THE SNP has to think about how to “reframe" the case for independence and itself ahead of the next General Election, a former MP who is bidding to contest a Westminster seat has said.

Stephen Gethins, a former MP for North East Fife, is one of three candidates vying to fill the gap left by outgoing Dundee East representative Stewart Hosie.

Angus councillor Serena Cowdy and SNP activist and lawyer George Bruce are also in the running to be the candidate for the newly created Arbroath and Broughty Ferry seat.

Speaking to The National, the professor of ­international relations at St Andrews University said that he believed having experience is key ahead of a difficult Westminster election facing the SNP.

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After Labour won the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, Gethins said it would be a “mistake” for the party not to heed the warnings of the polls and the impact of the SNP finance probe on support.

“I think the party has got challenges and stands at a crossroads,” he said.

“I think that those of us with experience need to step up, which is what I'm doing.

“I think we've got to think about how we frame and reframe independence and also the case for voting SNP going forward.”

The National: Stephen Gethins and Nicola Sturgeon

The former advisor to both Nicola Sturgeon (above) and Alex Salmond said that the by-election was only one election, adding it would be a mistake to have a “knee-jerk reaction” to it.

“But similarly, I think it's a mistake to ignore that one by-election as well as broader issues as well,” he added.

“The party's been in power for 16 years, we're likely to see a new UK Government next year.

“I think that what I wanted to do was bring in my experience and my perspectives, and I think one of the important areas is reframing that case for independence.”

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Gethins added that he believed the case for independence “fundamentally changed” after Brexit, and that leaving the EU is one of the biggest drivers of the cost of living crisis.

Marrying the two issues together and linking them to the failing UK economy, another driver of the crisis, is how the party should make the case to voters, he explained.

Pointing to policies like the Scottish Child Payment and the impact on child poverty, Gethins added: “But the really big lever still rests at Westminster.

“I think that's where it's firstly important to have a really strong voice for Scotland at Westminster, and I think that's the case that the party can make, that you cannot let Scotland be overlooked in the future.”

Gethins added that he believed Westminster was a “far more effective forum” for making the case for independence than Holyrood, where ministers are expected to focus on day-to-day governance.

The National: Stephen Gethins MP is the SNP's Europe spokesperson at Westminster

“But at Westminster, you're really able to underscore where the Union is failing and is increasingly out of date,” he said.

“So I think there are opportunities there but that's not to say none of it will be without its challenges.”

He added: “This isn’t a decision I took lightly, given my background and where I am in life at the moment.”

Gethins is vying for the candidacy for the seat against Cowdy who represents the Arbroath West, Letham and Friockheim ward, and argued she would be a “committed local champion” who lives and works in the constituency.

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Meanwhile, renewable energy lawyer Bruce, who is an SNP activist and campaigner originally from Aberdeenshire, has been working at Dundee University and says he is strongly supportive of the current party leadership.

Gethins says he has a lot of family links to the area but is aware that the newly created seat has a diverse makeup that will require lots of “listening” and coordinating with activists to reach out to voters.

He also argued that Labour will not be able to put the same level of resources into every single Scottish seat ahead of the General Election as they did in Rutherglen and Hamilton West – but neither will the SNP or other parties.

The National: Anas Sarwar and Michael Shanks

“This is where having a lot of experience and effective local campaigners [is key] – you cannot expect the central party to run your campaign for you,” he said.

“As somebody who's been involved within national campaigns and local campaigns, successful and sometimes unsuccessful as well, it's about drawing those together and building that team around you.

“A team that is properly representative of the whole seat, this is a big and diverse constituency.”

He added: “Labour won't have the same resource to bring, the Tories, who are a big threat here, won't have the same resource to bring, but neither will the SNP.”