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by Chris Marshall
24 February 2023
Ash Regan: The referendum route to Scottish independence has been exhausted

Ash Regan launched her leadership election campaign in North Queensferry | Alamy

Ash Regan: The referendum route to Scottish independence has been exhausted

Ash Regan called for the referendum route to Scottish independence to be abandoned as she set out her pitch to be next SNP leader.

Regan said a majority for independence-supporting parties at an election should be enough to trigger negotiations with the UK Government.

And she said she would not go to court to challenge the UK Government after it blocked the Scottish Government's gender reforms.

Launching her campaign in North Queensferry on Friday morning, Regan said the independence movement had become divided by "petty differences and personal agendas" and that the SNP had "lost its way".

Styling herself as the candidate "for change, not continuity", she said she would not go to court to stop the UK Government from blocking Holyrood's gender reforms.

And she put forward what she called a "voter empowerment mechanism" for securing Scottish independence.

On the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, Regan said she was reflecting public opinion.

Regan resigned as community safety minister last year, arguing the legislation, which makes it easier for trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate, was a risk to women and single-sex spaces.

She said: "Under my leadership, we will not be challenging the section 35 order in the Supreme Court. The GRR Bill is flawed and doesn't command public support and this has been evidenced by the public outrage over women being endangered in our prison estate by rapists seeking to game the system."

Regan said the country as a whole was "completely against" the prospect of challenging the UK Government in court over the legislation.

She said: "The country is completely against it but there is also the cost to the taxpayer to consider. I would not be comfortable taking on a court case - which we would lose, by the way - that's going to cost us hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money to progress something that the Scottish people don't want.

"I'm reflecting public opinion here. If I'm going to pick a fight with Westminster, I'm going to do it where I have the public behind me."

She said that if independence-supporting parties win a majority at an election, that should be enough to trigger negotiations with the UK Government.

She said: "The referendum mechanism has been exhausted, including the so-called de facto referendum proposal. Under my leadership, SNP policy will be to explicitly declare on line one of our party manifesto, in any election going forward, that should we - in conjunction or not with other parties - achieve a majority of seats and votes cast, then collectively we will begin independence negotiations on day one of a new parliament.

"Scotland is not going to be seeking permission to become an independent country. Of course, we will be negotiating with the UK, but I want to move past this feeling where Scotland has to go and ask permission to do things.

"If the voters of Scotland decide this is what they want, the international community will see that."

Regan said there was "no other route" to independence than the one she was setting out.

And on the Yes movement, she said: "The truth is that our movement has been divided for far too long by petty differences and personal agendas.

"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 if we are divided.

"We need to unite the Yes movement; we need to get the band back together. We are not going to achieve our aims as a political party that wants self-governance for Scotland if we are all fighting each other." 

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