NICOLA Sturgeon has paid tribute to Ian Blackford’s “grace and dignity” after the SNP Westminster leader apologised for wrongly accusing a photographer of breaching coronavirus regulations.

The MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber was embroiled in a Twitter row on Monday night after he asked why Ollie Taylor, had been taking pictures in the north of Scotland since travelling from the south of England is not currently permitted.

He wrote: “As you live in the south of England and travel to Scotland is only for permitted reasons I am sure there will be a valid reason as to why you are posting a photo from the north of Scotland last night?"

However, Taylor had moved to the Highlands from the South of England in September.

He accused Blackford of “trying to stir up public hatred” against him.

The SNP politician then deleted his tweet and apologised. He said: “As the local MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber I know my constituents feel very strongly about the breaking of travel restrictions that we see across the Highlands and islands, which puts people’s lives and our public services at risk.

“I will continue to stand up for my constituents who frequently raise these concerns with me but I recognise that it was wrong to query an individual on Twitter and I apologise to @OllieTPhoto for my earlier post, which I have deleted.”

At Holyrood, Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton asked the First Minister if she supported Blackford's "vigilante action".

He said: “The balanced and proportionate enforcement of travel restrictions by Police Scotland is vital to ensuring compliance with them. That duty is theirs and theirs alone. 

“But the First Minister will have seen the disgraceful tweet from Ian Blackford to his 100,000 followers last night singling out and bullying a private citizen who had relocated here from England.

“Does she support vigilante action from her MPs like this, and what steps is she taking to address Mr Blackford’s behaviour?”

Sturgeon said people watching on TV would not have had that at the top of the list of things they wanted discussed in parliament.

She went on: “I also saw Ian Balckford apologise for doing something he recognised he shouldn’t have done on Twitter, and I think that’s the right thing, when people get something wrong to readily apologise for it.

“That’s the grace and dignity that I associate with Ian Blackford every single day of the week.”

Scottish Tory MSP Annie Wells said Sturgeon was a coward for not calling out the SNP’s Westminster Leader "for harassing a private citizen."

She added: “Ian Blackford should be ashamed of himself. He purposely went after an individual who simply wanted to share a lovely photo on Twitter for people to enjoy.

“I’m afraid it is the same old story with the SNP – stoke up division, and when challenged, simply hold up their hands feigning innocence. It is pathetic."