MP Joanna Cherry describes 'campaign of abuse' over views

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Image caption Joanna Cherry has been an SNP MP since 2015

SNP MP Joanna Cherry has claimed she was subjected to an "18-month campaign" of abuse because of her support for women's rights.

The Edinburgh MP was removed from her post as the party's justice and home affairs spokeswoman at Westminster.

She had clashed with colleagues over transgender rights, the SNP's strategy over independence, and Alex Salmond.

Ms Cherry contacted police on Monday over a "vicious threat" to her personal safety after she said she was "sacked".

On Thursday, police confirmed a 30-year-old man had been charged with a communications offence in connection with the incident.

SNP sources have previously said that Ms Cherry was removed from her role because of what was considered to be "unacceptable behaviour" which did not meet the standards expected of a front bench spokesperson rather than the views she holds.

Ms Cherry had clashed with a number of her SNP colleagues at Westminster, with reports that some MPs had been set to call for her to be removed prior to the reshuffle.

Writing in the New Statesman , the MP claimed her belief that "women are adult human females" made her unpopular with some in the SNP.

And she said the alleged threat to her safety had come after "an 18-month campaign of social media lies, smears and foul-mouthed abuse directed at me from a number of mainly young men within the party who seem to have a problem with middle-aged lesbians who support women's sex-based rights".

The QC played a leading role in legal battles with the UK government during the Brexit process, but has also been a focal point of tensions in the Westminster group - having hit out at "back-stabbing" and "infighting" in 2019.

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Image caption Joanna Cherry has been a vocal critic of Nicola Sturgeon's leadership

These tensions came to a head after claims that a large number of younger members had quit the party over the debate on trans rights, with leader Nicola Sturgeon recording a video to say transphobia within the party was "not acceptable".

Days later, Ms Cherry was removed from the front-bench team. No reason was given publicly, but party sources cited "unacceptable behaviour".

The MP wrote that she was "not surprised" by the move, claiming there had been a lengthy campaign against her.

She said: "For some time, a small but vocal cohort of my SNP colleagues has engaged in performative histrionics redolent of the Salem witch trials.

"The question - do you believe or have you ever believed that women are adult human females? - is one I must answer in the affirmative, but it's not a response that is popular with some who have the ear of the leadership.

"It's frustrating because advocating for women's sex-based rights under the Equality Act, expressing concerns about self-identification of gender and opposing curtailment of free speech, are not evidence of transphobia."

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Image caption SNP MP Neale Hanvey also lost his front bench role amid allegations he had backed a campaign to sue one of his colleauges

The SNP has been embroiled in a divisive debate about plans to make it easier for people to change their legally-recognised gender.

Ms Cherry is among several senior figures in the party who have criticised Ms Sturgeon over the move, saying it could have an impact on women's rights.

The row - which has been particularly fierce on social media - has led to accusations that some people within the SNP have crossed the line into transphobia.

In a video posted on Twitter at the end of January, Ms Sturgeon said she had heard reports of "significant numbers" of "mainly young people" leaving the party because they did not consider it a safe, tolerant place for trans people.

She said she would do "everything I can to change that impression", adding: "Transphobia is wrong and we must treat it with the zero tolerance we treat racism or homophobia.

"Those are the principles I want to characterise the SNP and the country I am privileged to lead."

'Unprecedented turmoil'

Ms Cherry also used her article to highlight what she described as "unprecedented" turmoil within her party , which has seen splits since the government's botched investigation of harassment claims against Alex Salmond.

Ms Cherry is seen as an ally of Mr Salmond, and has also criticised the leadership's approach to securing a second independence referendum.

There was further turmoil within the party after Ms Cherry lost her job, with Fife MP Neale Hanvey sacked from the post of vaccines spokesman days after being appointed.

Sources said Mr Hanvey had backed a campaign to sue another SNP MP, Kirsty Blackman, who had clashed with Ms Cherry on Twitter over trans rights.

Mr Hanvey - who was suspended from the SNP in 2019 after using anti-Semitic language on social media , but now sits on its member conduct committee - said his "principles are intact" despite the row.

He added: "My late mum was a feisty Trades Union woman and since the 50s she fearlessly took on misogyny. She will always be my absolute hero. Her values describe where my loyalty rests."