SNP has been divided by petty differences, says Regan at campaign launch

The independence movement has been divided by “petty differences and personal agendas”, SNP leadership candidate Ash Regan has said as she officially launched her campaign.

Speaking in North Queensferry on Friday, Ms Regan pitched herself as the unity candidate in the hours before nominations close.

Having already secured her place on the membership ballot alongside Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf, Ms Regan also declared herself to be the candidate of competent government, claiming the party had “lost our way” in recent years.

And the SNP rebel, who resigned from government over her opposition to gender reforms, took a swipe at the SNP leadership, saying the party’s chief executive being in charge of the contest to replace the First Minister – his wife – was a “conflict of interest”, although she did not elaborate further.

Ms Regan’s comments come after she had called for calm in the leadership race, asking members to stop “mudslinging” after the backlash received by Ms Forbes following her comments on social issues.

“Our campaign is built on hope, optimism and a belief in the power of our people,” she said.

“The truth is that our movement has been divided for far too long by petty differences and personal agendas.

“But we can’t afford to let these differences tear us apart any longer and we must come together as one united force for Scotland because the challenges facing our country are too great for us to face them if we are divided.”

Asked by journalists after her speech what differences and agendas she was referencing, Ms Regan was not specific, but appeared to hint at gender reforms as being one such issue.

“I think everyone, the kids in the playground, can see that there have been some issues in the SNP of late,” she said.

Ash Regan
Ms Regan has launched her campaign for the SNP leadership (Jane Barlow/PA)

“I think I’m the only candidate on the slate that’s credible on some of the top issues that have been a problem for the SNP recently, that can draw a line under this so that we can all move forward together, because we need to do that for the betterment of the country.”

The SNP, she said, has always been a “broad church”, and the Edinburgh Eastern MSP pledged to “heal the divisions that have emerged in the past few years”.

“Everyone is going to make up and move on,” she said.

Pitching herself to members as the candidate who would govern the country the best, Ms Regan said: “I respect everything that my predecessors have achieved since 2007, but recently we have lost our way.

“Under my leadership we will re-establish our track record, we will reform our team, we will reiterate the vision of an independent country with parity of esteem in the world.”

Ms Regan had previously claimed an SNP led by her would seek to launch negotiations on leaving the UK with Westminster after a majority vote for independence-supporting parties at any UK or Holyrood election in the future.

At her launch, Ms Regan described the policy as a “voter empowerment mechanism”, although it is unclear how this differs from the current leadership’s position of treating the next election as a de facto referendum.

In her first 100 days, Ms Regan pledged to focus on “running the country wisely, fairly and competently”, and would reconvene the council of economic advisers and other bodies to bring in “the best minds”, as well as “move on” from the Sustainable Growth Commission, claiming “too much has changed”.

In an interview with The Herald, published ahead of the launch, Ms Regan intimated she wants to let groups who worked for the wider Yes movement in the run-up to 2014 take the lead on independence, while the Scottish Government focuses on running the country.

She said: “The party has effectively dismantled the Yes campaign, but I want to reconstitute it once more.

“It’s also important that we get on with the business of governing on the day-to-day issues affecting all of the people of Scotland.

“And, as much as possible, allow some of the groups who did amazing work for the Yes cause in 2013 and 2014 to do what they did so well back then. I want to get the band back together, if you like.”