Edinburgh Eastern SNP MSP Ash Regan quits party to become first MSP for Alex Salmond's Alba party
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She said the SNP had lost its focus on independence and she could not, in good conscience, continue to be part of a party that had drifted from "the very foundation of its existence”. And she continued: “I am proud to take up the mantle of leadership for Alba at Holyrood.”
First elected at the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, after Kenny MacAskill – now Alba MP for East Lothian – stepped down, Ms Regan doubled her majority at the last election in 2021. She served as Community Safety Minister under Nicola Sturgeon, but resigned from the government in October 2022 rather than support the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.
She was a surprise candidate in the contest to succeed Ms Sturgeon after she stood down as First Minister and SNP leader in February this year. She was always the outsider in the three-cornered battle with Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes. She argued for an independence convention made up of all Scotland’s pro-independence groups and said the SNP should make clear in its manifesto that if pro-independence parties won a majority of seats and votes, independence negotiations would begin on day one of a new parliament.
She won 11 per cent of the votes in the leadership election, which had become a closely-fought contest between Mr Yousaf and Ms Forbes. And she was passed over when the victor Mr Yousaf made appointments to his government.
Ms Regan’s defection was announced at the Alba Party conference in Glasgow. And she explained her reasoning on Twitter, saying: “It was a distinct privilege to be elected in 2016 on an independence platform; riding the wave of optimism that the 2014 Independence referendum ignited across Scotland. And it has been an honour to serve the people of Scotland as an MSP and a Minister. Sadly, it has become increasingly clear that the SNP has lost its focus on Independence, the very foundation of its existence. I could not, in good conscience, continue to be part of a party that has drifted from its path and its commitment to achieving Independence as a matter of urgency.
“Today, I am proud to take up the mantle of leadership for Alba at Holyrood and to become the first ALBA Member of the Scottish Parliament. I do this with a clear focus on reinvigorating the cause of Independence and delivering on the promise that was made to the Scottish electorate in 2016 and 2021. I am committed to working tirelessly to create a Scotland that leads, not follows – a Scotland that leads the way in living standards, economic resilience, and innovation.”
Mr Salmond said he was "delighted" to welcome Ms Regan to the party. He said: "Her commitment to the cause of Scottish Independence has never been in question, and her addition to Alba sends a powerful message about the focus and determination we bring to achieving an independent Scotland.
"Having Ash join the Alba Party enriches our team and sharpens our focus on the immediate need for Scottish Independence. She brings a level of commitment and principle that is deeply admired across Scotland, and I couldn't be more pleased to welcome her into our ranks."
But Mr Yousaf said her departure was “no great loss to the SNP group” and “not a surprise either”. He added: "Ash should do the decent thing, she should resign her seat – she was elected on an SNP ticket. I can give you a guarantee that people did not vote for Ash in her constituency because of any personal vote, they voted for her because she had the SNP logo next to her name in the 2021 election. So if she had principles she would do the right thing and resign
Scottish Tory chairman Craig Hoy said Ms Regan’s defection, coming just two weeks after SNP MP Dr Lisa Cameron defected to the Tories, was “just the latest blow to Humza Yousaf's increasingly divided and struggling SNP”.
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: "Sixteen years of command and control has come crashing down spectacularly as the SNP is hit by yet another defection.
"This divided and chaotic party is incapable of standing up for Scotland."
And Scotland Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton stated: "The SNP is falling apart, with the prospect of independence fading far into the distance there's nothing to hold their extreme factions together.”