SNP MSP Fergus Ewing has warned Humza Yousaf about plans to ban conversion therapy ahead of the government publishing a consultation on the issue tomorrow.

The long serving parliamentarian and former rural affairs secretary, who is a prominent critic of his party's deal with the Scottish Greens, urged the First Minister to avoid controversial policies this year following its decision to shelve other legislation which had met considerable public criticism.

The MSP for Inverness and Nairn cited the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, the deposit return scheme and plans to bring in new restrictions on fishing as policies which had been paused after public disquiet. 

He compared potential aspects of the forthcoming plans to ban conversion therapy as it could relate to family life with issues that led to the demise of the named person scheme.

READ MORE: SNP ministers to unveil conversion therapy ban proposals in January

Instead of potentially creating new controversies, Mr Ewing said Mr Yousaf should focus on 'competent government' and on areas such as education, the NHS, the economy and building more homes. In his first speech today of the new year, the First Minister focused on economic policy and said he would be giving a series of speeches on the subject.

Writing in the current edition of his local paper, the Strathspey and Badenoch Herald, Mr Ewing said since the SNP had done the deal with the Greens it was like the party was going through a "kind of late adolescence".

He pointed out he had voted against what he said were "such madcap policies as the dire deposit return bottle scheme",  Highly Protected Marine Areas, "the imposition of heat pumps for older Highland homes" and the Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

READ MORE: What is conversion therapy? Explained in five minutes

He added:  "These are all the policies resulting from our cooperation agreement with the Green Party.      

"In my view this deal has been a total disaster for Scotland, and has seriously damaged my party and its reputation.       

"Having served the SNP for 50 years now, I see the last few years as an aberration - a kind of late adolescence of the party - from which we must surely emerge at some point soon.   

"Yet the current leadership says its “worth its weight in gold"."

He added: "Utterly predictably, the Gender Bill was declared ultra vires by the Courts.  Though passed by a majority of MSPs, it was proven to be opposed by two thirds of all Scottish people according to every opinion poll. 2023 ended with pledges to bring forward yet more controversial law - to ban so called “conversion therapy.

"Already several voices in the Churches have expressed their concern about this: Concern that it will inevitably impair and impinge upon parental rights. And not only of parents but possibly also teachers,  doctors and men and women of the cloth too.   

READ MORE: Conversion therapy will be Scotland's next culture war

"Remember that it was the concerns of most parents that led to the demise of the doomed “named person” plan.  I did not come across any parents who were happy about the prospect of some third party having power  - unclear and unspecified power at that - over their own children.          

"My hope for 2024 in political terms, therefore is fairly simple. Let’s concentrate on the basics:  Health,  education the economy, building homes not creating more controversies - usually ending in tears. So - First Minister - let’s focus on competent Government please. 2023 saw more political dramas than your average soap opera. Please make 2024, by contrast, a very boring year!"

Conversion therapy is any practice of attempting to change or suppress an individual's sexuality or gender identity. This can include practices based around religion such as prayer or religious teaching.

A ban on conversion therapy was included in the Bute House Agreement reached between the SNP and the Scottish Greens in 2021, which brought the smaller pro-independence party into government for the first time.

Equalities minister Emma Roddick last month said the Scottish Government would be publishing its consultation for a bill proposing to ban conversion therapy on January 9.

The announcement was welcomed then by the Scottish Greens who have campaigned in favour of a ban.

Maggie Chapman, the party's equality spokesperson, told The Herald last month: “This is an important moment and a major step towards the comprehensive ban on conversion practices that LGBTQIA+ people across Scotland desperately need.

“The reality is that conversion practices are abuse. No more, no less. Anything that has the pre-determined goal of preventing someone from being who they are cannot be called therapy, and has no place in a society that values and respects human rights and dignity.

“Last year in the Scottish Parliament we heard from witness after witness about the immeasurable and often irreparable harm these practices cause those it targets. There’s no place for it in Scotland and I’m delighted to see this significant progress being made to end it once and for all.”

The Scottish Government has committed to a full ban on these practices covering both transgender identity and sexual orientation.

It wants to be able to stop practitioners of conversion therapy from carrying out processes that claim to try and change a person's sexuality, an aspect that is uncontroversial to most people.

However, there are fears it may also prevent parents from having conversations with their children about any potential long term medical, emotional and practical implications relating to switching gender or identifying as non binary.

Opponents say it could mean parents, teachers, doctors and religious leaders could end themselves on the wrong side of the law if they discuss the issue with a child.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Conversion practices have no place in our society. We are committed to ending these harmful practices, our plans have support cross-party and from a variety of faith and belief groups.

“Our public consultation will contain detailed proposals for how we will address conversion practices in Scotland and will allow the public and stakeholders to provide valuable feedback.

“Our approach fully recognises and respects established rights and freedoms, which remain protected under existing laws including the right of parents and guardians to decide how to raise their children.”

The SNP were approached for comment.