HUMZA Yousaf has criticised Joanna Cherry after she mistakenly shared an "abhorrent" social media post from a controversial pro-independence blogger claiming that the health secretary wants to sterilise gay and autistic children. 

The MP - who is a prominent backer of Ash Regan in the SNP leadership contest - said she had retweeted the comment from Wings Over Scotland accidentally. It has since been deleted. 

Mhairi Hunter, a former Glasgow councillor who works for outgoing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, yesterday accused the MP of trying to “derail this leadership contest" amid a row over the matter.

“Can see no other explanation for such an incendiary act. Suggest we don't let her,” she added. 

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She said she had complained to the SNP's National Secretary Lorna Finn.

Today Health Secretary Mr Yousaf called for more "respect" in the contest and said that nobody “with common decency” would have shared the post from Wings Over Scotland's Stuart Campbell while his latest supporter Angus Robertson pointed to the issue being under investigation by the SNP.

The Wings post read: “Humza Yousaf wants to trans gay and autistic kids, sterilise them and deprive them of sexual pleasure for their entire adult life.”

Asked if he thought the party should take action against Ms Cherry, Mr Yousaf said: “I think that was an abhorrent tweet and anybody with common decency wouldn’t have given that any oxygen or any publicity.”

He went on: “I know that Joanna Cherry, in fairness to her, deleted her tweet, that’s my understanding.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf supporters report Joanna Cherry to SNP in row over tweet

“Look, we’re one party, we’re one movement. We’re only going to get our independence if we stay united, so I would ask anybody who is involved, regardless of who you’re backing – and everybody has a right to back whatever candidate they want – to just maintain a respect because people, the entire country is watching this leadership debate, and I think we have to make sure we conduct it in a respectful manner.”

Ms Cherry later hit back at Mr Yousaf's and Mr Robertson's comments to reporters who had gathered for a campaign press call at Glasgow University.

Referring to an article in The Herald reporting the health secretary's remarks, the MP for Edinburgh South West wrote on Twitter: "In 2021 a member of the SNP was convicted of threatening to rape me.

"Neither of these men reached out privately nor condemned what had occurred publicly. But a retweet is worth their time. Go figure as to their priorities."

Mr Yousaf was speaking from Kelvingrove Park as part of his campaign to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister and SNP leader.

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He was joined by Mr Robertson, the Constitution Secretary, at the event. He said the Health Secretary represented the progressive party the SNP had become.

Asked about Ms Cherry’s retweet, Mr Robertson said it was a matter for SNP officials to deal with.

He told journalists: “I understand that the issue has already been reported so it’s a matter for the official probe.

“We have internal processes and it’s for those processes to take their course and not for me to comment on them now.”

A spokesperson for Ms Cherry said: "Joanna had intended to comment on a tweet by Humza Yousaf and made a mistake when doing so.

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"She has corrected that mistake. The only people attempting to 'derail' the contest are those trying to prevent an open debate and a free and frank exchange of views.

"Ms Hunter may make a complaint to the National Secretary if she wishes.

"Joanna is still waiting for a response from the National Secretary to Joanna's complaint in January 2021 over a defamatory letter about Joanna in which Mhairi Hunter participated during the NEC elections in November 2020."

There have been concerns about the tone of the SNP contest since the third candidate Kate Forbes, the finance secretary, and a member of the Free Church of Scotland, came under fierce attack from within her party over her opposition to same sex marriage, abortion and having children out of wedlock.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Mr Yousaf made clear Mr Robertson would be in his government should he win the contest to become SNP leader and then be elected First Minister in Holyrood.

He sidestepped questions from The Herald over whether the Constitution Secretary would succeed John Swinney who last week announced he was stepping down as Deputy First Minister when Nicola Sturgeon's exits as First Minister when a new leader is elected.

"The genuine answer is I haven't thought about who my deputy would be," he said.

He was also asked by The Herald about Ms Forbes's presentation of him as the continuity candidate at a time, she says, when change is needed.

"I don't agree with the characterisation," he said.

"I am very much my own man and I will do things my own way. My leadership style will be very much my own.

"But what I would say to people is if they are talking about continuing over 15 years of winning election after election or 15 years of building a progressive agenda which has so much support, of 15 years of being the national government of Scotland...that's not a bad legacy to continue."

He added: "We should not dismiss the achievements of the government of the last 15 years. We should absolutely build upon them in a way that harnesses all of the talent of the SNP, MSPs, MPs, councillors to our membership to make sure we have that broad based approach.

"If change means moving away from a progressive agenda then I'm afraid that is not change which I think will resonate with the majority of the Scottish public."

Voting in the contest opens on Monday and runs until March 27 with the winner expected to be declared later that day. Each of the SNP 100,000 members have one vote.

The first poll of SNP members published last week showed Mr Yousaf has a narrow lead over Ms Forbes.

But the survey by Savanta also found a third of party members are still undecided on who to support.

The poll found 32 per cent of SNP members were undecided, while 31 per cent were backing Mr Yousaf, 25 per cent supporting Ms Forbes and 11 per cent opting for Ms Regan.

When undecided voters are removed, Ms Yousaf leads on 46 per cent, with Ms Forbes on 37 per cent and Ms Regan 17 per cent.