SNP MP Joanna Cherry was warned speaking out in the debate on trans rights could “ruin any chance” she had of ever becoming party leader – but insisted it was “really important” she continued to do so.
The high-profile politician, who has been an outspoken critic of the Scottish Government’s gender recognition reforms, also said she had to “challenge this discrimination” she had suffered when a comedy club cancelled an event she was due to speak at.
Ms Cherry is set to take legal action against The Stand in Edinburgh unless she receives an apology and the event is reinstated.
But accusing others of a “collective cowardice” on the issue of trans rights, which has proved to be one of the most divisive political debates in Scotland in recent years, Ms Cherry insisted it was important for her to take a strong stance on matters.
Her comments came as she told an online event hosted by the think tank Reform Scotland that she had been warned back in 2019 by her political adviser that speaking out about trans issues and women’s rights “would probably damage my political career and ruin any chance I would ever have of putting myself forward for the SNP leadership”.
Ms Cherry, who was removed from the SNP front benches in 2021, said she did not believe her adviser at the time but added: “I think he was right, actually.”
She said she and other gender critical feminists had suffered an “absolutely appalling” backlash for their views “over the last few years”.
But the MP, who is the chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights in the House of Commons, said: “I think it is really important for me to speak out.”
She added: “It is really important for people like me in public life to take a stand against, not just no platforming and an attack on free speech, but fundamentally discriminatory action against lesbians and feminists who don’t accept gender identity ideology.”
“Because I think it is really important that we have a clear statement in Scotland, in a case that has some publicity, that discriminating against women, and indeed men, like me who hold these beliefs is unlawful.”
She continued: “If people in public life, in positions of leadership, like university principals, employers in the public sphere, political leaders, were prepared to take a stand on this, then perhaps I wouldn’t find myself in this position.
“But the political class seem to have been seized by a collective cowardice on this issue, with a few honourable exceptions.”
She said she was prepared to take legal action “partly for myself”, adding that she had to challenge comments that were “very damaging to my reputation”.
Ms Cherry, who is also a lawyer, continued: “I might not always be an MP, if I was to lose my seat next year there are various career opportunities that might be closed down to me if I don’t challenge this discrimination and this attack on my reputation.”
However, she also stressed she was taking action “for other women because I have come across many women in the course of work who find themselves not being no platformed, but losing their jobs, or their means to earn a livelihood”.
The MP stated: “Lots of these women are out of the public eye and aren’t necessarily in the position I am in to take this forward.”