By a Newsnet reporter
Willie Rennie has been forced to apologise after an insulting picture of First Minister Alex Salmond was posted on the Scottish Lib Dem leader’s official facebook page.
The image, headlined ‘Scotland and Qatar share “remarkable similarities”‘ depicted what appeared to be a ‘darkened’ Mr Salmond in Arab dress alongside captions that implied an independent Scotland would suppress gay rights, adopt the death penalty for crimes against the state and have an absolute ruler.
Appearing on Good Morning Scotland Mr Rennie apologised for the offensive image which he says was not approved by him. The Scottish Lib Dem leader claimed that the image had “slipped through the net” after he had taken some time off
Mr Rennie admitted that the task of creating the image and placing it on his facebook page had been carried out by someone at the party HQ as part of their daily duties. It was then placed on the facebook site late last night, before being removed this morning.
Asked if he would be taking any other action in addition to the apology the Lib Dem leader was vague, confirming only that discussions would be held to ensure the party got its approval procedures right.
The publication of the image, described erroneously by some media commentators as a cartoon, comes at a time when the First Minister is visiting several Gulf states as part of a business team seeking collaboration with and investment from the oil rich region.
The incident has caused outrage amongst many Scottish Lib Dem suporters with some condemning the action.
The slurs against Qatar echo remarks made by Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray earlier this year when he linked the independence of Montenegro to ethnic cleansing and war crimes.
Mr Gray’s comments led to a diplomatic spat after the Montenegrin Embassy sent letters of protest to the Scottish government and Labour leader Ed Miliband.