ALEX Salmond is under pressure to withdraw controversial remarks he made about a senior BBC adviser who he compared to a high-ranking Nazi Party official following a row over the exclusion of the First Minister from a rugby broadcast.
Mr Salmond used the term “Gauleiter” – the name for a regional Nazi party leader – to describe BBC political adviser Ric Bailey after the SNP leader was blocked from appearing on a sports show ahead of the Six Nations clash between Scotland and England at the weekend.
However, Mr Salmond was accused of making an “ugly smear” and of “bully-boy tactics” by opponents for using the term, after his invitation to appear on the show was withdrawn at the eleventh hour on the advice of Mr Bailey because of “heightened tensions” over the independence referendum.
The SNP leader’s Nazi jibe against the BBC official comes just weeks after Scottish Labour MP Tom Harris was forced to resign from a senior party position after posting a satirical video on the internet splicing an imagined conversation between the First Minister and his cabinet members onto footage from the film Downfall charting the last days of Adolf Hitler.
Mr Salmond said he now intended to raise the “very serious issues” arising from the decision to exclude him from the show with the chair of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, when he visits Edinburgh on Thursday.
The First Minister’s office insisted that he was “not looking in the slightest to make any kind of political or constitutional points” after he was booked by Carl Hicks, editor of BBC TV Sport, to appear with former Scotland player Andy Nicol and England’s Jeremy Guscott for a live show outside Murrayfield, ahead of the Calcutta Cup tie.
Mr Salmond said: “That was all settled fine, but then Ric Bailey, the political Gauleiter we should call him now, intervened to say this shouldn’t happen and, really, he’s lost the plot. The guy has just totally, utterly lost the plot.”
He dismissed the ban as being “what you get in tin-pot dictatorships. I’m afraid it looks like the BBC are on the run from Downing Street at the present moment or being run from Downing Street.”
But the First Minister was accused of using “dangerous language” by Scottish Labour’s external affairs spokeswoman Patricia Ferguson.
She called on Mr Salmond to apologise for the use of the “Gauleiter” term.
Ms Ferguson said: “Alex Salmond’s hysteria over not appearing on a rugby show is embarrassing to most Scots. People want the First Minister to get behind the team, not get on television.
“What is totally unacceptable, however, is for the First Minister to accuse journalists of occupying the post of a Nazi district leader. That is an ugly smear.
“Maybe he doesn’t understand quite how offensive that term is, in which case he should withdraw it today.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said that Mr Salmond’s remarks revealed a “disturbing pattern” in the use of language by SNP ministers, after education secretary Michael Russell attacked opponents at Holyrood as “anti-Scottish” for opposing government policy.
Ms Davidson said: “This is just more bully-boy tactics from Alex Salmond and an embarrassing way for Scotland’s First Minister to behave.
“There is now a disturbing pattern of behaviour emerging from the SNP against anyone who dares to stand up to them.
“It is a completely inappropriate outburst from a man supposed to be running Scotland, and symptomatic of the SNP’s ‘attack mode’ where they try to destroy anyone with whom they disagree.”
Mr Salmond last night rejected the calls to apologise for his remarks, as he attacked the ban on his appearance on the rugby show as “unacceptable”.
A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: “The First Minister was rightly referring to over-officious BBC officials, and the real concerns about editorial decisions taken by BBC journalists being over-ruled by bureaucrats on political grounds.
“That is unacceptable, and the First Minister will be raising the issue with Lord Patten, Chairman of the BBC Trust, when he meets him in Edinburgh on Thursday.”