The leaking of a private conversation between three female SNP politicians criticising Nicola Sturgeon’s stance on transgender rights has exposed deep divisions in the party over the controversial issue.
MSPs Gillian Martin, Ash Denham and Ruth Maguire said the First Minister was “out of step” with the views of the SNP group at Holyrood over the impact on women of possible changes to the Gender Recognition Act.
The women’s conversation, made in Twitter’s private direct mail function, was leaked online yesterday. It shows an apparent exasperation at the First Minister’s comment that she did not see “the greater recognition of transgender rights as a threat to me as a woman or to my feminism”.
In response the three SNP MSPs said that Ms Sturgeon was “a bit out of step with the feelings of her own group” of parliamentarians. They also suggested the SNP group’s concerns had not been shared with the First Minister by Cabinet Secretary Shirley Anne Somerville.
The Scotsman understands that Ms Somerville met a number of SNP MSPs earlier this year to discuss their concerns about the proposed GRA changes which would allow people to “self-declare” as the opposite gender.
Currently those seeking to change gender have to live in the 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 and undermine data which is dependent on knowing if a person is a man or a woman.
The debate over the legal changes has been branded “toxic” and one Scottish MSP. Joan McAlpine, has spoken publicly about her concerns, and has since been bombarded with abuse by trans campaigners and threatened with de-selection. Ms Maguire, who is convener of Holyrood’s equalities committee, has also been criticised for thanking Ms McAlpine for raising the issue.
The private conversation was made public yesterday by an SNP member, Jordan Henderson, who has worked for Ash Denham MSP in the past.
In his tweet which shows the MSPs’ conversation, Mr Henderson says: “Deeply concerning to see this conversation between SNP elected members claiming the FM is out of step for backing trans rights in Scotland. @theSNP and @NicolaSturgeon must act.”
An SNP source said: “This was a private conversation and we know that staff can have access to MSPs Twitter accounts, so it will be extremely hurtful for the MSPs involved to think that one of their staff has leaked this to Jordan Henderson.
“The fact remains that the majority of SNP MSPs are concerned about the impact of transgender self-identification on women’s rights and this should be able to be raised publicly without abuse. This kind of leak doesn’t help that happen.”
However an SNP spokesperson said: “The SNP supports trans rights and women’s rights as part of our commitment to human rights and equality.
“Trans people must be able to live their lives without facing unnecessary barriers and discrimination.
“It is important that any discussion on trans rights and women’s rights is discussed respectfully.”