THE SNP have refused to confirm whether they will take action against rebel MSPs who defied the party whip on a vote on gender recognition reform.

Nine MSPs from the party voted against or abstained in Wednesday’s vote – thought to be the SNP’s biggest ever rebellion in their 15 years in government.

Among them was Ash Regan, the former minister for community safety, who resigned from the government just hours before the vote – which saw the legislation pass at its first stage – because she said her “conscience” would not allow her to back the legislation.

The SNP have so far refused to confirm whether rebel MSPs will lose the whip or face action for their defiance. A spokesperson said: “As is normal practice, SNP MSPs are expected to support government legislation.”

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They refused to be drawn further on whether the MSPs would face expulsion from the party - which would take the SNP down to 55 members and leave them more reliant on Green support to push through legislation.

'Soft touch' accusations 

The rebellion and the apparent lack of consequences for those involved has led to accusations the party’s chief whip George Adam (below), who is responsible for ensuring party discipline, is failing to run a tight ship when it comes to the controversial issue of reforming gender recognition law.

The National: George Adam, left, has failed to give detail on whether action will be taken against the GRA rebels (Photograph by Colin Mearns)George Adam, left, has failed to give detail on whether action will be taken against the GRA rebels (Photograph by Colin Mearns) (Image: Colin Mearns, Newsquest)

Adam was approached for comment.

Ellie Gomersall, president of the National Union of Students and a Scottish Greens activist, called on the party to “grow a backbone” on the issue and said SNP rebels defied the party safe in the knowledge they would “get away with it”.

She added: “I think the SNP should reflect a little bit on why this has happened because I think the SNP have, for many, many years, shown to be a soft touch when it comes to their members who speak out particularly against the party’s own commitment on trans issues.

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“Those seven MSPs who did vote against did so knowing exactly that, that they could get away with it because the SNP never take action on members when they speak up against the advancement of trans rights.”

Who are the GRA rebels? 

Regan was joined by Stephanie Callaghan, Fergus Ewing, Kenneth Gibson, Ruth Maguire, John Mason and Michelle Thomson in voting against the legislation in defiance of their party’s official stance.

Thomson has confirmed she has not heard from the whip's office. 

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SNP MSPs Annabelle Ewing and Jim Fairlie did not vote – also against the party whip, which required members to support the government.

The Gender Recognition Reform Bill aims to make it easier for transgender people to change their sex on official documents such as their birth certificate to match the gender with which they identify.

Critics claim it will make it easier for predatory men to access single-sex spaces but supporters say the current process to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) is distressing for trans people.

Currently, trans people must obtain a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria – emotional distress caused by experiencing life in a body which does not align with a person’s gender identity – or prove to officials they have lived in what is called their acquired gender for at least two years.

The National has approached the nine rebel MSPs for comment.