A REFERENDUM is not the “gold standard” route to independence, Ash Regan has said.

Instead, Regan told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg that treating every future Westminster and Holyrood election as a vote on independence was the true “gold standard”.

The SNP leadership candidate said that by treating every parliamentary election in Scotland as a de facto referendum the people would be given the power to decide when they want to leave the UK – instead of having to wait to be asked in a specific referendum.

READ MORE: SNP issue update on hustings as online event held in private

Asked about her plans to use General Elections as votes on independence, Regan said: “It is the same as a referendum if you think about it, in terms of the fact that it’s the ballot box. That’s a perfectly normal way to test the will of what the public is.

“My opponents in this contest are setting out a system where they’re going to have an election that’s based on independence, and they’re going to use that as what they’re calling a ‘moral mandate’ to go back to Westminster and to ask them again for another referendum. And we know that’s not going to happen.”

She added: “What I’m suggesting is that the gold standard here in fact is not a referendum, the gold standard here is the ballot box.”

Regan's comments signal a break from the policy of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has repeatedly insisted that the "gold standard" route to independence is via a legal referendum held with the agreement of Westminster.

The National: SNP minister Ash Regan

On Kuenssberg's BBC show, Regan (above) was pressed on the practicalities of asking the UK Government to come to the table for independence negotiations in the event of 50%+1 of the vote for pro-Yes parties at a parliamentary election.

She said: “It would be practical because it would be clearly set out. People in Scotland would know that what they were voting for was to get the government in Edinburgh and the government in Westminster together to negotiate Scotland’s exit.

“Scotland would be very clear what they were voting for, the UK would be very clear what Scotland would be voting for, and the international community would be very clear about what Scotland is voting for. So I don’t think there’s any question of the UK Government not recognising Scotland’s democratic choice.”

The National:

Regan’s plans to use every future parliamentary election as a de facto vote on independence – which she terms a “voter empowerment mechanism” – have been criticised by her rival in the SNP leadership race, Humza Yousaf.

Yousaf previously told The National that it was not “realistic” because you could not “magically” expect the UK Government to join in negotiations.

He said: “I don’t think the formulation that Ash has put forward is realistic. Let’s be honest. If we get 50%+1 [of the vote] there is no way that we can suddenly demand that the UK Government comes to the negotiation table.

“I’ve been involved in lots of negotiations, particularly recently, and you need two people across that table, at least two people to begin those negotiations. I don’t think that if you get 50%+1 that magically you can instruct the UK Government to come up the road to Edinburgh to begin negotiations.”