A Conservative MSP has apologised after he appeared to compare transgender people to those with learning difficulties.

Stephen Kerr deleted the tweet and has insisted the message, written by a member of his team “does not reflect my views”.

The majority of Tory MSPs voted against the Scottish Government’s gender recognition reforms, which were overwhelmingly passed by Holyrood in December.

But prompted by the First Minister’s confirmation his government will press ahead with legally challenging the UK Government’s decision to stop the legislation from becoming law, Mr Kerr waded into the debate.

In the now-deleted tweet, Mr Kerr suggested the new government “brought the chance to review the Gender Reform Bill and ask questions (Nicola) Sturgeon didn’t bother with”.

He added that these questions included “is there a link with having learning/development disabilities”.

The Herald: Stephen Kerr's now-deleted tweetStephen Kerr's now-deleted tweet (Image: Twitter)

Mr Kerr deleted the tweet and reposted it.

He wrote: “The change of First Minister gave the chance for the ScotGov to review the Gender Reform bill, and ask questions which weren't addressed previously.

“Most importantly, ScotGov could reconsider their opposition to some very sensible opposition amendments. But it hasn't happened.”

Mr Kerr has issued an apology.

He told the National: “I take full responsibility for everything on my Twitter and would like to apologise for any offence caused.

“The tweet was written in haste by a member of my team and then deleted as it does not reflect my views.”

Greens MSP, Maggie Chapman, said: “This is exactly the kind of language that has seen transphobic hate crime triple in recent years.

"The longer the Tories are in power the worse their attacks on minority groups get, with no concern about where promoting such hate will lead, the damage it will do, or the lives it will ruin.

“Today Stephen Kerr has recognised that he went too far and rowed his comments back. I hope he’ll take this moment to reflect on his actions. But I fully expect that tomorrow he’ll be back with fresh attacks and disinformation instead.”

The Scottish Conservatives have been contacted for comment.