FORMER SNP members who quit the party over transphobic abuse and hatred say they fear promises to address the issue have come too late.

Teddy Hope and Emma Cuthbertson both left the party after its leaders failed to deal with complaints about abuse they, and others, suffered from other members.

Last week, Nicola Sturgeon vowed to tackle transphobia and said there would be a "zero tolerance" approach towards the issue.

READ MORE: SNP leaders pledge change over transphobia after Sturgeon's "zero tolerance" vow 

Her pledge was followed by a statement from the party's business convener Kirsten Oswald MP and depute leader Keith Brown MSP, which said the party had to have an "open conversation" about how to "remove the toxicity from our discussions".

They also said that the need for a definition of transphobia would be discussed at the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, which took place yesterday.

It is understood Ms Oswald brought up the need for a definition to be developed, and a further discussion about the issue is to take place at the next full meeting later this month. 

It comes after a raft of young activists quit their membership over concerns about the party’s stance on transgender rights.

Since the Scottish Government's plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) were consulted on in 2017, a nasty debate has developed around the rights of transgender people.

Divisions around reforming the GRA have split the SNP, with some people believing it provides an opportunity for sexual predators to identify as women to gain access to women-only spaces.

Others say critics are stigmatising transgender people and stoking up transphobia.

The reforms are aimed to make it easier for transgender people to declare their gender through self-identification, rather than go through lengthy medical screening and mental health assessments which some people find humiliating and stressful.

READ MORE: Calls for independent probe into SNP transphobia as former member reveals extent of abuse

Following the pledges last week, Teddy Hope, who was one of the party's prominent equalities campaigners, said they were worried that the promises were not enough.

The Herald:

Teddy told The Herald that a definition of transphobia, developed alongside the Equality Network and Out for Independence - the SNP's LGBT wing - was provided to the SNP's national secretary and other leaders last summer, but no feedback was given or action taken.

They said: "I feel that this has come far too late and it goes too deep.

"The thing that I'm worried about is that we've left the SNP to their own devices to fix this before. This is what people have been trying to do internally for years, but hey haven't fixed anything at all.

"Transphobia has become normalised within the party, with such prominent members able to say things that are transphobic and no action is taken.

"That's why I've said there should be a fully independent inquiry, led by the EHRC [Equality and Human Rights Commission] because I don't think the SNP is capable of dealing with this issue by itself.

"Another reason why I'm sceptical is because we submitted a definition of transphobia to the National Secretary, and others, last year. We never heard anything back. and nothing was done."

The Herald:

Emma Cuthbertson was a woman's officer in the SNP but handed in her membership card in March last year due to transphobic attacks and the party's failure to take any action.

She said she welcomed the commitment to tackle the problem within the party, but said: "It's a very small step on a very long journey for the SNP.

"It is good that they are now apparently taking things seriously, but actions are what is needed here. Until they start taking action against people who are transphobic then these are just words."

READ MORE: SNP equalities campaigner Teddy Hope quits, claims party ' hub of transphobia in Scotland'

Ms Cuthbertson said that while she hoped Ms Sturgeon's promise to take a zero tolerance approach was genuine, she added: "When it was individuals raising complaints and concerns about abusive behaviour, they took no action but when a whole group of people started quitting and affecting them financially, or potentially at the polls... that's when there seems to have been a decision to finally do something.

"It is hard to take it seriously when I know that nothing was done when people were being abused and victimised just because of who they were. They were ignored by the party.

"Its going to take a lot more than just adopting a definition of transphobia, and getting MSPs to tweet a picture of a trans flag every now and again to sort this out in the SNP, and it might be too late for them to properly get a grip on it."