FORMER first minister Alex Salmond is facing a backlash after he claimed that self-identification for transgender people was a “daft ideology imported from elsewhere”.

Salmond made the comments at a Burns supper event in Dundee on Saturday night. He said that the SNP’s commitment to gender reform legislation was “self-indulgent nonsense” and was doing harm to the independence movement.

“I thought everybody who wanted to see an independent country understood that you must open your heart and your mind to every part and section of that population,” he said.

“But to get to a position where you say to a majority of our people that you cannot have single-sex spaces, prized and worked and strived for, because of some daft ideology imported from elsewhere and as we've seen, imperfectly understood by its proponents in Scotland, borders on the totally absurd.

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“And the 6% decline in the independence vote over a month. Think about that - 30 years of gradually building, building, building, building, so we get independence over 50% and then throw it away on some self-indulgent nonsense.”

However, SNP MP Pete Wishart has criticised Salmond’s comments and said the Alba Party are doing far more to harm the independence movement than gender reform legislation.

He said: “The one thing that is ‘harming’ Scottish independence is this party and it’s nonstop hate.

“They may be only on 0.4% and totally rejected by the Scottish people but their capacity for harm to our cause in incalculable.”

He then tweeted a picture of The Daily Telegraph, which featured Salmond’s comments on its front page.

“And here you go,” he said. “Championed by the Tory press and used as a means to undermine the SNP and independence. There will be lots more.”

SNP councillor for Cupar, Stefan Hoggan-Radu, also took to Twitter to express his disappointment in Salmond.

He said: “Disgusting and dangerous comments from @AlexSalmond.

“A man I once looked up to, toting Tory lines. I’m glad we have a right-wing indy party, that’s democracy. But spouting this divisive crap will not win us Indy or heal this debate.”

Others have pointed out that the Scottish Prison Service’s current policy regarding transgender prisoners came into place in March 2014 when Salmond was still first minister, leading to questions about where he felt the ideology was "imported" from. 

The SPS's Gender Identity and Gender Reassignment Policy of 2014 stated: “The person in custody’s gender identity and corresponding name and pronouns must be respected.

“The accommodation provided must be the one that best suits the person in custody’s needs and should reflect the gender in which the person in custody is currently living.”

Alba Party MP and justice secretary at the time the SPS introduced the policy, Kenny MacAskill, has previously said he was "kept in the dark" about the changes.

The SPS confirmed that because the changes were "operational" there was no requirement for them to consult ministers at the time.  

Continuing with a round of media appearances on Tuesday, Salmond once again denounced the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.

Speaking on Times Radio, he said: “You don’t have to be a psephologist to know that the last week has probably been the most damaging publicity for the Scottish Government, and therefore by extension for independence, that there’s been in many years.

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“What I was saying on Saturday night was ‘Get off this hill before you die on it’”

When asked whether he thought Nicola Sturgeon’s position as leader was still tenable, he said: “At this stage, yes. [But] if you continue to conduct the argument about Scottish self-determination and Scottish independence having this issue as the touchpoint and the conflict between Westminster then it would be untenable.

“You must get off this issue and onto issues where the Scottish Parliament has vast and overwhelming support.

“Like the fuel poverty in our land of energy plenty, like the European issue, and like Scotland’s essential right to self-determination.”

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill passed through the Scottish Parliament with a cross-party majority of two-thirds of MSPs in December before being blocked by the UK Government on January 16.