Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of ‘throwing away’ three decades of campaigning for Scottish independence with her ‘nonsense’ gender rules overhaul.
Former SNP leader Alex Salmond launched the incendiary attack on his successor for wrecking their separatist dream with ‘daft ideology’.
The comments by Mr Salmond come amid growing signs Ms Sturgeon is suffering huge political damage from the controversial attempt to loosen gender identity laws – which has been blocked by Westminster.
At a toe-curling press conference yesterday, Mr Sturgeon struggled as she was repeatedly challenged on whether she regards trans rapist Isla Bryson as a woman.
She was also forced to admit that SNP politicians who oppose the gender legislation will not be kicked out of the party.
Footage posted on Twitter apparently shows ex-First Minister Mr Salmond – who now heads the Alba Party – speaking during a Burns Supper in Dundee on Saturday.
He said he had assumed that the leaders of the independence movement ‘well understood’ the need to win over ‘every part and section’ of Scotland.
He added: ‘But to get to a position where you say to a majority of our people that you cannot have single-sex spaces, priced and worked and strived for, because of some daft ideology imported from elsewhere – and as we’ve seen, imperfectly understood by its proponents in Scotland – borders on the totally absurd.’
Mr Salmond suggested the recent fall in support for independence was down to the gender row.
Mr Salmond is said to have made his comments during a Burns Supper for his Alba Party in Dundee on Saturday
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon reacts as she answers questions on Scottish Government issues at St Andrews House on Monday
He said: ‘Thirty years of gradually building, building, building until we get independence over 50 per cent and then thrown away with some self-indulgent nonsense which even if it was right – which it is nae – would hardly be tactically the most astute manoeuvre when we’re meant to be taking Scotland to its next date with destiny.’
At the press conference yesterday, Ms Sturgeon seemed to be carefully avoiding specifying the gender of Bryson, who was moved to a male prison after an outcry over the fact they were placed in a women’s prison.
But after the First Minister referred to Bryson as ‘her’, journalists picked up on it to which a clearly exasperated Ms Sturgeon responded: ‘Don’t read anything into… I am trying to rationally…
‘What I am trying to do is address the issues rather than take it into the headline-generating… I’m trying to rationally deal with the issues that arise here.’
Pushed on why she said ‘her’, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I can’t remember… I’ll take your word for it…
‘Isla Bryson calls herself a woman but what I’m trying to say is in the context of the prison service that is not the relevant factor here.
‘The relevant factor is the crime that the individual has committed and has been convicted of.’
When the journalists persisted that people had been asking ‘for days’ whether she regarded Bryson as a woman, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘She regards herself as a woman, I regard the individual as a rapist… and in the context of the prison service what matters is that the individual was convicted of rape and that is what we are talking about here.’
Ms Sturgeon was also asked whether she thought Bryson was ‘at it’ in changing gender.
Ms Sturgeon repeatedly referred to trans rapist Isla Bryson as ‘her’ today as she endured more awkward questions on gender
Ms Sturgeon said: ‘In this case, the individual is a rapist, that’s the important description for this individual.
‘They have been convicted of rape and they’re in prison and in a male prison.
‘So you deal with the individual – you don’t further stigmatise the entire group.’
The First Minister said her position on challenging the UK government’s use of Section 35 to block her gender laws had not changed, insisting it is important to have ‘clarity’.
Ms Sturgeon tried to calm the SNP civil war, suggesting critics of the gender recognition legislation will not have to leave the party.
At the weekend, education spokeswoman Shirley-Anne Somerville said rebels should ‘question’ if they want to stay in the party at the next election.