SNP members with disabilities were subjected to vicious online abuse over leaked legal advice about measures to increase diversity in Holyrood, it has emerged.

Guidance was published on Wings Over Scotland after the SNP’s ruling National Executive Council adopted new equalities measures.

The body chose new rules over its selection process for the regional list in the Scottish Parliament elections, designating top-of-the-list spaces in some areas for people with disabilities and others for black, Asian and minority ethnic hopefuls.

A solicitor said the proposal may not be lawful and could be struck down in a court challenge, a disclosure that led to controversy.

Now Jamie Szymkowiak, the SNP's disabled members' convener, says the row also saw abuse directed at party members with a range of conditions.

The former recruitment company boss, who is today launching his campaign for the SNP's top spot on the Highlands and Islands regional list, says the online nature of the insults means it's uncertain how much of this was from within the SNP.

READ MORE: SNP back plan to put BAME and disabled candidates at top of Holyrood list

He told the Sunday National that Labour faced court challenges when bringing in all-women shortlists in the 1990s and the SNP's move "should’ve been seen as a bold step in making our parliament more inclusive, more representative".

He went on: "I spent the following few days supporting disabled people in my party who were subjected to horrendous abuse. They were labelled ‘mongs’, ‘crippleds’, ‘freaks’ and ‘spastics’ – serious health conditions were mocked and trivialised.

"It felt like the progress to make my party more inclusive rolled back decades overnight."

The comments come one day before ballots open.

Szymkowiak, the convener of Dunoon SNP in Argyll, has Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, which affects his mobility. He said: "My joints don’t bend and I must use aids to get dressed every day. I cannot reach my right foot, I cannot run, I cannot jump, I cannot ride a bike.

"I struggle to get on many of the buses that connect rural Scotland and the passenger ferry that links Dunoon to Gourock was not designed for people like me.

"We know that disabled people are more likely to experience poverty, face additional barriers in education and to employment and are more likely to die from Covid. Lived experience like mine shouldn’t be limited to consultations, it must be at the heart of decision making."

READ MORE: SNP's ruling body to vote on ways to elect more disabled and ethnic minority people

He went on: "Scotland’s parliament must look like Scotland’s people – and that’s why I’m asking members across the Highlands and Islands to back me.

"Disabled people make up 20% of Scotland’s population – that’s a lot of potential Yes votes.

"The independence movement, rightly, recognises the significant contributions from Women for Independence and Business for Scotland and I’m determined that the same value is attributed to the votes of disabled people."

Symkowiak, who has campaigned to reduce barriers to elected office at all levels of politics, continued: "As a disability rights activist, I’m proud of the fact that I can tell my fellow Scots that my party is willing to challenge the status quo and sees full participation in public life for disabled people as something worth fighting for.

"In politics people will always judge you and, as a disabled person, I’m used to it. I’ll leave them to it while I get on with making the case for an independent Scotland becoming the best country to live and work in for everyone."

An SNP source said: "There is no room for abuse like this in a modern Scotland. This highlights the barriers that disabled people have when entering politics, which is why SNP conference delegates voted for action on this issue."