MINISTERS are poised to shelve plans to make it simpler for people to change their gender.

A consultation by the Scottish Government on the proposed changes ended on Tuesday and legislation was expected to be introduced imminently, allowing it to pass through Holyrood and become law before the May 2021 poll.

But it is understood the timescale is now on hold amid the coronavirus outbreak and the pressure on the Scottish Government to address the health and economic crisis as well as the blanket closure of schools.

A considerable amount of Holyrood time is to be taken up in the coming weeks with both Scottish and UK Government emergency legislation to deal with the pandemic.

Senior SNP insiders have told The National the gender recognition reform legislation one of a number of bills expected to be “pushed into the long grass” in the wake of the current public health situation, which is expected to continue until the summer.

“Regarding GRA reform, with the consultation closing, decisions have to be taken and I am hearing that it’s for the long grass,” one source said.

A second senior SNP insider added: “Certain bills are to go. You are on the right track that [the Gender Recognition Reform Bill] is one of them.”

Two of the most senior figures in the SNP close to the First Minister have recently called for the reforms to be shelved until after the Holyrood election next year.

In a newspaper article earlier this month Kevin Pringle, the former SNP’s director of communications, whose informal advice is still highly regarded by Nicola Sturgeon, said ministers should delay progress on the bill until after the 2021 election .

A second of the First Minister’s inner circle – Andrew Wilson, the author of the Growth Commission report – backed Pringle’s stance.

The government’s draft bill proposes to reform the process by which trans people gain legal recognition of their lived gender. Changes proposed include removing the requirement for medical evidence of gender dysphoria and reducing the minimum age from 18 to 16.

But the issue has caused divisions in the SNP and other parties, with Joanna Cherry, Kate Forbes and Joan McAlpine among leading SNP politicians to have raised concerns, in particular over the sex-based rights of women.