SNP’s Green partners silent as Perth bus tycoon Brian Souter wooed by Humza Yousaf

Green party leaders remain silent after it was revealed their SNP government partners asked controversial Stagecoach co-founder Sir Brian Souter to arrange a dinner for business leaders.

Internal emails reveal aides to First Minister Humza Yousaf’s courted Sir Brian, asking for his help to arrange the meal at a five-star Edinburgh hotel.

Sir Brian’s long-time support of the SNP government cooled under Nicola Sturgeon, but the documents suggest ministers want to rebuild the relationship.

However, Green leader Patrick Harvie – now in government with Mr Yousaf – had previously said in 2011 that “any principled party would have told him where to stuff his money”.

Obtained by news outlet Politico, the new documents show Sir Brian agreed to “nudge” fellow business leaders to attend as the government sought to repair its relationship with industry.

Sir Brian Souter. Image: PA

Prior to 2014 Sir Brian donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to SNP coffers, but his relationship with the party was not uncontroversial.

In 2000 he personally bankrolled a campaign to prevent the repeal of section 28 – a measure intended to stop discussion of gay rights in schools.

He has also been attacked by abortion rights campaigners, who say he used his charitable trust to support a pregnancy advice centre specialising in “post-­abortion syndrome” – a theory disputed by medical experts.

Greens silent despite previous attacks

The dinner in July last year was attended by Mr Yousaf as well as senior government minister Neil Gray, whose portfolio is supported by Green minister Lorna Slater.

But asked whether Mr Harvie and Ms Slater maintained the same position on Sir Brian now the government had re-started the relationship, the Scottish Greens refused to comment.

The Scottish Greens refused to say whether Patrick Harvie’s position remained the same. Image: PA

North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie said: “The SNP must be really desperate for money if they are seeking the financial support from a man who is well known for his socially conservative views.

“That the Greens remain silent shows just how much they are prepared to swallow to stay in power and secure independence.”

Sir Brian Souter refused to comment.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Ministers routinely engage with a wide range of business leaders as a normal part of government.

“Calling upon their expertise is vital to development of policy, understanding business needs and how to effectively grow our economy.

“The first minister has been clear since taking office that resetting the relationship between government and business is a priority, which is why the Scottish Government is taking forward the New Deal for Business Group Implementation Plan as part of delivering a wellbeing economy with sustainability and fairness at its heart that allows business, and in turn society, to thrive.”

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