Julie Hepburn entered the contest yesterday saying the SNP should be trying to convince No voters of the case for independence in advance of a second independence referendum. Although not an elected politician, Hepburn is well-known in the party and has worked for Deputy First Minister John Swinney and the Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart.
She currently works for MP Stuart McDonald and is married to Employability Minister Jamie Hepburn. Announcing her candidature, she said the timing of indyref2 was down to Nicola Sturgeon and the government.
She said: “I think the most important thing we can do now is listen until at such a point there is a clear opportunity for a new vote and there is demonstration that in the wider population there is demand for one. There is no point in holding a referendum until there is an opportunity to win. We don’t need to be playing the match right now. The match is not on. We need to be doing the preparation and training. We should not be pushing our views, but listening to No voters, or as I like to say, those people who are yet to be persuaded.”
Hepburn joined the SNP in 2000 and is currently the research manager for McDonald. Her career has included two spells as the party’s political education convener between 2009 and 2012 and from 2015 to 2017. She is also a former member of the party’s national executive committee.
“We have a lot of very high profile, capable people who can stand in for the First Minister in terms of being the public face of the party, going on television and pushing our arguments,” she said.
“What I want to do is push through the internal reforms which are under way.”
She is the second person to formally declare an intention to stand. Glasgow Carthcart MSP James Dornan has already announced that he will stand in the deputy leadership race to succeed Angus Robertson, the former Moray MP and SNP Westminster leader.
Westminster leader Ian Blackford has ruled out putting his name forward, despite many believing he would be a good fit for the job.
Several others including Tommy Sheppard, MP, Joanna Cherry ,QC MP, and Pete Wishart, MP are considering standing.