‘I FELT heartbroken,” Rayya Ghul tells me over the phone. “I just sat and stared at the page where you resign your membership. I sat and stared at it for ages before I did it.”

Rayya, a university lecturer, is one of the significant number of former SNP members who have left the party over the past week.

“I’m an academic. I’m all for debate. I’m all for listening to other people’s views,” she continues, “but there are times when you have to take a stand and be counted.”

Listening to former members of the party, it becomes clear that no single moment prompted the exodus. Rather, this was for them the culmination of a steady stream of repeated failures to act, leaving many with no choice but to painfully step away from an organisation they had poured years into.

“There just comes a point at which you have to accept that staying beyond that is being complicit in something that you find abhorrent,” one former member told me. “I’ve probably been complicit for much longer than I’m admitting to myself.”

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Allegations of transphobia within the SNP have grown steadily over the past two years, at least. One former member cited an event in 2019, when a speaker who referred to trans women as “parasites” was invited to talk in Holyrood on Trans Day of Remembrance.

The breaking point for many came last week when MP Joanna Cherry tweeted in support of fellow gender critical activist Sarah Phillimore, whose Twitter account had been suspended for "hateful conduct".

“Nothing was done about that,” one former member told me. “Then the day after the Hate Crime Bill amendments were released and I thought, that’s it. I can’t stay.”

“There was just this sort of feeling of waiting and waiting for something to be done,” another said. “I just finally came to the realisation that you can stay in the party and say that you’re fighting from the inside, but is it really a fight if no-one is listening and if no-one is doing anything?”

Doubts had been growing for some time that the SNP were not taking member’s concerns around the behaviour of elected parliamentarians seriously. While receiving a wave of complaints over Cherry’s actions on Twitter the National Secretary, who is responsible for compiling them, was allegedly retweeting Cherry from his personal account. He later deactivated his profile.

Another activist said: “My complaint wasn’t acknowledged at all. I didn’t get a reply.”

Another former member told me: “I know from other members that [allegations of transphobia] were brought up at NEC meetings.

“Nothing was done. It was all platitudes. It was ‘we’re trans allies’ but when it actually comes down to it, they were pushing back.”

Young people especially felt dismay at the party’s lack of action. Jack Boag, a former member, told me: “They need Young Scots for Independence and the students to knock on doors, but then we’re not listened to when we say these are the things we want to change in the party.”

Some of the young activists I spoke to told of travelling from Glasgow to Shetland to campaign in by-elections, or from Aberdeen to Bellshill to promote council candidates.

The people leaving are “people that everybody knows”, one former member told me, “because they are the people who do things and make themselves known and turn up to conferences and run the fundraisers”.

Failure to act now would “lose even more of the people who actually stuff the envelopes, knock the doors, talk to the voters, and hand out the leaflets,” they added.

Despite their frustrations, however, most still considered Nicola Sturgeon to be a trans ally.

Pointing to the off-the-cuff video released by the First Minister addressing concerns of transphobia within the party, Rayya tells me: “I think she’s genuinely worried about the SNP being seen like that. I don’t think that’s how she wants the SNP to be seen.”

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

“I was delighted to see Nicola Sturgeon responded on the day that several people left,” another told me.

“I thought, here is someone who listens and perhaps our actions do create some positive change” before concluding “but it would be what I would term the bare minimum.”

The First Minister’s invitation to “come home” appealed to many of those I spoke to – but not before progress is made. Two clear themes for reconciliation emerged: action and accountability.

“People can have the views they want, but they need to be accountable for the culture

that they are creating,” Rayya says. “I’m not interested in recriminations against members of the party who I don’t like. I just want justice and equality for trans people. It’s overdue.

“If they had just taken the results of the first consultation and put Gender Recognition Act reform through, yeah, it would have ruffled a few feathers but it wouldn’t have … actually divided people. It’s really sad that that happened.”

Listening to those who left paints a picture of frustration and deep sadness that things have been allowed to fester for as long as they have. Whatever action the party take though, it may not be enough to bring some back.

As one former member noted: “For me it’s not just whether I would want to come back to the party. It’s whether I feel I was even wanted.

“The way things are now, and the comments I’ve received ... I know I wouldn’t be welcome.”