SNP suffers second defection as MSP quits to join Alex Salmond's party

28 October 2023, 15:51

Ash Regan MSP has quit the SNP and joined Alex Salmond's Alba Party.
Ash Regan MSP has quit the SNP and joined Alex Salmond's Alba Party. Picture: Alamy

By Gina Davidson

Former SNP leadership candidate Ash Regan has quit the party to join Alex Salmond's Alba Party - becoming its first ever MSP.

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Regan, who secured just over 11 per cent of the votes when she stood in the race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon earlier this year, said she was defecting from the SNP because it had "lost its focus on independence."

The SNP has said she should resign and trigger a by-election.

In a statement, Regan, a former Scottish Government minister said: "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."

The defection comes just over two weeks after MP Dr Lisa Cameron announced she was quitting the SNP to join the Conservatives.

The SNP's opponents said Ms Regan's decision to quit exposed the party as being "divided and chaotic".

Her defection to Alba was announced as that party's conference took place in Glasgow.

Alex Salmond said he was "delighted" to welcome the MSP for Edinburgh Eastern 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."

Regan had previously served as community safety minister in the Scottish Government, but had quit that position last year so she could vote against controversial gender recognition reforms as they went through Holyrood.

She then stood against Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes in the race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon when she stepped down as both first minister and SNP leader - but was eliminated from the contest after the first round of voting, with Yousaf going on to win.

During that leadership campaign she denied having any intention of joining the rival pro-independence party, despite being accused of becoming Alex Salmond's "mouthpiece" in the race.

First elected as an SNP MSP in 2016, she said it had been "an honour to serve the people of Scotland as an MSP and a minister".

But she said: "Sadly, it has become increasingly clear that the SNP has lost its focus on Independence, the very foundation of its existence."

She added: "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."

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy MSP said: "This second defection in as many weeks is just the latest blow to Humza Yousaf's increasingly divided and struggling SNP.

"He can't convince even his own senior MSPs to remain onside, even when he's abandoned all the normal duties of government to focus on independence."

Meanwhile, 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 Scottish Liberal Democrat 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.

"After 16 years in government they are a divided and chaotic mess."

With the announcement of Ms Regan's defection coming as the Scottish Greens were also holding their conference, a Green spokesperson said: "Today for us is about celebrating the many achievements in government of our growing Scottish Green movement, not the desperate acts of others."

Meanwhile, an SNP spokesperson said: "Ash Regan should do the honourable thing and step down to allow a by-election.

"Her constituents elected an SNP MSP, and they deserve to have the democratic opportunity to elect a new, hard-working SNP parliamentarian who will put the interests of Scotland first."

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