ASH Regan launched her campaign to be the next leader of the SNP with a rebrand of the de facto referendum plan and a call to the wider independence movement to unite.

Regan said her plan to achieve independence is a “voter empowerment mechanism” and that it is “slightly” different from the de facto plan suggested by current First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Previously, the leadership contender had said she backed using either a Westminster or Holyrood election as a ballot on independence, in lieu of a Section 30 order from the UK Government.

READ MORE: SNP leadership race: Kate Forbes takes early lead in voter poll

The MSP held a press conference at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel in North Queensferry on Friday morning, where she claimed the independence movement had been “divided for far too long by petty differences and personal agendas”.

In her opening speech, Regan said: “We cannot afford to let these differences tear us apart any longer.

“We must come together as one united force for Scotland, because the challenges facing our country are too great for us to face them divided.

“If parties stand on a mandate to begin independence negotiations and achieve a majority of the seats and votes cast, then they are entitled to pursue it.

“All Unionist politicians used to accept this. It is only now they whine, because they fear losing.

The National: SNP MP Joanne Cherry opened Ash Regan's launch event on Friday SNP MP Joanne Cherry opened Ash Regan's launch event on Friday (Image: PA)

“This morning I have sent a letter to all the independence groups, notifying them of my intention to establish an Independence Convention on day one of my leadership.

“I will unite our movement and ready our country for independence.”

If she wins the contest, Regan added that she would reconvene the council of economic advisers, and bring the “best minds in Scotland outwith” to make the case for independence, adding that the party should move on from the Growth Commission as “too much has changed”.

Regan said the referendum mechanism and the de facto referendum plan had been “exhausted”.

Her plans would entail declaring on “line one” of each party manifesto 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 1 of the new Parliament.”

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf 'skipped' equal marriage vote, says former SNP minister

The “voter empowerment mechanism”, Regan added, is designed to “let the people of Scotland decided when they are ready”.

Asked by The National at her launch why she is pursuing a similar position to a de facto referendum, which was unpopular with the public and SNP members, Regan said her plan was “slightly different”.

She added: “I want to return democracy to the members of the SNP, and so this is my assessment of where we are now, a response to the position that we are in.

“We have been winning mandates election after election after election, we've been asking for Section 30 orders, there is no route for us, other than the one that I'm setting out in front of us here.”

The National also asked Regan what she would do in the event the SNP membership, at the postponed special conference to thrash out future independence strategy, rejected her plan.

She said: “I'm going to take it to the conference, I want us to have a big conversation, I want all the members of the SNP, MSPs, MPs, everyone to get involved, let's talk about this.

“I'll not be taking this forward unless the members of the SNP endorse this plan.”

Regan said she believed the international community would recognise an independent Scotland without a legally binding referendum.

READ MORE: Nominations to close in SNP leadership race

She said: “Most countries that have become independent from the UK, I think there's five of them now, and most of them didn’t have a referendum.

“I think we'll get to the point where we will be recognized by the UK, but this is the process that I'm setting out in order to get past this impasse that we're stuck in at the moment where we're just going round and round in the same situation. So this is the plan I'm setting out.

“I believe we will get recognition from the international community because this will be democratic.”

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

The National: Regan launched her leadership campaign on Friday morningRegan launched her leadership campaign on Friday morning (Image: PA)

“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, 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.”

Regan also said that Nicola Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell, the SNP chief executive, running the SNP leadership contest is a “conflict of interest”. 

Asked if she believed Murrell should stand down from his role within the party, which he has held since 1999, the Edinburgh Eastern MSP declined to do so.

“I think this situation that we’ve got ourselves into, where you’ve got a party leader who’s married to the chief executive of the party, I don’t think we would accept that in a corporate setting, I don’t think it’s appropriate,” she said.

“I think the fact that Peter Murrell is running this contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon is a clear conflict of interest.”

Asked if he should stand down, Regan said: “I think it’s a conflict of interest, that’s my position on that.”

The MSP was also pressed on a number of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) reportedly signed by members of her ministerial staff, who later left.

Regan refused to be drawn and said: “What we need to remember with those types of agreements is that they protect people on both sides.”

The MSP refused to answer when asked if she was a bully.