Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, was forced to apologise today after party workers created a poster depicting Alex Salmond in Arab dress.
Mr Rennie said he was very embarrassed by the actions of Lib Dem workers who had been trying to draw attention to the first minister’s decision to compare Scotland with Qatar while on a tour of the Gulf states.
The poster, which went out on the Scottish Lib Dems Twitter feed, stated: “Salmond hails ‘similarities’ between Qatar and Scotland. A glimpse into Salmond’s independent Scotland perhaps?”
Underneath the headline was a mocked-up picture of Mr Salmond wearing Arab dress and walking a camel through the desert.
Alongside were three bullet points: “Absolute monarchy controls all aspects of life; Gay rights suppressed and no legal recognition of same sex marriage; Death penalty used for crimes against the state.”
It was finished with the question: “Mr Salmond’s independent Scotland?”
Mr Rennie was quick to disown the poster, make sure it was removed from the web and to apologise publicly for the mock-up.
Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland, Mr Rennie said: “I apologise for the offence that has clearly been caused by the cartoon on the first minister’s remarks in Qatar. Although I did not approve its publication, I take responsibility for it. It has been interpreted in ways that were not intended. It has now been withdrawn. I apologise.”
However, Mr Rennie’s apology for the picture did not stop others from pursuing the more general point – about Scotland’s similarities with Qatar.
Former Labour Downing Street adviser John McTernan tweeted: “Alex Salmond: Scotland is remarkably like Qatar. How? Unelected government? Sharia law? Anti-gay laws? Foreign workers = 85% of population?”
Despite strong objections from others on Twitter, Mr McTernan continued with other tweets through the day defending his position, at one point adding: “I think while the FM be-struts the world he takes the prize for pompous absurdity.”
Mr McTernan even drew a comparison with previous countries which had been linked favourable to Scotland by senior Nationalists in the past, particularly the so-called “Arc of Prosperity” nations Iceland and Ireland.
“Qataris should be very afraid,” he tweeted.