ONE of Holyrood’s most senior equalities figures is at the centre of a row after she shared comments that were deemed to be insensitive to transgender people.

SNP MSP Ruth Maguire, who chairs the Parliament equalities and human rights committee, thanked Nationalist colleague Joan McAlpine who had come out against plans to give trans people an option in the census sex question.

In a series of tweets, McAlpine also hit out at some women’s groups for not listening to “ordinary” females she claims are concerned about the implications of the ongoing debate on gender identity.

It has now emerged Maguire backed McAlpine during a Holyrood debate and thanked her for bringing up “a matter that many of us have been uncomfortable about raising.”

Proposed amendments to the Gender Recognition Act could mean transgender people would be able to declare themselves male, female or non-binary, without having to show medical evidence or live in their acquired gender for two years, as is needed currently.

However, critics have argued that a system of self-identification could be abused and allow predatory males access to vulnerable women in prisons, refuges and Rape Crisis centres.

Separately, the National Records of Scotland proposed that the mandatory sex question in the census should include a non-binary option, as well as male and female.

But Holyrood’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs committee, which looked at the census plans, criticised a lack of “consultation” with women’s groups on the census and argued that sex and gender had been conflated.

It concluded: “The Committee also recommended by a majority that the next census should continue to offer a binary male/female question in order to maximise response rates and maintain consistency with previous censuses.”

However, the row blew up last month after McAlpine, who chairs the CTEE committee, posted a Twitter thread on the subject.

The Nationalist MSP wrote that birth sex should still be recorded in order to monitor sex discrimination, adding that sex exemptions in the Equality Act are “vital” for privacy and dignity: “This matters as more men self ID as women while retaining male bodies and male genitals.”

McAlpine also wrote that she was disappointed with the position adopted by “official” women’s groups: “They will not listen to concerns of many ordinary women in Scotland who fear that the definition of female is being replaced with a concept of "gender identity" based on 1950s sexist stereotypes. This is not a feminism I recognise.”

In an open letter to McAlpine, a range of organisations hit back by suggesting the MSP’s claims were “completely inaccurate.”

Days after McAlpine’s tweets, Maguire said in the Scottish Parliament chamber: “In concluding, I thank my colleague Joan McAlpine for speaking up this week and for raising a matter that many of us have been uncomfortable about raising. I thank all women who do that.”

She also retweeted the first message in McAlpine’s social media thread and liked McAlpine’s tweet which thanked everyone who shared her contributions.

Maguire's Holyrood committee exists to prevent and eliminate discrimination.

Asked about Maguire’s comments, Stonewall Scotland campaigns manager Sophie Bridger said:

“Trans people are facing high levels of abuse and discrimination so it’s crucial that public discussions about trans equality are respectful and informed. Fortunately we’ve been meeting MSPs over the past few months who want to find out more.

“Finding out the facts is absolutely vital because while we wait for the outcome of the Scottish Government’s consultation into the reform of the Gender Recognition Act, we know a lot of fear and misinformation has spread. Divisive, toxic debates not only prevent constructive and progressive discussion, they have a profound impact on trans people’s quality of life. Now more than ever we need allies to come out in support of trans people and trans equality.”