SNP MSP Ash Regan was the first candidate to announce her intention to run to be the SNP's new leader following the departure of Nicola Sturgeon

She hit the headlines at the end of last year when she quit her ministerial role in protest against Holyrood’s gender reforms.

But what have we found out about her throughout the contest?

READ MORE: SNP leadership contest begins to replace Nicola Sturgeon

Early beginnings

Born in Glasgow, Regan, formerly Denham, attended primary school in Scotland before moving to Biggar, Cumbria, and later Devon.

She attended Keele University in England between 1992 and 1995, leaving with a BA in international relations. Regan would later earn a diploma at the London School of Public Relations.

After leaving university, Regan worked in PR and marketing at a variety of firms as a senior accounts executive, before later moving into event management.

Returning to Scotland Regan returned to Scotland around 2012, and would later join Women for Independence and become active during the 2014 independence referendum campaign.

She would also take on the role of head of campaigns and advocacy at pro-Yes think tank Common Weal Scotland.

In August 2015 she was selected as a candidate for the SNP for the Edinburgh Eastern Constituency for the 2016 Scottish Parliament election. She replaced incumbent MSP Kenny MacAskill who stood down, defeating the leader of Scottish Labour Kezia Dugdale in the process.

Regan took 47.3% of the vote share, while Dudgale returned 33%.

Scottish Parliament career

Regan spent her first two years in Holyrood on the backbenches, appointed to the role of a parliamentary liaison officer for the culture, tourism, and external affairs brief.

She also served on the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work and Finance and Constitution Committees. In 2017, she was moved from the economy brief to the Health and Sport Committee where she held the position of deputy convener.

READ MORE: SNP set out when new leader will be elected after Nicola Sturgeon quits

During Sturgeon’s 2018 cabinet reshuffle, Regan was appointed minister for community safety, replacing Annabell Ewing. In 2021, Regan was re-elected, with an additional 8000 votes, and reappointed by Sturgeon to the ministerial role.

The Herald reported in 2019 that a number of former employees of Regan, while she was an MSP, received payoffs and some signed non-disclosure agreements.

Stance on gender reforms

In 2019, 15 SNP politicians signed a public letter calling on the Scottish Government to delay reforming the Gender Recognition Act. Regan and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes were among the signatories.

When the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill made it to the third stage of reading in the Scottish Parliament, Regan resigned from her government role in protest and was replaced by Elena Whitham.

Regan was one of nine SNP MSPs who rebelled against the Government whip and voted against the reforms. She would later join a trans prisoner protest outside of Holyrood and address the crowd.

What has she said about her leadership bid? 

Writing in the Sunday Mail, the MSP pledged to “reinvigorate” the SNP, promising more power to party members. 

She said she would aim to unite the wider Yes movement, creating a "convention" of all pro-independence groups.

“On my first day as leader, I will call for an independence convention to be held. This will involve all pro-independence parties, independence organisations, think tanks and civil society to organise a new independence campaign body. 

“We will create a new vision of an independent Scotland. We will build coalitions, reach out across all of the society and secure a pro-independence majority, which cannot be ignored.”

She added that if pro-independence parties held “more than 50% plus one” of the vote in either a Westminster or Holyrood election then this would be a clear instruction that Scotland wishes to be an independent nation. 

Regan said she would "hit the ground running" if she wins the race and "reach across party lines", pledging to tackle the cost-of-living and NHS crises. 

She has pledged to "immediately explore" building the infrastructure for a new Scottish currency if she becomes FM.

Following the fallout over the reporting of SNP membership numbers, Regan did suggest members should be able to change their vote in the middle of the contest if they wanted to. This was turned down by interim party chief executive and president Mike Russell and she then insisted she would accept the outcome of the ballot. 

Who has backed Regan? 

Joanna Cherry gave her backing to Regan on social media early on in the contest.

“I am proud to support Ash given her solid left-wing credentials working with @Common_Weal and the courage and leadership she has shown in standing up for the rights of women and girls", she said. 

SNP Cowdenbeath councillor Bailey-Lee Robb, who works on her campaign, also spoke in favour of Regan on TV.