AN SNP MP at the centre of a so-called “war on cybernats” has distanced himself from newspaper reports of the social media stooshie.

Stewart McDonald said his comments in last weekend’s Herald on Sunday were “aimed at those that seek to abuse, intimidate and harass people who question, disagree or are unconvinced by independence”.

In the article McDonald, MEP Alyn Smith, and former depute leader of the SNP Angus Robertson, claimed that some of the party’s supporters online were “keyboard warriors” who were damaging the cause.

McDonald told the paper that aggressive online Yes supporters needed to “just f***ing chill out a bit ... some of the anger is over the most absurd things”.

Smith told the Herald on Sunday that abusive Yes supporters were “failing to attract and rendering us unattractive”.

“We all need to step up. This is allowing us to be portrayed in a way that’s damaging,” he added.

READ MORE: We must put ourselves in the shoes of those worried about independence

Robertson said there had been a “reticence by senior Yes supporters to call out abuse for fear of undermining the more general debate”.

“This can’t go on,” he added. “People can’t go on thinking they can sit in front of their keyboards and do nothing but send abuse to people they don’t agree with.

“You wouldn’t do it in public, you’d be thrown out of a pub for doing it, why on earth would you do it online?”

The article, appearing on the front of the paper the day after thousands marched through Glasgow in support of independence, infuriated a number of Yes supporters. It also angered a number of the men’s SNP colleagues.

One SNP MP told The National: “They could have done with a bit more nuance and made it clear who they were attacking, but instead they go for a scatter-gun approach and end up making it about every independence supporter with a Twitter account.

“In one fell swoop, in a week when one of our MPs received a death threat, they gave the Tories and Labour the moral high ground and slagged off our activists. No, it wasn’t a very helpful intervention.”

In a tweet, shared by Joanna Cherry, the journalist Ruth Wishart wrote: “Agree absolutely about calling out abuse and abusers. But perhaps not a co-ordinated attack on indy supporting tweeters the day after a massive pro-indy march. As with most things in life, timing is everything.”

Lesley Riddoch tweeted: “The salvo against indy supporting ‘cybernats’ in Sunday press not only ignored huge effort of [All Under One Banner] marchers but also death threats against @joannaccherry for highlighting attacks against women on Twitter. Poor judgement and poorer timing by the guys.”

READ MORE: My message to the SNP on ‘cybernats’: Stop perpetuating a Unionist myth

McDonald took to Twitter yesterday to give context to his remarks in the paper.

He said the comments were in the wake of “an appalling case of intimidation” against a young female journalist for the BBC who was the “recipient of an absurd campaign of vitriol from some on our side”.

“Many have taken this as me criticising all activists or Saturday’s extraordinary march. It was neither. If, like every party member and activist I know, you don’t abuse and harass people then this is not aimed at you. Nor is it aimed at those who marched.

“I accept fully that the headline was awful. It pissed me off as I never once used the term cybernat – a churlish phrase originated (I think) by George Foulkes. It made it appear as a blanket criticism and it was never to be as such. The headline was not my work.

“SNP members and broader independence activists are some of the most dedicated, warm and friendly people you could meet. I made a great many friends from the 2014 campaign and those that have come since, and I know we won’t rest until independence is achieved.

“But we do need to shun those who seek to spread hatred and use our positive campaign as a weapon to do so. We should never shy from calling this out. There’s no right or wrong time to do it. Though as we start a new Yes campaign we should aim to define its character early.”