Alistair Darling has said that Alex Salmond is behaving like the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.
Mr Salmond last night demanded an apology from the No campaign leader following his outburst in an interview for political magazine the New Statesman.
Mr Darling picked up on the First Minister’s response to Ukip winning a Scottish seat in the recent European elections.
Mr Salmond criticised the BBC’s political coverage for focusing too much on Nigel Farage’s party. Mr Salmond said that Ukip was beamed into Scotland “courtesy of the BBC”.
Mr Darling told the New Statesman: “He [Salmond] said on the BBC that people voted Ukip in Scotland because English TV was being beamed in to Scotland. This was a North Korean response. This is something that Kim Jong-il would say. ”
The former chancellor continued: “It [the SNP] is a national party. Scotland is not a colony, it never has been… when it came to colonialism, Scotland was up there with the rest of them.”
Mr Darling also challenged Mr Salmond to a debate.
He said: “He [Salmond] wants to turn it into a contest between Scotland and England, which is why he wants a televised debate with David Cameron. That should not happen. I want to debate him. I’m ready to. But he’s refusing to enter into discussions with the television companies – STV, the BBC, Sky and Channel 4.
“It’s all being cut very fine. It’s not too late. I challenge him to a debate.”
Last night, a spokesman for the First Minister said: “Alistair Darling demeans himself and his colleagues in the No campaign with these pathetic, puerile remarks for which he should now apologise.
“The debate on Scotland’s future is one that deserves far, far better than boorish and abusive personal insults.
“Mr Darling has called for a positive debate free from abuse – he should now aim to live up to that, and stop trying to divert attention from real issues.”
Westminster SNP leader Angus Robertson said: “Alistair Darling has a leadership responsibility and should act accordingly. He must apologise and withdraw the comments immediately.”
However, the Better Together leader also criticised what he described as a “culture of intimidation” created by the SNP.
“When I started doing this two years ago, I didn’t believe you’d be in a situation where people would be threatened for saying the wrong thing,” Mr Darling said.
“Businesspeople keep telling me that it is happening as a matter of fact. They say to me, ‘We’d like to come out and support you but …’ It’s not just the cybernats and what they do and the things they call our supporters.
“I was speaking to a senior academic who told me that he’d been warned by a senior Scottish nationalist that if he carried on speaking like this, it would be a pity for him.
“We ought to be able to express our views without fear of the consequences.”
A spokesman for Better Together said: “What an overblown reaction. Alistair was using humour to poke fun at the First Minister’s disastrous interview where he claimed that 150,000 Scottish people voted for Ukip because BBC people in London had beamed that thought into their heads.
“It was a joke and it should be treated as such.”