NICOLA Sturgeon has been accused by some of her own MSPs of being “out of step” with colleagues for her promotion of transgender rights, according to leaked messages.

Three prominent female MSPs - a current minister, a former minister and a committee convener - appeared to suggest the First Minister was too uncritical on trans issues.

They also suggested the SNP’s Holyrood group had discussed the subject and most of its MSPs felt as they did, and they had expected that message to be passed to Ms Sturgeon.

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

The trio includes Ruth Maguire, the convener of Holyrood’s equalities committee, who wrote FFS, short for “for f***’s sake” in response to some pro-trans praise of Ms Sturgeon.

The leak prompted a backlash from trans rights supporters within the SNP.

The party did not deny the authenticity of the leak, and said it supported trans rights.

The Pink Saltire website reported the leak had come from a former worker for an MSP.

The leaked messages, dated February 7, were prompted by Ms Sturgeon defending trans rights while on a visit to the United Nations in New York.

Defending her government’s support for transgender rights, Ms Sturgeon rejected the idea that greater rights for transgender women eroded the rights of other women.

She said: “As an ardent, passionate feminist, and have been all my life, I don’t see the greater recognition of transgender rights as a threat to me as a woman or to my feminism.”

Emma Rich, director of the Scottish feminist organisation Engender then tweeted in support of the First Minister, writing: “So glad to hear @NicolaSturgeon powerfully articulate this positive feminist analysis of trans rights.

READ MORE: Iain Macwhirter: Transgender rights? Great. But don't tell women what makes a woman: they were born that way 

“I have huge faith in feminist Scotland to create consensus. And a nation where *all* women & girls have equal access to safety, resources, & power.”

Ms Maguire then shared Ms Rich’s tweet with other MSPs and added the comment: “FFS”.

MSP Gillian Martin, who was forced to quit as a minister after a day last year after being accused of writing transphobic comments on an old blog, replied: “Yup - saw it. FM a bit of step [sic] with feelings of her group.”

Ms Maguire replied: “Indeed.”

Community safety minister Ash Denham then said: “She might be out of step because no one has conveyed group feelings to her?”

Ms Maguire said: “Surely SA wouldn’t just have ignored what everyone said?”

This appears to be a reference to social security secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville.

The leak messages prompted a call from LibDem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, the vice-convener of Holyrood’s equalities committee, to Ms Maguire.

He tweeted: “As vice-convener of Equalities and HR committee I think urgent clarification is required from our convener, @RBFMaguire as regards her position on this matter.

“Our committee cannot exclude any protected group in its struggle to push for equality.”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon at STUC: "Diversity is not a weakness - it is a strength to be celebrated" 

The leak, on Tuesday night, also seemed to create friction between the SNP’s groups at Holyrood and Westminster.

Three of the party’s younger generation, Mhairi Black, Stewart McDonald and Angela Crawley, posted the same “Trans Ally” picture of pink, white and blue heart.

The Scottish Trans Alliance thanked the three for “tweeting as trans allies. They are supporting @theSNP’s clear commitment to trans equality, which includes their Holyrood manifesto commitment to bring gender recognition law up to international best practice.”

The SNP students group also issued a statement in support of trans rights.

In recent weeks, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has accused trans rights, supporters of bullying people who do not agree with them, saying they try to shut people up “by labelling you and bothering you, by using extremist language”.

Ms McAlpine was deluged with online abuse after the committee she chairs rejected plans to change the sex question in the next census to include a third option of non-binary.

The committee said the question should remain binary - male or female - with a voluntary question on gender identification, on the basis that sex and gender are distinct.

The Pink Saltire quoted the former member of SNP staff saying: “I was surprised to see the conversation. I really don't like the way people in the SNP have been talking about transgender people or what Joan McAlpine has been saying.

“Over the last few months, it’s seemed like more people held these views.

“Some people just don’t see what’s really important – that trans people are possibly the most marginalised group in society right now and the suicide rates alone should surely point to the fact we must do better.” I think as a party we need to get up to speed pretty fast on what is a really big deficit inequality for trans people.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “The SNP supports trans rights and women’s rights as part of our firm commitment to human rights and equality. Trans people must be able to live their lives without facing unnecessary barriers and discrimination. It is important that any discussion on trans rights and women’s rights is conducted respectfully.”