A MAN’S a man for a’ that: for a’ that, and a’ that.

Robert Burns wrote that immortal line, as part of an egalitarian expression to the world, in 1795. It’s sadly ironic then that, over two centuries later, a rumbling turf war on equality - or maybe that should be TERF war - has finally broken its way out of its social media labyrinth into mainstream media focus.

I of course speak of the current debate around the Scottish Government’s intention to bring forward changes in the next legislative programme to reform the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA).

The GRA was groundbreaking when introduced as it allowed transgender people to obtain legal gender recognition for the first time. However, in the Scottish Government’s view, the GRA’s arrangements are complicated, time-consuming and unnecessarily intrusive for applicants. There is an admirable aim to improve the process.

Just so we are absolutely clear – I support making the world more equal for everyone, whatever their background, their race, skin colour, circumstances, beliefs, sex or anything else. Why, then, does it appear that so many women who also believe that are unable to express concerns about the GRA without being on the receiving end of some of the worst online abuse I’ve seen on social media?

I sometimes feel that I am living in some kind of surreal world. There are public figures and politicians criticising women for asking questions.

Of course Trans rights matter, but so do the voices of many women out there who are scared to speak out because they will be the latest to be abused online and labelled a TERF – Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist.

And that’s the thing about ‘public debate’ today. The overwhelming majority of the country probably haven’t even heard the term TERF, they’ve probably never even heard someone referred to as a ‘Cis’ Male or Cis Female either. Cis, apparently, is now the correct way to refer to someone who identifies to the gender that is the same as the sex they were born into.

With social media today, a generation is now increasingly speaking on behalf of the country instead of listening to the country to better inform debate. It makes sense to have terms, but when some people live in an online bubble within certain circles, they forget that the majority don’t.

Making Scotland a fairer place should happen. Saying that Trans Women are simply not allowed in any female spaces completely ignores their experiences and, for many of them, their trauma. That’s not okay.

For women that don’t feel under threat, great. But many women do feel vulnerable and they feel that on this issue their voices are being dismissed. What of women’s experiences and trauma many ask? Why does that get brushed aside and ranked below that of others? And that is the crux of the toxic nature of this debate that has seen many women abused online.

Earlier this week, members of my party were criticised when a private conversation they had on this very issue was leaked. Yet again, what we saw was a ganging up on women who dared to reflect the real and genuine concerns that many women had been raising with them. What is politics if you are only a voice for those whose voice is already listened to?

Trans people must be able to able to live their lives without facing discrimination. It is important that any debate about Trans rights and women’s rights is discussed respectfully. That’s not happening at the moment. Perhaps it is because we live in a world that instead of talking to each other we demand a debate which must have a winner and a loser, but as history has taught us, when we make society more equal we all win.

Chris McEleny is a member of the SNP’s National Executive Committee and the leader of the SNP group on Inverclyde Council.