FORMER minister Ash Regan is likely to throw her hat into the ring to replace Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader, The Herald understands. 

A source close to the MSP said she would consider entering the race when nominations opened. 

The Edinburgh Eastern MSP dramatically quit the government last October over plans to reform Scotland's gender recognition law

Her candidacy means the legislation will likely be a key part of the contest, with all but one of the other potential candidates having voted for the Bill last year.

External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson, and Health Secretary Humzas Yousaf all backed the legislation. Finance Secretary Kate Forbes was on maternity leave.

In her resignation letter, Ms Regan said she had "considered the issue of Gender Recognition Reform very carefully over some time" and had "concluded that my conscience will not allow me to vote with the government at the Stage 1 of the Bill this afternoon."

In her response at the time, the First Minister said Ms Regan had never raised concerns over the legislation. 

She said: “As you are aware, a key requirement of the Ministerial Code is collective responsibility - a principle essential to effective governance, and which applies across all matters of government policy irrespective of the issue.

“I note that at no stage have you approached me - or indeed the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice - to raise your concerns about the Gender Recognition Reform Bill or the vote this evening.

“However, in circumstances in which a Minister is unable to support the government, it is the case that the only options available are resignation ahead of the vote or dismissal thereafter.

“I therefore accept your resignation.

“Thank you for your contribution to the Scottish Government.”

Ms Regan had been a minister since 2018. 

Asked about what the First Minister's resignation meant for the party's hopes of securing a Yes vote at a future referendum, Ms Regan told The Herald: "I believe that independence is bigger than one person, bigger than one party and an independence convention should be assembled as a matter of urgency once there is a new leader.

"We need to broaden the campaign for independence to all pro-independence parties and to civic society.

"We need to re-invigorate our message and widen our appeal.

"I believe that independence can be achieved soon if we use all of our resources. The next referendum will be a confirmation of Scotland’s desire to be an independent nation.”