ASH Regan has branded her SNP leadership rivals’ plans for independence “wishy washy” as she set out her vision of Scotland’s future.

The former community safety minister told the Dumfries hustings she believed the Scottish independence movement must forge a different path from asking Westminster’s permission for another referendum - saying this route was "shut down”.

Regan said: “If we go with more of the same – basically what we’ve been doing for the last few years – is that we’ve been winning elections and we’ve been using that as a mandate, or a moral mandate is probably the way I would differentiate it, to go and ask Westminster for a referendum.

And obviously, they’re saying no and actually they won’t even set out under what circumstances they might say yes. We know that that is just not going to happen – that route is shut down.”

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Gesturing to her two rivals, the former community safety minister added: “So I think that seeking another moral mandate, as my two colleagues here are suggesting, I think it’s a bit of a wishy-washy plan and I don’t see that as being what we need in order to move this forward for the people of Scotland.”

Instead, she urged members to back her plans for the so-called “voter empowerment mechanism”, under which the SNP would treat every election as a de-facto referendum on independence.

This would mean any election in which voters backed pro-Yes parties by more than 50% would be sufficient to open negotiations with the UK Government, she said, insisting this approach would be respected by international courts and other countries.  

Regan told the hustings she wanted to create an independence commission and an independence convention to progress the case for independence.

The independence commission would take the responsibility for planning to secure independence outwith government, she said, while the independence convention would bring in the “wider” independence to “design” the campaign.

Yousaf said he expected the SNP to fight every election on “furthering the cause of independence” but added: “It must be done in what is a legal route.”

He earlier told the hustings he believed independence was “inevitable” and has avoided talking about strategy on securing Scotland’s exit from the Union, saying on previous occasions the party should focus on building the case for independence.

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Forbes said she recognised the “frustration” felt by SNP members impatient with the lack of progress on independence.

She said: “Often, the conversion – borne out of frustration – revolves around process about how we get there and actually the way that we get there is by persuading as many people as possible that Scotland’s better days are ahead through independence.”

She has previously spoken of her ambition to hold an independence referendum within three months in the event of a pro-Yes majority of votes, if she is elected leader.