THE SNP has issued a statement amid accusations of transphobia within the party, saying there needs to be "an open conversation about how we got here".

The message came after Nicola Sturgeon released a video after reports of young people leaving the party in "significant" numbers over the issue.

The SNP statement, which was posted on Twitter, was signed by Kirsten Oswald – the party's Business Convener – and Deputy leader Keith Brown.

It read: "Yesterday, a number of members left the SNP because they do not consider the party to be a safe, tolerant place for trans people. We are sorry that we've let you down and today pledge ourselves to change. The SNP does not and will not tolerate transphobia.

"We all need to have an open conversation about how we got here and how we remove the toxicity from our discussions. Discussions and debate should always be constructive and respectful.

"The protection of women's rights is vital. However, transphobia under a guise of concern for women's rights is still transphobia. Anyone can have a strongly held opinion without the need to insult, offend or display prejudice against others, and that's the place we all need to reach.

WATCH: Nicola Sturgeon speaks out against accusations of transphobia in SNP

It went on: "Transphobia is just as unacceptable as racism, homophobia and sexism. And trans people have as much right as anyone to feel safe, secure, valued and respected for who they are.

"We are an inclusive party and we always have been. The SNP has always been a family for those who believe in independence. A number of members have recently left because they felt they were not welcome anymore. But they are. And we hope they will reconsider and re-engage.

"It's clear that we have work to do. A number of initial requests will go to the NEC this weekend including the need to agree a definition of transphobia so that all SNP members know the standard of behaviour that is expected from them.

The statement also said complaints against individuals will be considered "very fairly" by the party's National Secretary.

It added: "All complaints will be considered without fear or favour. For anyone thinking about leaving the party — please talk to us before you do. We have already reached out to our youth organisations and Out For Indy to allow those affected to talk to us directly about their concerns.

"We know we have work to do, so please help us shape the future of the SNP. Let's work towards a more progressive, equal, independent Scotland."

In a strongly-worded, apparently unscripted, message on social media last night, the First Minister said that "silence was not an option" any longer. 

She said: "This is a message from me as SNP leader on the issue of transphobia. I don't have much time for anything other than the fight against Covid right now but on some days silence is not an option.

"This message was not planned, it's not scripted, I haven't consulted with armies of advisers. That might be obvious. But what you're about to hear comes from my heart. Over the course of the day I've heard reports of young people in significant numbers leaving the SNP.

"I know many of you personally - I consider you friends, I have campaigned alongside you. You are a credit to our party and our country. It grieves me deeply that you've reached this conclusion after much soul searching because you consider at this stage the SNP not to be a safe, tolerant or welcoming place for trans people.

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She went on: "It's not acceptable to me. As SNP leader, I will do everything I can to change that impression and persuade all of you that the SNP is your party and that you should come home where you belong. Yes, we have differences of opinion on gender recognition reform. We should debate them openly and respectfully but no debate can be a cover for transphobia.

"Trans people have as much right as any of us to be safe, secure and valued for who they are. Transphobia is wrong and we must treat it with the zero tolerance we treat racism or homophobia. Those are the principles I want to characterise the SNP and the country that I am privileged to lead.

READ MORE: Scottish Greens hit back at Andy Wightman criticism over transgender row

The First Minister continued: "They are also the principles and values that I want to underpin the independent Scotland I've spent my whole life campaigning for. I don't support that as an end in itself but as a means to a better, fairer more just Scotland. Now some will criticise this message and say it doesn't go far enough or that the words are hollow and unless we prove we mean them and I am determined we will.

"No doubt others will accuse me of being woke. I don't care. Sometimes particularly as a leader it's vital to speak up for what is right and against injustice. That is why I am posting this message and I am grateful to you for listening."