NICOLA Sturgeon was left "deeply offended" following an MSP's comment to her while she was answering a question on tackling racism in Scotland. 

During FMQs, the First Minister was responding to a question from Labour MSP Pauline McNeill - who asked how the Scottish Government will tackle public displays of anti-Irish racism and anti-Catholic prejudice.

McNeill said: “There is still a clear problem with a minority of anti-Irish, anti-Catholic prejudice and a growing feeling that if those terms were swapped with any other minority to get the sentiments displayed on our streets, it will be treated far more seriously.

“I want the First Minister just to reassure me that Police Scotland will respond proportionately to these offences and, in doing so, I offer my full support to the First Minister to work with her and with everyone to ensure that all forms of racism and all forms of bigotry are stamped out in Scotland.”

READ MORE: FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon slams Douglas Ross's 'infantile' politics

Sturgeon responded: “There is never, ever any excuse or justification for hatred or bigotry and I unequivocally condemn anti-Irish racism and anti-Catholic prejudice

“It should be called what it is, and it should be called out.

“Scotland is a diverse, multicultural society. This diversity strengthens us as a nation, and that’s why it’s so important that we tackle all forms of prejudice and discrimination.

“I take the view that anybody who chooses to live in Scotland – whether they and their families have been here for generations or whether they have come to Scotland very recently – is home.”

A comment was then made prompting the First Minister and presiding officer to speak out.

The comment was not picked up on the Scottish Parliament TV audio. However, citing Conservative sources, journalists at Holyrood magazine and the Scottish Sun alleged that after Sturgeon told MSPS "we want Scotland to be an open welcoming country for all", Tory Tess White replied: "Except if you're English."

After the comment was made, and there was noise from the members who caught it, the presiding officer cut in: “I would be grateful if members at all times in this Chamber remember that we are privileged to represent the people of Scotland, and at all times in this Chamber we treat each other with dignity and respect.”

Sturgeon responded: "Presiding officer, I have just had a comment made to me from a sedentary position. I would not normally do this, but I am so deeply offended by the comment that I do want after this session to take it up with you so that with your permission the member may be asked to reflect on that and to withdraw the comment.

"It was a comment that was unacceptable in any context, but in the context of what we are discussing here right now I am deeply aggrieved that any member thought that was an appropriate thing to say."

READ MORE: Tess White: Who is the Tory MSP accused of heckling Nicola Sturgeon during FMQs?

Later this afternoon, White issued an apology in the Scottish Parliament - saying they were "over the line".

The presiding officer told White that the fact no further action will be taken "does not in any way detract from the seriousness with which I view this incident".

"Members must be in no doubt at all that I expect that their conduct at all times will be worthy of that of a member of the Scottish Parliament," she toldthe Chamber.

Following the incident, SNP MP Richard Thomson said White's comments were a "test of leadership" for Scottish Tory leeader Douglas Ross.

"If he’s willing to let a comment like this stand from a junior whip in his team then he’s no kind of leader at all. Not even a branch manager," the MP wrote online. 

In a post-FMQs briefing, Sturgeon’s spokesman told reporters: “The First Minister has been to see the presiding officer personally about this matter.”

He added that while heckling in the Chamber is a normal event at Holyrood, “there are some things like this which cross the line and are unacceptable”.

The Scottish Conservatives were approached for comment.