OPPOSITION to gender recognition reform among SNP politicians should be “respected like any other conscience issue” according to the party’s Westminster leader.

The statement puts Stephen Flynn at odds with some other prominent figures within the party – including the Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville and fellow MP Alyn Smith, both of whom have suggested those opposed to the plans should quit the SNP.

Speaking to The Guardian, Flynn said: “Within any political parties, there has to be space for people to disagree and to disagree without being disagreeable. I think that’s incredibly important.”

His comments were welcomed by Joanna Cherry, one of the SNP’s most vocal internal critics on gender issues, who tweeted a link to the article with the caption: “Thank you [Stephen Flynn].”

Flynn acknowledged there was “understandable public concern” surrounding the case of two sex offenders who began transitioning from men to women after they were convicted.

One of these, the double rapist Isla Bryson, was briefly housed in segregation at the Cornton Vale women’s prison in Stirling.

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His comments come amid a fierce war of words among the differing factions within the SNP, with Stirling MP Smith saying those like Cherry who were opposed to the Scottish Government’s gender recognition reforms should quit the party.

Somerville, who has held roles in Nicola Sturgeon’s cabinets continuously since 2018, said those opposed to the reforms ought to “question” whether the SNP was the right party for them.