A MEMBER of the SNP’s ruling body has weighed into the row over transgender rights in the party, accusing some activists of “ganging up on women” who disagree with them and creating a “toxic” debate.

Chris McEleny, a grassroots representative on the SNP’s National Executive Committee, said some trans campaigners were living in a social media “bubble” and presumptuously “speaking on behalf of the country” instead of listening to it.

Mr McEleny the leader of the SNP opposition group on Inverclyde Council makes the comments in an opinion piece for today’s Herald Scotland online.

READ MORE: Chris McEleny: Stop trying to silence people in this 'Terf war' on trans rights

He defends the three female MSPs whose disquiet about new self-declaratory gender recognition laws was revealed through the leak of private messages on Tuesday.

Minister Ash Denham, former minister Gillian Martin and Holyrood equalities committee convener Ruth Maguire said Nicola Sturgeon was “out of step” with colleagues on the issue.

The leak provoked a backlash from trans activists and some of the SNP’s own MPs.

READ MORE: SNP MSPs say Nicola Sturgeon 'out of step' on transgender rights

The First Minister and Equalities Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville then intervened to say they would listen to the concerns of those who think self-identification could be a Trojan horse for abusive men to enter female spaces with malicious intent.

Ms Somerville admitted the debate was becoming “very polarised”.

The Scottish Government consulted a year ago on whether to change the 2004 Gender Recognition Act to allow transgender people to self-declare their legal gender.

Although 60 per cent of respondents supported the move, the government has yet to announce its next steps, after many of its own MSPs privately expressed concerns.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon responds to 'concerns' over transgender rights

Defending those who do so, Mr McEleny said: “Why does it appear that so many women…. 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?

“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.”

Referring to the jargon-laden debate around trans rights, he said people who “live in an online bubble within certain circles” forgot most Scots don’t know what they’re talking about.

He said it was wrong that concerns about trans rights eroding other women’s rights - for example, by allowing male-born transgender women to use female spaces - were “brushed aside” and the making raising them subjected to online abuse.

READ MORE: SNP equalities chief in row over trans rights comments

Defending the three female MSPs in particular, he said: “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?”