FIRST Minister Humza Yousaf has told SNP members who do not want to advance the case of independence “I don’t need you in the party” in the wake of Ash Regan’s defection.

The former leadership candidate, who quit the Scottish Government last year over her opposition to gender reforms, made a surprise appearance at the Alba Party conference on Saturday, saying she was defecting to the Alex Salmond-led group.

Yousaf – who has experienced the loss of three well-known parliamentarians in Angus MacNeil, Tory defector Dr Lisa Cameron and now Regan – said he was not “particularly surprised” by her decision to quit and become Alba’s first MSP and Holyrood leader.

The Edinburgh Eastern MSP has been outspoken about her opposition to the party’s direction of travel since she quit Government, running to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as party leader and First Minister on a platform to change the SNP.

Speaking to the PA news agency on Monday, the First Minister was asked about Alba MP Neale Hanvey’s (below) hint on BBC Radio Scotland that more defections could be imminent – which turned out to be South Ayrshire councillor Chris Cullen.

The National: Neale Hanvey

He said: “I think if you’re not wanting to advance the case of independence – and the SNP is the largest vehicle to advance the cause of independence – if you’re not committed to that, then frankly, I don’t need you in the party, it’s as simple as that.

“I made that very, very clear when I first became First Minister.

“I’d rather have people who are united behind the vision of delivering for the people of Scotland and advancing our cause.”

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Asked for his reaction to Regan’s defection, the First Minister said: “(I’m) not particularly surprised – I am disappointed though.

“Ash Regan, of course, was elected on an SNP ticket – the reason she was elected is because of the SNP logo next to her name on the ballot paper.

“For her to defect but not resign, I think is not an honourable position, she should do the honourable thing, the principled thing, and resign.”

Predicting her former party would call for a by-election, Regan said during her address to the conference that it is the SNP’s MSP group who has not lived up to the reason they were elected in aggressively seeking Scottish independence and it is they who should resign.

She said: “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.”