ANDREW Neil has been blasted for his “fervent hatred of the SNP” after the journalist shared a newspaper cartoon depicting former first ministers being hanged.

In a cartoon for The Times by Peter Brookes, Alex SalmondNicola Sturgeon, and Humza Yousaf are shown hanging, with the SNP’s logo acting as the noose.

John Swinney, who is expected to be confirmed as the SNP’s new leader on Monday, is shown putting his head into a fourth noose and saying: “I’m the continuity candidate.”

The cartoon has been widely condemned on social media as “sick” and “horrific”, and figures from across the party have called out Neil for irresponsibly amplifying the image.

Grant Costello, the SNP’s General Election candidate in East Kilbride and Strathaven, said he found Neil - now the chairman of The Spectator - to be a formidable interviewer on TV, but has lost respect for him since given his consistent “fundamental hatred” of the party.

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He told The National: “He [Neil] was well-researched and didn’t let politicians off the hook, but since he has come off the mainstream television, and as happens with a lot of people as they go onto Twitter, their mind just starts to rot as they fall into these conspiracy theories and right-wing talking points.

“He tried to recover his reputation a bit when he left GB News but if you look at the stuff he does online, it’s just a fervent hatred of the SNP.

“The SNP do not do everything right and there is legitimate criticism cast against us, but Andrew Neil’s is very rarely legitimate. He has a fundamental hatred for us and that consistently comes across.

“We’ve had MPs killed, two of them in the last decade, and we’ve got four of the leading politicians in Scotland being shown as being hanged.

“Had this happened to any other political party, any other politicians, Andrew Neil and the traditional media would be speaking in outrage at what had been done, but because of the rot that’s’ going on within some of the right-wing press against the SNP since 2014, that type of stuff is acceptable and funny.”

The depiction of the SNP logo as a noose has been used before in the mainstream media with The Sun running the headline “Vote SNP today and you put Scotland’s head in the noose” in 2007, with a rope laid out in the shape of the logo in the background.

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And it would seem the idea is turning into a concerning trend, with Clackmannanshire councillor Ellen Forson telling The National pictures were put up on statues in Alloa town centre last week showing Sturgeon (above) and Yousaf with their heads in nooses.

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The incident was reported to police and the images were quickly removed, but Forson said it was concerning how similar they were to the Times cartoon.

She said: “The similarity is quite surprising. It’s very distasteful and it’s completely uncalled for. I understand the need for political discourse but this takes it to another level.

“His [Neil’s] comments seemed very gleeful and it's irresponsible. It’s almost encouraging what happened in Alloa town centre.”

Equalities Minister Emma Roddick said the cartoon was “unsettling” and there was no excuse for Neil sharing it on social media.

“I think there are folk who continually act shocked whenever there are threats made against politicians and then fail to call out stuff like this, and they are part of the problem that’s allowing that culture to carry on in politics,” the Highlands and Islands MSP said.

“I think it’s unsettling. People don’t treat politicians like fellow human beings but we are. When you see something like this, it says to me there are folk who are happy to not only have threats made against people like me, but will make a joke out of it.”

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On Neil sharing the cartoon, she added: “It’s very concerning. He will have most likely at some point in his career reported on the realities of what this can end up meaning for folk in politics and so cannot claim ignorance to how serious or impactful it is.

“We all know surely by now how damaging it can be to make a joke out of suicide and mental health issues. It could reawaken trauma, make people feel bad about themselves and journalists need to be doing better.”

The Times and Neil have been approached for comment.