NICOLA Sturgeon has been branded "out of step" by one of her own ministers in a heated discussion about trans rights.

The comments were made in a frank and private conversation between Ruth Maguire, who is the convenor of Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights, Ash Denham who sits in Sturgeon’s government as Minister for Community Safety, and prominent backbencher Gillian Martin.

It’s understood the discussion, which took place in February, was leaked online late on Tuesday night by a “party staffer who is disgruntled at the SNP lack of action against transphobia”.

The conversation was sparked after the First Minister addressed the UN on gender equality.

During the speech, Sturgeon said that she did not see greater recognition of trans rights as a threat to feminism, and that “some of the concerns that are expressed on the part of women” were “misplaced.”

The National: The image was leaked on to TwitterThe image was leaked on to Twitter

The First Minister’s remarks came after members of the SNP’s group had asked Shirley Anne Somervile, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People to pass on their concerns over the government's direction of travel on trans rights issues.

An exasperated Maguire shared a tweet from Engender’s Emma Ritch praising the First Minister’s “positive feminist analysis of trans rights.”

"FFS", the MSP tweeted in response.

Martin then says that the SNP leader is a “bit [out] of step with feelings of her group.”

Denham suggests Sturgeon “might be out of step because no one has conveyed group feelings to her”.

Maguire then asks the other two: “Surely [Shirley-Anne] wouldn't just have ignored what everyone said?"

The leaked conversation has infuriated other SNP elected officials.

MPs Stewart McDonald, Mhairi Black, Angela Crawley, all tweeted in support of trans rights.

“Trans rights are human rights. It’s that simple,” Black said.

The person who leaked the conversation told The National that the SNP needs to "take transphobic rhetoric more seriously".

They added: "We know trans people are more at risk of suicide and homelessness and more needs to be done to protect and ensure their rights.

"Commentary recently has been incredibly disheartening, and I'm surprised how quickly this blew up.

"I've been really reassured by all the people who have come out in support over the last 12hrs or so and hope that trans people who have felt attacked or afraid following recent comments by elected members see that, too."

An SNP spokesman said: “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.”

Macguire, Denham and Martin have all been approached for comment.