By Anne-Marie O'Donnell
A spokesperson for Johann Lamont has come under fire for a second time in a year for posting offensive comments on the social networking site Twitter.
On Sunday, Paul Sinclair was forced to issue an "unqualified apology" hours after he published a sarcastic tweet about cancer and the Scottish independence referendum, which read: "If anybody's doctor tells them they have cancer don't worry…their opinion will change after a yes vote…it's just bluff and bluster."
Mr Sinclair was quickly challenged on his comments by Chief Executive of NHS Scotland Paul Gray, who told him: "This is grossly offensive to cancer sufferers and the medical profession and you should be ashamed of yourself."
Another Twitter user, a cancer sufferer, later asked the aide to Johann Lamont to retract his "offensive tweet", to which Mr Sinclair replied that he was "making a political point", adding: "We may disagree but I wish you a speedy recovery."
Twitter users responded furiously to Mr Sinclair's remarks, many of whom are battling cancer or caring for family members dealing with the illness. One user wrote: "I am thoroughly disgusted. You are a disgrace. That is all," while another said: "You really have no shame! I am utter (sic) dumbfounded anyone in your position could make such a crass statement!"
The incident marks the second time in a year that Mr Sinclair has found himself in hot water over comments made on Twitter. In July last year, he suggested First Minister Alex Salmond was "an arse" for having his photograph taken with Scottish Open golf tournament winner Phil Mickelson, and later took a swipe at the First Minister's weight.
At the time, Mr Sinclair's comments were quickly picked up by Mandy Rhodes, editor of Holyrood Magazine, who said Johann Lamont would "surely not approve" of her advisor's language. Following the latest incident, the SNP has called on the Scottish Labour leader to publicly distance herself from Mr Sinclair's comments.
"This was an appalling and tasteless thing to say, and it is incredibly offensive to cancer sufferers, their families and the medical profession," said SNP MSP Aileen McLeod, who sits on the Scottish Parliament's Health Committee. "Mr Sinclair is the official spokesperson for Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, and he is paid out of public Scottish Parliament funds.
"There are seven months to go before the referendum, and comments of this nature from the Labour leader's spokesperson cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged - common decency requires some things to be beyond the scope of silly political jibes in the months ahead."
She added: "Johann Lamont employs Mr Sinclair, and he speaks for her in an official capacity. Therefore, Ms Lamont must make it clear immediately that she dissociates herself from this disgraceful remark, and issue a public apology on behalf of the Labour Party. It is the only decent and honourable way to draw a line under this regrettable matter."
Despite apologising for the remarks, Mr Sinclair has not removed his tweet.