost-of-living crisis and “heal the divisions within the party”.
The leader will be chosen on Monday following a five-week contest before facing a formal vote to become first minister in Holyrood on Tuesday, and then being sworn in at the Court of Session the following day.
Speaking at the Scottish Greens’ conference on Saturday, Ms Slater said her party will “choose whether we want to continue in government” following the result.
She went on to add that she will only work with Ms Sturgeon’s successor if they “respect and share our values of equality and environmentalism”.