JOANNA Cherry has asked Nicola Sturgeon to intervene over abuse the MP has received over her views on women's rights and amid an escalating row between her and fellow MP Alyn Smith.

The two high-profile SNP politicians have publicly disagreed over the route to independence with Smith describing Cherry's proposal for Holyrood to legislate to hold a second referendum as a "gesture".

Today the tensions between the duo took a new twist as Cherry responded to claims in a newspaper report about concerns regarding party infighting and foreign interference in the independence movement.

She pointed to abuse she had received from trans rights activists – both from people overseas and from inside the SNP – including people she said "were close to Smith".

She said the article "reads like another attempt to smear me".

Cherry, a QC and the party's justice and home affairs spokeswoman at Westminster, is among a number of senior figures in the party who have concerns about the Scottish Government's plans to make it easier for people to change their gender.

She said she had raised the abuse she had received from inside the SNP with the party but no action had been taken.

"When is someone in the leadership of my party going to call out the campaign of abuse, smears and violent intimidation against me? I am pleading with our leader Nicola Sturgeon to do something or at the very least acknowledge the problem I face," she tweeted today.

"To those who say Joanna don’t do this in the public domain I say I have repeatedly raised this with the SNP to no avail and everyone even a middle aged lesbian has the right to defend their good name and their personal safety. Thank you."

The Times reported that senior figures in the SNP believed "party infighting and foreign interference" are the key factors undermining its drive for a second independence referendum and cited Smith as working "to root out the boots and trolls".

In her Twitter thread Cherry said she had received frequent abuse on social media platforms in the United States for standing up for women's rights and drew attention to a violent image she had been targeted with.

Taking aim at Smith, she wrote: "Unfortunately this problem started close to home and continues [to be] led by a number of actors some of whom are SNP members and close to Mr Smith. Despite my complaints indeed pleas for help nothing has been done to address this issue.

"The idea that Mr Smith is “leading work to root out online bots and trolls within the SNP” is laughable. Here is a sample of the work of such trolls from a man who is close to Mr Smith. I asked him to speak with the man. He refused."

Cherry added: "At the weekend a number of SNP parliamentarians, councillors and employees joined with other parties to sign a letter defaming me. It has since been altered but only under threat of legal action. One of the signatories works for the First Minister.

"Last year as part of this campaign of intimidation I received what Police Scotland and the Met considered a credible death threat and required police protection. As you can imagine this takes quite a toll on me, my girlfriend, my family and my staff."

READ MORE: Ex-women's prison chief quits SNP over Hate Crime Bill and gender reform plans

Critics of the proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act include Cherry and the SNP MSP Joan McAlpine who fear the plans could infringe single-sex services.

Last year a number of senior figures in the party launched a pledge calling for women to have the right to discuss such policies.

Rhona Hotchkiss, a former governor of Cornton Vale Prison in Stirling, who was among those who signed the Women's Pledge quit the party last week over the planned reforms as well as the government's Hate Crime Bill.

She wrote on Twitter: "I resign. I cannot be in a party where the abuse of women goes uncommented on, where campaigning around retaining the meaning of ‘woman’ will become a prosecutable offence and where our most vulnerable women are sacrificed on the altar of men’s feelings."

The Times article highlighted criticisms Smith had made of the decision by the SNP Common Weal Group to run a list of candidates for the party’s national executive committee (NEC) being elected over the party's conference.

Cherry is among the candidates endorsed by the group who are calling for internal democratic reforms and a commitment to start a Yes campaign.

During an interview on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland (GMS) today the First Minister was asked about the abuse Cherry had received.

She said she had not seen Cherry's tweets this morning and didn't know "what she was talking about". 

But she then added she was aware of the abuse Cherry had received and and "condemned the abuse anybody gets" including Cherry.

Catriona MacDonald, the SNP's Holyrood candidate for Edinburgh South, who also works for Cherry, responded to the First Minister's comments. 

She tweeted: "Solidarity with Joanna Cherry who continues to stand up for women's rights and freedom of speech in the face of horrendous misogynistic and homophobic abuse. Nicola Sturgeon rightly condemned this abuse on BBC GMS today. There is no excuse. Women will not be shouted down."

Independence campaigner Lesley Riddoch commented on Twitter: "Half-hearted support from Nicola Sturgeon on BBC GMS for Joanna Cherry whose morning thread revealed threats and intimidation over her stance on women's rights.

"Hard to see why SNP leader couldn't explicitly back one of her most able and hard-working MPs. Very disappointing."