Joanna Cherry tells party to tackle trans-activist trolls The Times 02.03.20

The original article is here.

A senior SNP MP has accused the party of failing to protect her against online trolls accusing her of transphobia.

Joanna Cherry has warned against “rushing through” gender recognition reforms. She said at the weekend that she would not have become a politician if she had anticipated such aggression from “the tiniest of fractions” who wield “disproportionate influence”.

She was at pains in an interview with The Herald to stress her admiration for Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, but Ms Cherry, 53, said: “I don’t think I’ve had the support I should have had through all of this.” She said the debate on gender recognition reform has become so “belligerent” that the Scottish government should delay legislation until after next year’s election.

The Scottish government is consulting on changes to the Gender Recognition Act that would make it a lot easier for people to self-declare. The reform is strongly supported by Out for Independence, the SNP’s LGBTQ wing.

Ms Cherry, the MP for Edinburgh South West, has announced her intention to stand next year to be MSP for Edinburgh Central, and is seen as a potential challenger for the leadership. She has said that “rushing through self-identification legislation without looking at the impact on the Equalities Act could have unintended consequences”, particularly on safe spaces for women, a worry the SNP has rejected.

Kevin Pringle, who was an advisor to Alex Salmond, said that the reform campaign came across as “back us or be labelled as a bigot”. Writing in The Sunday Times, he added: “It is grimly ironic that the discussion of complex matters regarding the non-binary nature of gender has been conducted in the aggressive style of binary politics.”

Ms Cherry said that online attacks put young women off politics. “As an out gay woman who fought section 28 and has campaigned for LGBT rights for decades, accusations that I am transphobic are offensive,” she said.

“Online abuse does take its toll but I am more worried about the cumulative and detrimental effect on the role of women in politics and in the media; young women in particular. I don’t like the way this is characterised as a problem in the youth wing of the party.”

A source close to the MP said: “A few of the key activists are embedded in her own constituency . . . some of these people are prominent in Out for Indy. I think Joanna’s view is the party machinery has not acted as they ought to have done to curb these people’s enthusiasm, because they are also acolytes of the current leadership.”

A spokesman for the SNP said: “Nobody raising genuine concerns over women’s rights should face knee-jerk accusations of transphobia . . . we encourage a respectful debate.”