The fiasco in Scotland over the fate of a transgender rapist has at least shone light into the murky corners of Scottish government machinations.

It is still not completely clear, but suspicions are mounting that if Nicola Sturgeon could direct the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), after a public outcry, to transfer rapist Adam Graham, now known as Isla Bryson, out of a women’s prison, then she could just as easily have ordered the convict to be put there in the first place.

The First Minister has denied ministerial involvement in the movement of the prisoner to Cornton Vale, where Bryson had been held.

But the SPS is an agency of the SNP government and insiders said it was “inconceivable” that prison bosses would have taken such a controversial decision on their own.

Lord McConnell, the former Labour first minister, tweeted: ‘There are no circumstances where this rapist would have been sent to Cornton Vale without ministers knowing.’

If it can be proved that Sturgeon gave the original order for the rapist to be incarcerated with women, instead of being sent to the notorious men’s prison Barlinnie as instructed by the court, the damage to her reputation will be terminal.

Already, her campaign to usurp Scotland’s cultural consensus and portray the country as an ideological outrider is unravelling.

She may have been able to hoodwink enough of her fellow Scottish parliamentarians to push through her Gender Recognition Reform bill, that would allow trans people to self-identify without a medical diagnosis.

But polling showed the legislation had little backing in Scotland and wiser heads at Westminster prevailed. 

Although Rishi Sunak has vetoed the bill on legal grounds as it will impact the UK Equality Act, the political message is that women’s rights are being better protected by the Conservative government in London than by the leftist regime in Edinburgh.

Sturgeon has, to date, ridden roughshod over any opposition to her plans, dismissing a politically broad range of female objectors as transphobic

She even refused to countenance an amendment to her bill that would have prevented sex offenders changing their sex during legal proceedings and after conviction.

But the Graham/Bryson case has confirmed protesters’ fears that a predatory man can “game” the system. The rapist’s wife, no less, told reporters her husband had shown no transgender tendencies and was exploiting current laws to ensure a gentler prison experience.

Just as worryingly, while awaiting trial, the rapist was able to enrol on a beauty course at Ayrshire College for three months, gaining access to much younger women who would have had no knowledge that “she” had a past as a violent male.

The former chief of Cornton Vale, Rhona Hotchkiss, said the “shambles” would become a bigger problem if the Gender Recognition Reform Bill was enacted.

“If you can get a Gender Recognition Certificate within three months, lots of male prisoners will do it,” she told BBC Scotland.

The case has catapulted what may have seemed to many people a political wrangle between Sturgeon and her opponents on to the national, and international, stage. 

Scotland, too, is waking up to what’s been going on in its name and may not take kindly to a government apparently more interested in radical trans ideology than addressing a cost-of-living crisis.

As it emerges that Sturgeon has been guided by groups such as the Scottish Trans Alliance – government-funded activists who reportedly targeted prisons as a test bed for transgender policies – even her most loyal supporters are growing wary.

Pro-independence voters, who elected the SNP to pursue constitutional change, are frustrated by the lack of progress under Sturgeon. Some of her biggest critics now are Yes stalwarts, with one describing her government recently as “creepy” and “sinister”.

Those who were never on her side, meanwhile, are relishing her discomfit as she struggles to square her right-on views with mainstream public opinion. 

Even in the wake of this week’s debacle she refused to say whether she thought the still anatomically male double rapist was a man or a woman, an obduracy bound to bewilder most Scots.

It is difficult to see how her gender bill can proceed. Not only is Westminster’s legal challenge likely to be “devastating” for her, according to former Supreme Court judge Lord Hope, but she has now lost any possible claim to the moral high ground.

She is seen as the leader who sacrificed women’s and girls’ safety to please a lobby of narrow interests, unrepresentative of the bulk of the population.

Her position suddenly looks very precarious indeed. She may find it impossible to recover from this humiliation, as the “progressive” agenda she has made so personal comes apart.

How funny if it is her transgender obsession that proves to be her undoing in the end and not her lifelong battle for independence.

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