Ash Regan said she wants to “put the band back together” and unite all of Scotland’s pro-independence parties under one banner – but admitted she would have “no issue” walking away from Holyrood power deal with the Scottish Greens.
The SNP leadership candidate admitted “red line issues” on new North Sea oil fields could scupper the Bute House Agreement signed with outgoing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in 2021.
The former community safety minister also outlined proposals to “ditch” Sturgeon’s plans for the next Westminster election to act as a “de facto” referendum on leaving the UK in favour of negotiating a separation agreement as long as the electorate returned a pro-independence majority in either the national or UK-wide votes.
It is unclear how this differs from the current leadership’s position of treating the next election as a de facto referendum.
Regan, who resigned from government over the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, denied she had ever considered joining the Alba party, led by former FM Alex Salmond.
But she said the divided independence movement could be brought back together under one umbrella to fight for the right to self-determination – even if that came at the cost of the deal with the Greens.
“I’ve been very clear that I want to put the band back together,” she told STV News at the launch of her leadership campaign.
“I have put out that message that I want to work with all of the pro-independence parties.
“There are several red lines for the Greens in the policy position that I have set out.
“We would have to have a grown-up conversation. I want to hear what the Greens have to say but if they feel they can’t stay in Government, I accept that and I would have no issue returning to being in a minority government.”
Regan said the SNP had mandates “piling up” and would take the next election result, either at Holyrood or Westminster, as an “instruction” from the people of Scotland to proceed with a move towards becoming independent of the UK.
She acknowledged any bid to leave the union would have to be negotiated with the UK Government, but said colleagues in London should “not be in a position to ignore the democratic choices” made in Scotland.
However, she said there would be no unilateral declaration of independence under any circumstances.
“We’ve got ourselves into a situation here where the SNP has been winning election after election, we have mandates just piling up,” she said.
“We’re going to the UK Government and asking for Section 30 orders, we’re being told we can’t have that but we’re not told under what circumstances that might be possible.
“I think it is very clear that Scotland wants to go in a different direction. Leaving the European Union against our will has had a disproportionately bad effect on Scotland because of the way our economy is structured.”
Regan proposed setting out her plans at the SNP’s special conference on independence – likely to be held in late May or early June following Sturgeon’s resignation – but said she would listen to opposing views on the blueprint, adding she refused to “shut out” any party members.
She said: “I have taken soundings from right across Scotland on this and this plan is very popular with the members.”
The deadline for nominations in the race to succeed Sturgeon closed at 12pm on Friday.
Finance secretary Kate Forbes and health minister Humza Yousaf are also in the running after securing the threshold for votes.
A new leader will be chosen on March 27.