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SNP leadership hopeful lays out planned route to independence

19 Feb 2023 4 minute read
SNP leadership hopeful Ash Regan. Photo Lesley Martin PA Images

A pro-independence majority at any election in Scotland should be enough to trigger negotiations to leave the UK, SNP leadership candidate Ash Regan said as she laid out her stall for party members.

The former minister, who announced plans to stand for the top job in the Sunday Mail, said she would bring together pro-independence parties and organisations to discuss the way forward for the movement in a constitutional convention.

In a statement on Twitter, Ms Regan added that any pro-independence majority at a Westminster or Holyrood election should be taken as a mandate for independence and she would – if first minister – then invite the UK Government to negotiate Scotland’s departure from the union.

She said: “On my first day as leader, I will call for an independence convention to be held.

“This will involve all pro-independence parties, independence organisations, think tanks and civil society to organise a new independence campaign body.

“We will create a new vision of an independent Scotland.

“We will build coalitions, reach out across all of the society and secure a pro-independence majority, which cannot be ignored.”

Holding a constitutional convention has long been a policy of the Alba Party and its leader Alex Salmond – who on Friday praised both Ms Regan and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, who is considered a leading candidate for the SNP leadership.

Take control

In her statement, Edinburgh Eastern MSP Ms Regan added: “I propose that we take control of the process towards independence ourselves.

“If pro-independence parties – with a clear mandate for such actions in their manifestos – have more than 50% plus one of the votes cast in a Westminster or Holyrood election, this will be a clear instruction that Scotland wishes to be an independence nation.

“We will invite the Westminster Government to the Scottish Government to commence negotiations and a timeframe for Scotland’s withdrawal from the UK.”

The former community safety minister – who resigned from her position in protest against gender recognition reforms – promised a government she leads would be based on “competency” and would seek to deliver on “the nation’s priorities”.

Ms Regan’s campaign has already received a boost as fellow SNP rebel Joanna Cherry announced her support.

Ms Cherry has been a longstanding critic of the party’s leadership in recent years and has repeatedly clashed with its policy on gender reforms.

The Edinburgh South West MP said on Twitter on Sunday: “I am proud to support Ash given her solid left wing credentials working with @Common_Weal and the courage and leadership she has shown in standing up for the rights of women and girls.”

Humza Yousaf

Ms Regan’s candidacy announcement came at the same time – and in the same newspaper – as Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, who threw his hat in the ring after much speculation about his position.

Mr Yousaf said this week – which saw the shock resignation of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – had seen a “rollercoaster of emotions”, adding: “You’ve got to put yourself forward if you think you’re the best person for the job. And I do.

“This is the top job in the country, and it needs somebody who has experience.”

On Sunday, Mr Yousaf received his own high-profile backing, with Ukraine minister Neil Gray ruling himself out of the running and opting to back the Health Secretary.

Mr Gray tweeted: “I have seriously considered, with family and colleagues, whether I am the right person to do that job.

“I have concluded that with my children the age they are, and given I am relatively new to government, now is not the the right time for me.”

He went on to say that Mr Yousaf “has the skills and experience” for the job.

Both candidates will have until Friday to secure 100 nominations from at least 20 local branches to secure their place on the ballot, with the new SNP leader being announced on March 27.

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