circulated among Ash Denham, Gillian Martin and Ruth Maguire took place in the private area of Ms Denham’s Twitter account.
The MSPs said that Nicola Sturgeon was “out of step” with the SNP group on the controversial matter. However, the conversation was made public after a screenshot image of the discussion was leaked on Twitter on 16 April – shared by a former employee of Ms Denham, Jordon Henderson.
It is not known how Mr Henderson had received the image but he later tweeted that there were “more comms coming”.
The three MSPs involved were initially supported by Scottish Parliament authorities in determining whether they had been hacked. When it became clear that the leak did not occur from a Parliamentary account, the matter was reported to the police who are investigating the alleged access of unauthorised material.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “On Thursday, police in Edinburgh received notification that details of a private conversation between an MSP and colleagues had been shared online. Inquiries are ongoing.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Parliament said: “Parliamentary officials were asked to look into this matter. Officials quickly established that there had been no breach of the Parliament’s IT security and the issue was related to the Twitter platform. Therefore, the Parliament is unable to investigate further.”
The police investigation into the leak comes as the SNP gathers for its spring conference in Edinburgh, with the issue of transgender rights dividing the party.
The party’s Holyrood culture committee convener Joan McAlpine MSP has come under fire for raising concerns about the conflation of sex and gender in law and data and has been branded as “trash” and “transphobic”.
Mr Henderson has been one of her most outspoken critics and said he would campaign within the SNP to have her deselected. MSPs Denham, Martin and Maguire have also been declared “transphobic” after their private conversation was made public. In it they discussed a statement made by the First Minister that she did not see “the greater recognition of transgender rights as a threat to me as a woman or to my feminism”.
Ruth Maguire, who is convener of Holyrood’s equalities committee, responded with “FFS”, while Gillian Martin said “FM a bit out of step with feelings of her group”. Ms Denham suggested this could be because “no-one has conveyed group feelings to her?”.
None of the women have spoken about the leak.
In his tweet which shows the MSPs’ conversation, Mr Henderson said: “Deeply concerning to see this conversation between SNP elected members claiming the FM is out of step for backing trans rights in Scotland.”
Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Cabinet secretary for equalities, later defended women’s rights to ask questions about changes to legislation, while stating that transphobia in Scotland needed to be tackled.
The Scotsman understands Ms Somerville met a number of SNP MSPs earlier this year to discuss their concerns about proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act which would allow people to “self-declare” as the opposite gender. Currently those seeking to change gender have to live in their preferred gender for two years and be diagnosed with gender dysphoria by a doctor to gain a Gender Recognition Certificate.
Some women’s groups believe the change to self-declaration will erase women’s sex-protected rights.
Mr Henderson did not respond to a request for comment.