THE former SNP leadership candidate Ash Regan has defected to the Alba Party. 

Party leader Alex Salmond made the announcement during a speech at Alba's conference, which is being held in Glasgow over the weekend. 

The defection, which was welcomed with a raucous standing ovation by Alba delegates, means that the party now have their first MSP in the Scottish Parliament. 

Salmond said Regan's "addition to Alba sends a powerful message about the focus and determination we bring to achieving an independent Scotland".

He went on: "She brings a level of commitment and principle that is deeply admired across Scotland, and I couldn’t be more pleased to welcome her into our ranks.”

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Regan, who has been named Alba's Holyrood leader, said: “It was a distinct privilege to be elected in 2016 on an independence platform, riding the wave of optimism that the 2014 independence referendum ignited across Scotland.

"And it has been an honour to serve the people of Scotland as an MSP and a minister. Sadly, it has become increasingly clear that the SNP has lost its focus on independence, the very foundation of its existence.

"I could not, in good conscience, continue to be part of a party that has drifted from its path and its commitment to achieving independence as a matter of urgency."

She added: "I am committed to working tirelessly to create a Scotland that leads, not follows – a Scotland that leads the way in living standards, economic resilience, and innovation.”

The National: Alba party leader Alex Salmond

Salmond (above) told The National that Regan's final decision came after the SNP conference saw delegates opt to treat winning the "majority of seats" at the next General Election as a mandate to open independence negotiations with the UK Government. 

Regan had pushed for the majority of votes at any parliamentary election to be the key threshold, something she called a "voter empowerment mechanism" during her unsuccessful bid to lead the SNP.

Responding to the news of Regan's defection, First Minister Humza Yousaf told The National that Regan should resign her seat

During his speech, and before Regan’s defection was announced, Salmond told Alba members that they needed to reach out to people in the SNP.

“We need recruits from across the political spectrum and in particular from the SNP,” he said. “And I shall let you into a secret – you don’t make people come and join you by beating them over the head by telling them how right you are and how wrong they have been.”

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The former first minister said Alba would “extend the hand of friendship to those who only now are facing the dawning realisation that they have been strung along for almost ten years by the new SNP”.

He added: “There is no-one in this hall or indeed in this country who has more reason to feel resentful of the leadership of the new SNP than I do. They are a total shower, but within that party are still many fine nationalists and fellow Scots. We need their help to win.”

Salmond also used his speech to say that Alba had used the two years since its founding to “establish our credentials as a social democratic party in the mainstream of the Scottish political tradition”.

The National:

He said that outdoorsman and author Cameron McNeish (above) had helped the party form the “beginnings of a radical land policy to tackle the age-old injustice of the concentration of land ownership in the hands of chinless aristocrats and faceless investors”, and also noted that the Scottish Government had taken on his policy of a council tax freeze.

“We proposed it on the Friday and [the SNP] announced it three days later. I mean Humza used to write my speeches – now I am writing his,” Salmond said.

He also praised moves to issue Scottish Government bonds, a power he said he had “negotiated ten years ago from Westminster”, but said they should be used to fund specific projects – such as the dualling of the A9 and A96.

The Alba leader also used his conference speech to address the situation in Gaza. On Friday, communications were cut off amid an escalation in bombing from Israel.

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Exempting the First Minister, whose family situation he said deserved “respect and sympath[y]”, Salmond said the “reality is that UK politicians treat the unfolding tragedy in the Middle East as some sort of exercise in political positioning”.

He accused Starmer of being “determined to shadow the Tory position to avoid any charge of antisemitism”, and said Hamas should be treated as international criminals, not a legitimate government of Gaza.

“I don’t know the full answer, perhaps no one does, but I do know this: you will never find a way forward until you stop the killing, and you will never find a permanent peace without justice for the Palestinian people," Salmond said.

“We are a small party and a small voice – but let it be a clear voice for peace and justice.”

Alba's conference is being held in Glasgow's Woodside Halls on October 28 and 29.