A LABOUR politician is facing demands for an apology after he compared Alex Salmond to the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
Lothians Labour MSP Lord George Foulkes, a former UK government minister, referred to the First Minister as "Il Duce" – the nickname of Italy's Second World War leader.
His comment, during a meeting of Holyrood's audit committee, provoked a furious reaction from the SNP.
Former external affairs minister Linda Fabiani, who has been honoured by the Italian government for promoting Italy in this country, branded the comment "a disgrace".
She has written demanding an apology from Lord Foulkes and asking the Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray to take action against him.
Ms Fabiani said: "Lord Foulkes may be a figure of fun who regularly embarrasses the Labour Party, but he has overstepped the line with this very silly and tasteless remark.
"As someone of Italian origin, I am appalled that a member of Scotland's Parliament thinks that is an acceptable way to behave."
However, Lord Foulkes refused to apologise and claimed that his comments were just "a slip of the tongue".
He said the reference had come to his mind because Mr Salmond "is trying to become minister for everything".
He added: "You have to wonder if he needs any other ministers sometimes."
The spat has come at the end of a week when the SNP has been under fire for abusive comments made by its supporters on the internet.
Lord Foulkes has been a favourite target of the so-called cybernats. Yesterday, he received a verbal apology from new education secretary Mike Russell, whose office manager Mark MacLachlan resigned after it emerged he had been writing a blog abusing opposition politicians.