Edinburgh Eastern MSP Ash Regan explains why she defected from the SNP to Alex Salmond's Alba party

Former leadership candidate decided only last week to switch parties, based on SNP conference decision on independence
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Edinburgh Eastern MSP Ash Regan says she decided only last week to defect from the SNP to Alex Salmond’s Alba party.

She said the crucial factor had been the SNP conference’s decision to adopt a strategy for independence which she believed was not credible. And in her first newspaper interview since defecting, she told the Evening News she had not discussed her move with other MSPs or MPs before deciding to switch.

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Asked when she had made the decision, she said: “Thursday. It was based on the fact it had been the SNP conference the week before when they had decided on their independence strategy and I don’t think that strategy is credible.” The SNP says it will put independence on page one, line one of its manifesto and use a majority vote as a mandate to demand another referendum.

Edinburgh Eastern MSP Ash Regan says she could no longer fulfil her pro-independence mandate as part of the SNP.  Picture: Lisa Ferguson.Edinburgh Eastern MSP Ash Regan says she could no longer fulfil her pro-independence mandate as part of the SNP.  Picture: Lisa Ferguson.
Edinburgh Eastern MSP Ash Regan says she could no longer fulfil her pro-independence mandate as part of the SNP. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

But Ms Regain said: “It’s the failed strategy the SNP has been using for the last eight years. It's not taking account of the circumstances we're in. Things have changed, we need to adapt. That's when I decided I didn't think it was tenable for me to stay as part of the SNP.”

Ms Regan’s defection to Alba, becoming the party’s first MSP, was announced at the Alba conference in Glasgow on Saturday. In her interview with the News, she said: “As a politician I want to put independence front and centre, I want to have a strategy for the Scottish people that they can express their desire for independence and then have a process to get there. I was increasingly feeling that as part of the SNP group it was more difficult to do that, so that's why I made the decision to leave the SNP and join Alba, which I consider to be the independence party of Scotland.”

But Ms Regan said she still wanted to work with the SNP for an independent Scotland. She said she still believed all pro-independence organisations should co-operate, as she had proposed when she stood for the SNP leadership earlier this year. "I want to work with the SNP, I want to work with Humza Yousaf if it’s possible to do that. The only way we're going to be able to get independence for Scotland is if we all work together."

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Alba’s strategy for independence is to secure a pro-independence majority at any election and take that as a mandate to start independence negotiations; and if Westminster refuses, it would then “mobilise domestic and international opinion to force them to respect the democratic wishes of the sovereign Scottish people".

Ms Regan said: “It’s what I was talking about in the leadership contest. It’s 50 per cent plus one, and it would be apply to every election – it's a rolling opportunity for the Scottish public to make that choice. It's a high bar – and it should be, we're asking a country to make a decision about it's future.

“If the UK government are reluctant to negotiate – and we don't know for sure right now – then the focus turns to how we get them to the table. I'm reluctant to say it would be difficult because I don’t want to be saying the UK are not democrats. I believe they are democrats and I believe they will come to the table to negotiate.”

Ms Regan firmly rejected claims of a conspiracy. She said: “I know some people have said they thought I was somehow in cahoots with the Alba party from months ago. That is not correct.” She said she had spoken to Alex Salmond on a couple of brief occasions when she was first a candidate for Holyrood in 2015. “I didn't speak to him again in any form – whether telephone, text messages or anything – until I was in the contest. And I was up front about that at the time and said I had spoken to him.

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“This has not been a plan. I wanted to stay in the SNP for the time that I did. I love the SNP, I've got many great friends and colleagues still in the party. There's many fine nationalists in the SNP. I wish them well. But I just felt for me the time had come to move over to a party where I felt I could express my sense of urgency about independence.”

And asked what she would say to constituents, who elected her as an SNP MSP and now saw her switch party, she said: “My message to constituents is that I've always tried really hard to be a thoughtful and procactive representative of my constituents and help people where I can. When it comes to representing people in the Scottish Parliament I feel I stood on a pro-independence mandate both in 2016 and 2021 but I don't feel any longer that I can fulfil that mandate for independence in the SNP. I'm sure many of them will understand why I’ve done what I've done. Some of them may be concerned but I want to reassure them that I'm still there to represent constituents to the best of m ability and that I'll work with the SNP in any areas that I can and I'm sure there will be many, many areas where I will be able work with the SNP group.”