NICOLA Sturgeon has been branded “out of step” by some of her own MSPs in a heated discussion about trans rights.

The comments were made in a frank and private conversation between Ruth Maguire, who is the convenor of Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights, Ash Denham who sits in Sturgeon’s government as Minister for Community Safety, and prominent backbencher Gillian Martin.

It’s understood the discussion, which took place in February, was leaked online late on Tuesday night by a party staffer who is “disgruntled at the SNP’s lack of action against transphobia”.

It’s not clear who that staffer is or how they were able to access what was a private conversation.

The discussion was sparked after the First Minister addressed the UN on gender equality.

During her speech, Sturgeon said that she did not see greater recognition of trans rights as a threat to feminism, and that “some of the concerns that are expressed on the part of women” were “misplaced.”

The First Minister’s remarks came after members of the SNP Holyrood group had already passed on anxieties around the government’s Gender Recognition Act, to minister Shirley-Anne Somervile.

An exasperated Maguire shared a tweet from Engender’s Emma Ritch praising the First Minister’s “positive feminist analysis of trans rights.”

“FFS”, the MSP commented.

Martin then replied to say that the SNP leader was a “bit [out] of step with feelings of her group.”

Denham then suggested Sturgeon “might be out of step because no one has conveyed group feelings to her”.

Maguire then asks the other two: “Surely [Shirley-Anne] wouldn’t just have ignored what everyone said?”

In the hours after the conversation was leaked online, MPs Stewart McDonald, Mhairi Black, Angela Crawley, all tweeted in support of trans rights.

“Trans rights are human rights. It’s that simple,” Black said.

But there was sympathy for the three MSPs who had their conversation hacked from other members of the Holyrood parliamentary party.

One MSP, who asked not to be named, told The National: “Whenever a women tries to argue that biological sex exists and that actually it might be important to recognise that, she gets accused of transphobia. Once again, what we have here, are women expressing concerns being told to weesht.”

The person who leaked the conversation told The National that the SNP needs to “take transphobic rhetoric more seriously”.

“I’ve been really reassured by all the people who have come out in support over the last 12hrs or so and hope that trans people who have felt attacked or afraid following recent comments by elected members see that, too.”

An SNP spokesman said: “It is important that any discussion on trans rights and women’s rights is conducted respectfully.”

Maguire, Denham and Martin did not respond to requests for a comment.