John Swinney has reiterated his commitment to bring forward a ban on conversion therapy but has promised to reflect on concerns raised by Dr Hilary Cass last week. 

The author of the landmark review into gender services for children told MSPs that clinicians were concerned about unintended consequences. 

She said that they were anxious that if they suggest talking therapies to people who are coming to them with issues of gender identity they might then be prosecuted

“Everyone should be protected from conversion therapy,” Dr Cass said. “It’s a completely unacceptable practice.”

“I don’t know how we get that balance right of protecting people from conversion therapy and not frightening therapists who are just doing their job and having an appropriate exploratory conversation with a young person,” she added.

READ MORE: Hilary Cass evidence to MSPs on gender identity services

The Greens warned the new First Minister against " diluting” a watertight ban.

A Scottish Government consultation document released earlier this year proposed a new criminal offence of engaging in conversion practice “whether that is provided by a healthcare practitioner, a family member or a religious leader”.

The paper defines conversion practices as where there is “a purpose or intention to change or suppress another individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity".

It then gives several examples, including prescribing medication to suppress a person’s sex drive, or therapy or counselling that requires a person not to act on their same-sex attraction, including through celibacy.

Any such action would become illegal with one possible punishment being "imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years."

Mr Swinney told the BBC: “I think Dr Cass made a very fair point in that respect. And I think in all aspects of the work that we undertake in relation to these questions and other questions where clinicians are involved, we want clinicians to be able to give the best support to patients.

“So we have to listen to clinical opinion very carefully. 

“We've consulted on the conversion therapy bill. 

“The government remains committed to bringing that forward, but we're obviously reflecting on the consultation responses that came in in early April, and also on the contents of the Cass Review, because it does raise that very significant issue that you put to me about the essentially the relationship between the provision of advice and the and the position that clinicians would face should they offer that advice.”

Asked if he believes that a trans woman is a woman, Mr Swinney replied: “I believe a woman is an adult female born as a woman, and I also accept that transgender women are defined as women.”

The First Minister said he would “do nothing that threatens the safety of women and girls.”

READ MORE: Law Society of Scotland criticises SNP conversion therapy ban

During the interview, Mr Swinney claimed Scotland would have avoided the cost of living crisis had Scots backed independence in 2014’s referendum.

He said the crisis was “a product of Westminster rule.”

The comment from the new SNP leader came as he was asked about his assertion last week that Scotland could achieve independence in five years. 

He said: “Well, we've got very, very close in 2014, closer than anybody ever thought we would ever get.

“And I'm so proud of how much we achieved in the build-up to the 2014 referendum. 

“And what I want to do is focus the SNP, focus the independence movement on making the persuasive arguments for independence.”

Mr Swinney continued: “I want to illustrate to people that the cost of living crisis is a product of Westminster, as is Brexit, the consequences of Brexit. 

“And if Scotland was independent, we wouldn't have to face these things. 

“We could take better decisions ourselves. 

“So that's the message I want to engage the people of Scotland about to build the confidence in independence. 

“And as a consequence to demonstrate, people have got to vote SNP if they want Scotland to be independent.”

“So to the 48% people or so who support independence today, my message is clear. Vote SNP and that will power the drive to independence.”

A Redfield and Wilton survey published last week put Sir Keir Starmer’s party on 38% for the looming Westminster election, with the SNP down at 31%.

It is the biggest lead recorded for Scottish Labour over the SNP with any polling company since June 2014.

Professor Sir John Curtice said this could mean Mr Swinney's party losing 30 MPs, returning just 13, while Labour would gain 31, taking their total to 33.

Mr Swinney was asked how he would push on with winning independence if, as the polls predict, he loses a majority of seats.

“Well, I'm going into this to lift the spirits and the prospects of my party. I've been pretty candid over the last two weeks that my party’s faced a really tough time. 

“And I've responded to the call from my supporters, the party members around the country to come back into the leadership when I didn't expect it, to use all my experience, the trust that people have in me, the confidence people have in me to lift the spirits and the support of my party and to make sure we're successful. 

“And that's what I'm going to do.”