The youth employment minister said the SNP must acknowledge the “shortcomings” of the campaign, as she launched her bid to become its No 2 yesterday with a warning independence must remain at the heart of party strategy.
Other leadership hopefuls have stressed the need to work with the Smith Commission on greater devolution for Holyrood as they launched their campaigns in recent weeks.
But Ms Constance insisted: “My campaign is essentially all about independence and how we continue to campaign with head, heart and soul.”
She joins transport minister Keith Brown MSP and SNP Treasury spokesman Stewart Hosie MP in the race for the deputy leadership. Nicola Sturgeon is certain to be next party leader and is the only candidate for First Minister.
The tens of thousands of people who have joined the SNP in recent weeks have done so in order to “campaign for independence”, Ms Constance added at the launch of her campaign in Addiewell, West Lothian.
“We have to build on our successes, but also recognise our shortcomings,” she added.
“We did not convince enough women to vote for independence, we did not allay the fears of the elderly and we did not do enough to reach out to those Scots who were not native born in Scotland.”
But the Almond Valley MSP has ruled herself out as Deputy First Minister, even if she becomes the SNP’s deputy leader.
She added: “The debate about how we take Scotland forward is not about the Scottish Parliament or Westminster, it’s about our party, our members and the wider Yes movement. It’s not about politicians or parliaments – it’s about people.”
Her bid to continue the fight for independence could find favour with the tens of thousands of new SNP members who joined the party in the immediate aftermath of the independence referendum and attained party voting rights before the cut-off point on 23 September.
The successful candidate will be announced at the party conference in Perth next month.
Ms Constance was recently promoted to cabinet secretary for training, youth and women’s employment in a move designed to increase female representation in the cabinet.
And she appealed to the party’s new “apostles for independence”, the 50,000-plus new members who have signed up since the referendum defeat, to elect her as deputy leader.
“It was those with the least who voted Yes hand over fist,” she said. “The disenfranchised became voters, voters became activists and activists became apostles for independence.
“They voted Yes out of hope, and if I’m elected as depute leader of the SNP, I will do everything to ensure that hope of living in an independent Scotland and everything that it can deliver is never extinguished.”
Meanwhile, Mr Brown has called for an SNP Youth Academy similar to the party’s Women’s Academy in an effort to engage younger members who came to the fore in the referendum debate.
He said: “We have to do more to encourage our younger members, not because they are the experienced campaigners of tomorrow, but because they are the youth campaigners of today.’’