THE BBC has apologised after an offensive broadcast in which presenters laughed at a comment about Catholics being driven out of Scotland.

The remark came during wall-to-wall coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth, while her coffin lay in St Giles’ Cathedral.

In a moment that was labelled “inflammatory and wrong” by one expert, presenters laughed after a correspondent incorrectly referred to the Protestant reformer John Knox as having “cleared the Catholics out of Scotland”.

Chris McEleny, the general secretary of the Alba Party, submitted a complaint about the incident and has now received an apology from BBC HQ.

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In an email seen by this paper, the broadcaster said: “Thank you for contacting us about comments, and the reaction to them in the studio, about the Scottish presbyterian John Knox made during our live coverage of the cortège carrying the coffin of HM Queen Elizabeth II to Edinburgh, 11 September.

“We are sorry for the offence caused by this unscripted exchange.

“Your concerns have been included in our overnight report. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback at the BBC, and help inform our future editorial judgements. Our apologies once again.”

McEleny told The National: “It is welcome that the BBC has acknowledged that they had to apologise for the ridiculous remarks but what is still disappointing is that they seem to be brushing the incident under the carpet.

“Not only was it the latest in a long list of ill-informed comments on Scotland and our history during the BBC’s coverage of the passing of the Queen, it was overtly anti-Catholic in the sentiment and reaction.

“At a time that many will be asking questions that go to the heart of Catholic prejudice in the UK on the back of the sectarian element of the accession council, the BBC must do better and set out exactly what action they are going to take.”

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He said he has asked the BBC how they hope to ensure the incident is not repeated and is considering escalating the complaint  - a remedy open to viewers if they are not satisfied with the initial response to a complaint.

The remarks also drew the ire of biblical history expert Professor Paul Middleton, who said the suggestion Knox had drove Catholics out of Scotland during the Reformation was “just not true”.

He told The National: “In Scotland, the Reformation was relatively bloodless.”

Under the new regime adopted by the Parliament of Scotland due to the influence of figures like Knox, the state religion was changed to Presbyterianism and Catholicism was outlawed.

But unlike in England, where there were more than 300 Catholic martyrs, there is thought to have been only one in Scotland.

New complaints data released by the broadcaster showed it had received hundreds of complaints about their coverage of the Queen's death. 

Some 269 complaints about their coverage of the Queen's coffin being moved to Edinburgh, cited a "disrespectful level of commentary" and the offending Knox refererence, among others.