A TORY MSP is facing intense criticism after he suggested there was a connection between people having learning disabilities and being transgender.

Stephen Kerr, the Scottish Conservatives’ education spokesperson, said he took “full responsibility” for a tweet posted on Friday morning which said there were questions around gender reform that former first minister Nicola Sturgeon “didn't bother with”.

“Why are more young people wanting to change their gender? Is there a link with having learning/development disabilities?” he asked.

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He claimed the questions had not been addressed because the Scottish Government “don’t care”.

The post led to a rapid backlash, and Kerr quickly deleted it.

In its place, he posted a second, similar but toned-down tweet which read: “The change of First Minister gave the chance for the ScotGov to review the Gender Reform Bill, and ask questions which weren't addressed previously.

“Most importantly, ScotGov could reconsider their opposition to some very sensible opposition amendments. But it hasn't happened.”

Scottish Green MSP Maggie Chapman said: “This is exactly the kind of language that has seen transphobic hate crime triple in recent years. The longer the Tories are in power the worse their attacks on minority groups get, with no concern about where promoting such hate will lead, the damage it will do, or the lives it will ruin.

“Today Stephen Kerr has recognised that he went too far and rowed his comments back. I hope he’ll take this moment to reflect on his actions. But I fully expect that tomorrow he’ll be back with fresh attacks and disinformation instead.”

SNP councillor Fatima Joji shared Kerr’s original tweet, writing: “I have no words. Look at that second paragraph. Is he for real?”

She further said it was “appalling” and “problematic” to suggest that people were transgender because of learning or development issues.

Joji told The National: “Mr Kerr finds the [Gender Recognition Reform Bill] problematic and has in the past through speeches suggested trans women are a threat to our safety and spaces as women.

“The manner in which he has included people with disabilities in his comment, appears to suggest that he finds sections of the disabled community to be a problem, where he finds GRR to be a problem.

“I think it’s frankly disgusting, irresponsible, and stigmatising.”

The National:

Twitter account MSM Monitor wrote: "This needs to be widely reported and condemned. Will [Scottish Tory leader] Douglas Ross take action against Kerr? Will BBC Scotland and STV News report this?"

Kerr told The National that the post had been written by a member of his team, but that he took full responsibility.

The Tory MSP said: “I take full responsibility for everything on my Twitter and would like to apologise for any offence caused.

“The tweet was written in haste by a member of my team and then deleted as it does not reflect my views.”