ASH Regan has defended her plan to work with convicted perjurer Tommy Sheridan on independence, saying she believes in “rehabilitation”.

The SNP leadership contender said people should get "a second chance”.

Mr Sheridan was sentenced to three years in jail in 2011 after a jury found him guilty of lying in court five years earlier, when he had sucessfully sued a newspaper for defamation.

The former Scottish Socialist MSP won £200,000 in damages from the now-defunct News of the World after it claimed he had been an adulterer who had visited a swinger’s club.

The case shattered the party he had helped found, and Mr Sheridan quit as its leader and formed Solidarity, which lasted until 2021.

Despite his gifts as an orator, he remains a deeply divisive figure.

As part of her leadership campaign, Ms Regan has pushed for unity across the Yes movement, and suggested an independence convention to “put the band back together”. 

In Tuesday’s STV hustings, she said she had reached out to all the Yes parties, as well as Mr Sheridan’s Hope Over Fear project.

Now in Alex Salmond's Alba party, Mr Sheridan said he would "definitely" work with her, and might join the SNP if she won.

The Tories accused Ms Regan of “pandering to the worst extremes of the nationalist movement”.

Speaking to the Herald yesterday, Ms Regan said she was someone the party and the country could trust.

Asked how that squared with working with a convicted perjurer, she said: “I feel that uniting the wider movement is a key part of what we need to do to get independence. 

“And whilst I know some people have an issue with him… he does represent Hope Over Fear [part of] the pro-Indy grassroots. I want to reach out to everyone. It's not just him. It's important that we work together.”

Asked what Mr Sheridan brought to the mix other than a criminal record, she said: “He’s involved in Hope Over fear, which is a popular part of the grassroots movement.

“Are we saying that people can never be rehabilitated? Is that what we’re saying?

“I'm trying to unite the movement. I'll talk to everyone. I’m reaching out to all different sorts of people’”

Asked if Mr Sheridan’s conviction gave her any pause, she said: “I do believe in rehabilitation. 

"I was previously a minister in the Justice portfolio. I think if we can't believe we can give people a second chance at things, I think we would be in a pretty sorry state, would we not?"

Ms Regan also floated a plan to use money raised by the plastic bag tax in shops to help kickstart a citizen-owned energy company.