Nicola Sturgeon has accused some opponents of her government's Gender Recognition Reform Bill of using women's rights as a "cloak of acceptability to cover up what is transphobia."

She said some critics of the legislation were also "deeply misogynist, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well."

The Scottish Conservatives said the comments were "disgusting and desperate" and a "baseless smear."

The remarks came in a wide-ranging interview with Global's News Agents podcast, broadcast on Friday afternoon. 

The SNP leader also criticised Sir Keir Starmer for his position on Brexit, accused Boris Johnson of "degrading the whole political space", claimed the BBC risked losing their reputation for impartiality and urged supporters of the monarchy to pay attention to Prince Harry's memoir.

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Asked about the GRR Bill, Ms Sturgeon told podcast host, Lewis Goodall, "I have heard people, politicians, claiming to be defenders of women's rights who I'd never heard defend women's rights in the past. 

"In fact, I've heard some support policies... that run counter to women's rights. 

"We have legislation looming later in this Parliament on criminal justice reform to try to deal with issues of low conviction rates for rape and sexual assault, we are likely to be dealing with legislation in months to come around abortion buffer zones.

"And I think it will be interesting to see how many of the so-called defenders of women's rights in the context of the trans debate suddenly don't think that all women's rights are actually important. 

"And there are some people that I think have decided to use women's rights as a sort of cloak of acceptability to cover up what is transphobia. 

"Now, again, that's not everybody who opposes this bill. I want to be very clear about that. 

"But there are people who have opposed this bill that cloak themselves in women's rights to make it acceptable, but just as they're transphobic you'll also find that they're deeply misogynist, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well."

Scottish Conservative Equalities Spokesperson, Rachael Hamilton said these were "disgusting and desperate claims from Nicola Sturgeon."

She added: “The last few days have shown that Nicola Sturgeon’s gender ID reforms are legally questionable, deeply unpopular and potentially harmful to women.

"Yet instead of engaging with the criticism and admitting she was wrong, Nicola Sturgeon would rather launch baseless smear attacks at those who disagree with her.

“The vast majority of the Scottish public are opposed to her Gender Recognition Bill and they will be shocked and appalled to hear their First Minister accuse them of transphobia, homophobia and even racism.

“In sharp contrast, the Scottish Conservatives have used sensitive and respectful language throughout this debate.

“We have always been clear that trans people deserve support, respect and recognition – but we believe that this must not come at the expense of the rights and safety of women and girls. It is not transphobic, misogynistic, homophobic or racist to say so.”

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Meanwhile, the First Minister also used the interview to say Labour's position on Brexit had turned them into a "pale imitation of a Tory government."

"I don't know how you can go from being the Keir Starmer that I and the SNP worked with over Brexit, when Theresa May and Boris Johnson were the Prime Minister, to be somebody who now won't even countenance the possibility of going back into the single market and say you've got principles. 

"But if I was Labour... what would worry me... is one of the things I've learned over many years in politics, is you never treat anything as inevitable. 

"And if I was in Labour, I'd really worry about the whole just be the pale imitation. Because why would people vote for the pale imitation? He needs to have a bit more principle, a bit more difference, and actually a bit more guts to take on the Tories and to take on the right-wing media."

She said she thought Sir Keir would "be biting the hand off the SNP leader to try to work together."

The First Minister added: "He can oppose independence, but there's many of his own party members here in Scotland, perhaps supporters more than members, that support independence and even more who would absolutely think it is for the right of the Scottish people to choose.

"He doesn't agree with the SNP and that's fine. We're opposing political parties.

"But if Scotland votes for the SNP in a general election, as it has done in the past three general elections, then by saying he won't work with the SNP under any circumstances, what he's effectively saying to Scotland, is that the democratic choices of Scotland should be ignored and they don't count. 

"They're not legitimate because people in Scotland are not voting the way Keir Starmer wants them to vote, that is a horrendous position."

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Ms Sturgeon said the BBC's reputation for impartiality had been damaged by the revelations that banker Richard Sharp was put forward for the role of Chairman shortly after helping to arrange an £800,000 loan for Boris Johnson.

The First Minister said: "I think the BBC is full of really high-quality journalists... Is there a perception of partiality with the BBC? I think that is a real danger for the BBC that that is starting to be the case and the Richard Sharp saga, call it what you want, I don't think helps with that.

Asked whether Mr Sharp should resign, the SNP leader said: "I think there are probably people above him in the queue of folks in public office who should resign at the moment and a former Chancellor being one of them, but I think he should be reflecting on, given what has emerged about his role or alleged role, I suppose I should say, in brokering a credit facility for a sitting Prime Minister, then perhaps he should reflect on him being the Chairman of the BBC. Does that help the BBC?"

On Nadhim Zahawi, the First Minister said she could not understand why Rishi Sunak had not already sacked the Tory party chairman.

Asked if she would have fired one of her ministers if they had misled her and penalised by HMRC  she said: "Yes, and particularly if you got to the point where I think it is almost inescapable to conclude that Rishi Sunak is in, where he didn't even get straight explanation for him and ended up in the House of Commons saying it had all been dealt with when it hadn't.

"I can't work out what Rishi Sunak thinks he's doing with this because I look at it and I think he is going to presumably have to resign at some point. Why prolong the agony? Why not just get it done?'

Discussing her relationship with former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, she said he had "kind of degraded the whole political space and, you know, the sense of probity and integrity in government in a way that I think will have a legacy for quite some time to come."

On Prince Harry's controversial memoir, Spare, the First Minister said people "who want to preserve the monarchy, would do well to kind of listen and reflect."

She added: "They probably don't agree with all of it. But you know, he tells of childhood trauma, deeply grieving, you felt he lived a life that he wasn't able to process that or to be himself. He felt that the relationship between the Royal family and the media is a bit toxic. And there is lots in there that shouldn't be dismissed, in my view."