JOANNA Cherry has said some SNP members have engaged in "performative histrionics redolent of the Salem witch trials" in her sacking from the front bench.

Ian Blackford, the party's Westminster leader, demoted Cherry as Westminster spokesperson on Justice and Home Affairs last week. 

In response, Cherry accused party bosses of "Stalinism" after she was only given 30 minutes' notice of her removal from the position. 

READ MORE: Joanna Cherry was unwise to call the actions of her colleagues ‘Stalinist’

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".

But Cherry wrote in The New Statesman: "The reasons for my sacking were not made clear but I was not surprised. For some time a small but vocal cohort of my SNP colleagues has engaged in performative histrionics redolent of the Salem witch trials.

"The question – do you believe or have you ever believed that women are adult human females? – is one I must answer in the affirmative, but it’s not a response that is popular with some who have the ear of the leadership."

READ MORE: Joanna Cherry: Attempts to smear or intimidate won’t make SNP stronger

Cherry has been a high-profile critic of the Scottish Government’s plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act, which will make it simpler for trans people to receive a gender recognition certificate. It has caused a huge split in the SNP.

Cherry, who has been a persistent critic of Nicola Sturgeon and is viewed as an ally of Alex Salmond, has now claimed the SNP is in "turmoil".

She went on: "The turmoil in the SNP is unprecedented, but I’m comforted by the knowledge that the party is bigger than any individual, and we are strong enough to withstand this."

Cherry spoke out before Sturgeon is due to give evidence at the Salmond Inquiry at Holyrood next week.

Salmond has accused his successor as SNP leader of breaking the ministerial code, a claim denied by the First Minister.

Cherry said she spent the weekend after her sacking refusing to speak to the press about the inquiry, adding: "I found myself fending off press bids to comment on the planned appearances of Peter Murrell and Alex Salmond at the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish government’s handling of complaints against Alex. I declined.

"Alex is well able to look after himself, and the truth has a habit of coming out eventually."

READ MORE: Joanna Cherry's sacking was wrong, says SNP's former PR chief

Cherry, who came out as a lesbian in the 80s, said she was campaigning against Section 28 when the SNP were "undecided" about it.

She said: "A large part of my career as a lawyer was spent standing up for women’s rights and prosecuting sex crimes against women and children. So it is particularly galling to be misrepresented by those who have come late to the field of the battle for equality."

Cherry concluded: "Support for independence has consistently been above 50% in the past 20 polls and the independence movement is broader than the SNP. On 5 February a new grassroots, non-party organisation called Now Scotland launched with the aim of achieving independence as soon as possible. I am confident the cause will prevail."

The rift over gender issues in the party came to a head two weeks ago 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.”

READ MORE: Man charged in connection with 'vicious threat' sent to Joanna Cherry

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?”

A number of high profile trans activists resigned from the SNP recently, 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.”

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

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."