Joanna Cherry tells Nicola Sturgeon to 'eat humble pie' over gender reforms

Joanna Cherry and Nicola Sturgeon
Joanna Cherry and Nicola Sturgeon

Joanna Cherry has told Nicola Sturgeon to “eat some humble pie” as the rift between the two SNP figures further escalated over the party’s gender recognition reforms.

The dig at the First Minister from one of her MPs comes as Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville told those opposing the party’s reforms should think about whether they are “comfortable” staying in a party where they “pick and choose” which policies to support.

Ms Cherry spoke out after a poll for the Sunday Times suggested that support for the SNP, independence and Ms Sturgeon has fallen as the party continues to face criticism over its handling of the trans prisoners fiasco.

Read more: Poll: Support drops for SNP and Scottish independence

The YouGov survey of 1,088 Scottish voters for the Sunday Times shows support for independence fell from 53 per cent to 47% among decided voters.

The fieldwork for the poll was carried out as a row was emerging over the imprisonment of rapist Isla Bryson between January 23 and 26.

The transgender woman, who was convicted of two cases of rape carried out before transitioning, was initially remanded in Scotland's only all-female prison in Cornton Vale.

Bryson was later relocated to the male estate following a public outcry.

Despite reforming the process of obtaining a gender recognition certificate having little bearing on the process for transgender prisoners, critics have claimed the Bryson case shows holes in the gender reforms, which have been blocked by the UK Government and not become law.

Ms Cherry, who has been a long-standing critic of the gender recognition reforms, has claimed the poll shows “it’s time to admit that feminist criticisms of self-ID and the GRR Bill were right, eat some humble pie and sort this mess out before it does more damage to the reputation of our party, parliament and the cause of Scotland’s independence”.

Read more: Gasps as Joanna Cherry QC says Nicola Sturgeon gave her 'no support whatsoever' after rape threats

She claimed that the manifesto pledge from the SNP over reforming gender recognition “has not as yet been fulfilled”.

Ms Cherry added: “A proper participative process of reform which took into account the human rights of everyone and the impact on equalities law could be facilitated through a citizens' assembly.

“This problem should be sorted out in Scotland without further interference by the UK Government."

Ms Cherry has "renewing that call" for a citizens' assembly to thrash out a solution.

Read more: Joanna Cherry points out Nicola Sturgeon 'yet to flesh out' SNP's de facto referendum plans

But speaking on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, the SNP Education Secretary was asked if she believed those within the party who disagreed with the gender recognition reforms should leave.

She stressed that critics should not be forced to quit but added: "If you’re standing as an SNP candidate at an election on a manifesto, you should stand on that manifesto and you should follow that through.

“At the next election, you can, of course, then decide if you wish to be an SNP candidate.”

Ms Somerville warned it was “entirely up to” critics whether or not they re-stood for the SNP at the next election but stressed they should not be told to leave the party.

She added: “What I’m saying is if they wish to stand as an SNP candidate, and their branch and their constituency wish to have them, then they have to stand as SNP candidates on a manifesto, with an expectation that they would follow that through.”

Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, labelled Ms Somerville's reaction as a "significant intervention from one of Nicola Sturgeon's closest cabinet colleagues".

He added: "It seems there is no place in the SNP for anyone who disagrees with Nicola Sturgeon’s gender recognition plans."