• Thu. May 30th, 2024

Former SNP Leadership Candidate Defects to Alba Party

ByJack Davies

Nov 1, 2023

Ash Regan, the MSP for Edinburgh Eastern who placed third in the recent SNP leadership contest, has defected from the party to join Alex Salmond’s Alba Party.

Regan announced the move at the opening of the Alba Party’s Autumn Conference and has become the party’s leader at Holyrood and its first Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP). The MSP has represented Edinburgh Eastern in the Scottish Parliament since 2016.

The defection comes at the end of a difficult month for the SNP, who were beaten by Scottish Labour in the recent Rutherford and Hamilton West by-election and lost an MP to the Conservatives two weeks ago.

Lisa Cameron, the MP for East Kilbride, defected to the Conservatives when she faced a selection contest, making Ash Regan the second politician to defect this month.

Regan criticised the SNP’s commitment to Scottish independence after party delegates voted through First Minister Humza Yousef’s revised independence plan at the party’s annual conference last week. Under the revised plan, the SNP will ask Westminster to allow another independence referendum if they win a majority of seats in the next election. 

Read More: SNP backs Yousaf’s independence strategy at party conference

Both Labour and the Conservatives have said they would reject this request. 

Speaking at the ALBA Party Conference, Ash Regan said that:

“The reason I am standing here today is because I believe the SNP has strayed from the path to independence, and it’s time for ALBA to get Scotland back on track.”

“The position on Independence taken at the SNP Conference has not just let the YES movement down —it has let Scotland down.”

“I’m sure some in the SNP may well say that I should resign my seat. But why? I am staying true to my election pledge.”

“Can around 60 SNP MSPs really say the same? —That they have secured the “No Ifs, No Buts” referendum that was promised?

“Perhaps it is the 60 who should resign their seats and explain themselves to the people?”

Read More: Labour triumphs against SNP to win Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election

This is not the first time that Ash Regan has ruffled feathers among fellow SNP politicians.

She faced criticism from supporters of former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon after resigning her post as Minister for Community Safety over the controversial Gender Recognition Reform Bill in October 2022. 

Speaking at the time, she commented that:

“I cannot support any legislation that may have negative implications for the safety and dignity of women and girls.”

“I have long believed that principles in politics are important and that is the case especially when it is difficult.”

As a member of the SNP’s independence-focused faction, Regan presented herself as an alternative to the SNP establishment during the SNP’s leadership election last March. She ran under the slogan “independence – nothing less” and promised to use a pro-independence majority at a Westminster or Holyrood election as a mandate for independence. 

Her links to the more staunchly pro-independence ALBA party were evident during the campaign, with her choosing an ex-ALBA member as her senior policy advisor. 

The ALBA party was formed in 2021 by Sturgeon’s predecessor, Alex Salmond, after sexual assault allegations from nine women led the former leader to quit the party and caused a rift between the former allies. Alex Salmond was cleared of all charges in 2020 and claimed that senior figures in the SNP made a “malicious and concerted” attempt to remove him from public life.

Announcing the defection, Alex Salmond said that he was “delighted to welcome Ash Regan to Team Independence”.

Read More: Jo Farrell begins as new Chief Constable of Police Scotland

“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.” 

“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.”

The ALBA Party also has two MPs in Westminster, who both defected from the SNP and are yet to face elections as ALBA candidates. 

Responding to the news, Humza Yousef told the National that:

“It is no great loss to the SNP group, I have to say, and it is also hardly not a surprise either given Ash’s statements for many months, in fact for longer than that.”

“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 – but I have to say it is no great loss to the SNP.”

File:Debating chamber, Scottish Parliament (31-05-2006).jpg” by User:pschemp is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.