IAN Blackford has sacked Joanna Cherry as the SNP's Westminster spokesperson on Justice and Home Affairs. 

The Edinburgh South West MP announced the party leader's decision on Twitter. 

She wrote: "Despite hard work, results & a strong reputation I’ve been sacked today from @theSNP front bench. My constituents & fellow party members who gave me a resounding mandate in recent NEC elections should rest assured that I will continue to work hard for them.

READ MORE: Ian Blackford told Joanna Cherry she's 'not a team player and upsets people'

"Westminster is increasingly irrelevant to Scotland's constitutional future and @theSNP would do well to radically re-think our strategy."

Blackford said it was part of a reshuffle to "draw on new talent and ensure the SNP has the best possible team in Westminster as Scotland faces the challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit".

He said: "Team working and cooperation are key to ensure results and this reshuffle will give us a strong team to take us forward. We have an incredibly hard-working group of MPs – I thank them all for their commitment and congratulate those in new positions."

He added: "We are at a crucial time in politics. Never before have we faced a challenge as great as the global pandemic, and Scotland is acutely feeling the ramifications of leaving the European Union.

READ MORE: Joanna Cherry replaced by Stuart McDonald and Anne McLaughlin in SNP reshuffle

"With the Scottish elections on the horizon and independence in touching distance, our new team is ready to work hard for Scotland." 

Cherry has been a high-profile critic of the Scottish Government’s plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act. 

The plan to make it simpler for trans people to receive a gender recognition certificate has created a huge split in the SNP.

That rift in the party came to a head last week when Cherry came to the defence of a gender critical activist suspended by Twitter. 

Sarah Phillimore was suspended from the social media platform for violating its rules against “hateful conduct".

The MP said Twitter had overreached, saying the moderation policies were "a violation of #FreeSpeech & your hateful conduct policy does not protect women".

But that defence upset members of Out for Independence, the official LGBTQ+ wing of the SNP, who criticised Cherry for offering Phillimore her support. 

“As an inclusive, intersectional organisation we condemn the support given to Sarah Phillimore today by an SNP MP,” they wrote.

“Phillimore's antisemitism and transphobia are not part of the Scotland we want to see - bigotry in all forms must be opposed.”

Cherry replied to the tweet, labelling it “grossly defamatory”.

She added: “I’ve reported it to the party’s National Secretary & he has promised me to take urgent action,” she told the group.

“Your attacks on a prominent party representative who is also a lesbian are disgraceful,” she added.

Cherry's Westminster colleague, Kirsty Blackman, disagreed.

“I often disagree with daft moderation policies by social media companies, but in this instance they should be praised for censoring or banning someone for spouting transphobia or antisemitism, rather than criticised.”

She added: “Like so many in the SNP, I continue to oppose both transphobia and antisemitism.”

She used the hashtag “#IstandWithOFI”.

“I’m no QC,” Blackman added, “but for something to be defamation, doesn’t it have to be, err, untrue?”

Last week, a number of high profile trans activists resigned from the party, partly because of the Cherry row, and partly because of reforms the Hate Crime Bill.

That led to Nicola Sturgeon taking to Twitter to promise transphobia would be met with "zero tolerance".

In a video, she said: "That is 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 you should come home where you belong.”

On Thursday, the SNP's Business Convenor, Kirsten Oswald, and the Depute Leader, Keith Brown, said the party would be drawing up a definition of transphobia in a bid to tackle the problem.

“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."

One SNP MP told The National, Blackford had been left with little choice: "How many times can you make us look like fools?"

They added: "Being a front bencher does matter. If you're going to be that disloyal there needs to be consequences. She's going to claim victimhood and that it was a great big conspiracy. It's not."