Leaked messages between three SNP MSPs appear to criticise the First Minister’s stance on trans rights and changes to the Gender Recognition Act.

A former party insider has shared messages between Ash Denham, Ruth Maguire and Gillian Martin discussing whether Nicola Sturgeon is ‘out of touch’ with feelings on gender reforms.


The former MSP staffer who exposed the leaked messages has called on the party to do more to deal with perceived transphobia and told us exclusively:

“I was surprised to see the conversation. I really dont like the way people in the SNP have been talking about transgender people or what Joan McAlpine has been saying. Over the last few months its seemed like more people held these views.”

“Some people just don’t see what’s really important – that trans people are possibly the most marginalised group in society right now and the suicide rates alone should surely point to the fact we must do better.”

“I think as a party we need to get up to speed pretty fast on what is a really big deficit in equality for trans people.”

The SNP has been a champion of LGBT equality and party members have supported strengthening Scotland’s position on equality in recent years. There still appears to be widespread support for gender reforms within the party.

The leak exposes further dissent from the party line on proposed reforms to gender laws in Scotland in what is becoming a serious issue for SNP bosses. Joan McAlpine MSP has been a vocal critic of trans campaigning groups in recent weeks and has been accused by many of being transphobic in her views on social media.

The SNP-led Scottish Government has already indicated its support for bringing gender laws up to international best practice, 10 years after the Gender Recognition Act was first introduced. These proposals include simplifying the self-ID process for trans people and levelling the age of legal gender transition to 16.

An SNP spokesperson reacted to the leak, saying:

“The SNP supports trans rights and women’s rights as part of our firm 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 conducted respectfully.”

Gillian Martin is the MSP for Aberdeenshire East and was appointed the Convener of the environment, climate change and land reform committee in the Scottish Parliament, just weeks after the ‘hairy-knuckled laydees’ blog row.

Ruth Maguire, the SNP’s Cunninghame South MSP, is the Convener of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee in the Scottish Parliament and would be responsible for effective and fair scrutiny of any changes proposed by the Government to the Gender Recognition Act coming forward in the next parliamentary session.

Ash Denham is MSP for Edinburgh East and is the Minister for Community Safety in Nicola Sturgeon’s cabinet.

But is there now evidence of SNP members growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of discipline in the party and the views which some see as transphobic from some party members?

Finlay McFarlane is a party activist from Leith and he’s spoken openly about the threat to his continuing membership if the party doesn’t take a stand against anti-trans rhetoric, saying:

“Having been an active member of the SNP for around nine years, celebrating the implementation of equal marriage, the TIE campaign and our wee country’s regular topping of the equality index , the recent shift against trans rights from small factions of the party has been incredibly upsetting. It’s worth noting that while these views are contrary to party policy, the way they have been conducted over social media has allowed a climate for blatant transphobia to grow and thrive.

“When we move forwards it must be with everyone, and this does include making sure that women’s rights and safety are protected. However, there is nothing constructive about polarising both sides with inflammatory language like #waronwomen to the point that it becomes a race to the bottom with dead-naming, transphobic slurs and a Twitter pile-on of vulnerable individuals. All too often this is what trans people face in their day to day lives, without the SNP (the party of freedom, liberation and progressiveness) playing host to insidious views.

“We often talk about *being* an ally. It’s a doing word and it’s about standing up to be counted. I’m gay and I live with rights hard won for me by trans campaigners. When it comes to protecting my trans friend’s rights to exist, party allegiance isn’t important. Independence isn’t important. As long as the party leaves trans lives up for debate then so is my membership.

After the messages were leaked online last night, other high-profile party members were quick to show their support for trans rights, with steadfast allies tweeting their support on Tuesday night, including MPs Mhairi Black, Stewart Macdonald and Angela Crawley, as well as other party members.


Ruth Maguire, Gillian Martin and Ash Denham were all contacted for a response and given the opportunity of a right of reply with a clear deadline. No response was received.


  1. I have voted for SNP for about 8 years. But I am not renewing my membership. I have had enough of the bitching about us trans people. And myself being a trans guy who is gay with disabilities is a triple whammy!
    Have joined the green party. They at least have a zero policy on these matters. I’m not a SJW, just a guy going around trying to live life to the full and being finally in his own skin finally!

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