TORY MSP Russell Findlay has called on Nicola Sturgeon to feel "ashamed" on behalf of a male colleague amid a row over comments made by former BBC Scotland Editor Sarah Smith.

Smith, who has taken over as BBC North America Editor, revealed in an academic paper that she is relieved to walk away from the “bile, hatred and misogyny” of Scottish politics.

We previously told how Smith claimed she was subjected to vile abuse both online and in person but that paper notes she was “careful not to identify a specific section of the political community”.

READ MORE: Fresh pressure from Inverness politicians for Prince Andrew to lose Earl title

It comes as Women in Journalism Scotland said they are not surprised by Smith's claims of abuse as "women get it worse".

After Smith's comments circulated in news reports, Glasgow Cathcart MSP James Dornan wrote on social media that, “America would be the go to place to escape all her imaginary woes then.”

The post, under a version of an article shared by the editor of the Times, was accompanied by a rolling eyes emoji.

After a backlash, Dornan later apologised for the comments.

He said: "Language is important in this so I apologise for my earlier comments that made it seem as though I believed the abuse Sarah Smith has suffered was imaginary. 

The National: James Dornan will no longer contest the post in order to launch a campaign against sectarianism

Dornan later clarified his comments but has come under fire on Twitter

"No matter differing opinions, the misogynistic abuse of women in the public eye is never acceptable.

"If we want to tackle the issue then we all need to recognise the problem is on all sides and all countries."

Findlay, regional Tory MSP for West Scotland, picked up on the comments and called for the FM to be "shamed" and accused his fellow MSP of “gaslighting”.

On Twitter Findlay said: “Cowardly attacks on journalists by the lunatic brigade in Scotland have become increasingly toxic since 2014

“There's a risk that personal abuse escalates and that someone will get hurt

“Nicola Sturgeon should be ashamed at SNP MSP James Dornan's gaslighting of Sarah Smith.”

The row centres around comments made by Smith in an academic paper sponsored by the BBC and published by the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford.

Smith claimed she was “demonised quite heavily” among certain parts of the population, but did not go as far as to say which.

READ MORE: Comedian Susie McCabe 'hits the nail on the head' in independence debate

She also said she was a target of abuse because of her father, former UK Labour leader John Smith, and said she was “relieved” to be leaving Scotland for the US where she will be “gloriously anonymous”.

A spokeswoman for Women in Journalism Scotland told the Daily Record: "We are disgusted to hear of the abuse that Sarah Smith, a hugely accomplished and respected journalist, has endured, but we are not surprised.

"Our members tell us regularly of the sexism and misogyny that is rife within our industry, and wider society.

"According to our last survey of members, abuse is one of the biggest causes of mental illness among female journalists and a major deterrent for women entering our industry, with some leaving because of it.

"While all abuse aimed at journalists is unacceptable, women get it worse. Women are targeted. Rape threats, sexualised language, the word 'bitch' and looks-based criticism should have no place in modern discourse and yet these are commonplace for many women in journalism.

The National:

Findlay called on Nicola Sturgeon to apologise, but not James Dornan

"One of our most requested services is resilience training for online abuse - this speaks volumes. This situation is beyond unacceptable.

"Sarah's departure is Scotland's loss and if Scotland wants a diverse, equal media which welcomes women, then we are long overdue a reckoning."

An SNP spokesperson said: “The abuse that Sarah Smith has outlined is sadly all too familiar. We know that abuse and threatening behaviour like this is also far worse for women.

“There is absolutely no place for sexism and misogyny in Scotland and we all should be able to go to work without fear of threats and intimidation.

“To make Scotland a better place for everyone, we must all stand together in calling out and challenging this unacceptable, toxic abuse.”

In May 2020 Smith came under scrutiny and was forced to apologise after she said during a News at Ten programme that the First Minister had “enjoyed the opportunity to set her own lockdown rules”.

READ MORE: BBC Savanta ComRes poll finds Scots support gender reform – the results in depth

Smith admitted she meant to say “embraced” instead of “enjoyed” and the FM accepted the apology.

It is also not the first time the Tories have found themselves in hot water by asking the FM “sexist” questions.

During a committee hearing where the FM was giving evidence on the handling of harassment complaints Fraser demanded Sturgeon apologise to the people of Scotland for asking them to trust Alex Salmond.

Fraser’s request prompted fury amongst feminist activists and the public who called asking a woman to apologise on behalf of a man as “deeply sexist”.