Alex Salmond has said the Economist magazine will "rue the day" it published a front cover image likening Scotland to an impoverished nation.
The latest edition uses a map of the country, renamed "Skintland", with puns instead of place names such as "Glasgone", "Edinborrow" and the "Highinterestlands".
It is followed by an article concluding that independence would come at a high price and could leave Scotland as "one of Europe's vulnerable, marginal economies".
Salmond wants to hold a referendum on independence in autumn 2014.
The Scottish National Party leader said the front cover displays a sort of "Bullingdon Club humour" of "sneering condescensions".
"It just insults every single community in Scotland," he told Radio Clyde.
"This is how they really regard Scotland. This is Unionism boiled down to its essence and stuck on a front page for every community in Scotland to see their sneering condescensions.
"They shall rue the day they thought they'd have a joke at Scotland's expense."
Salmond added: "This doesn't represent England. Goodness' sake, I wouldn't insult the people of England the way the Economist believes it should insult the communities of Scotland.
"This is a particular strata of London society. It's not a very attractive strata. They're not even funny, let's face it. If it was a decent joke we'd have a laugh at it. This is just plain insults."
Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy First Minister, tweeted: "I'm pretty sure that Scots who don't support independence will find this week's @TheEconomist cover every bit as offensive as those who do."
The magazine article states: "If Scots really want independence for political and cultural reasons, they should go for it. But if they vote for independence they should do so in the knowledge that their country could end up as one of Europe's vulnerable, marginal economies.
"In the 18th century, Edinburgh's fine architecture and its Enlightenment role earned it the nickname 'Athens of the North'. It would be a shame if that name became apt again for less positive reasons."
Westminster SNP group leader Angus Robertson said the front cover is "patronising, metropolitan claptrap".
He added: "For a pro-Union, London-based magazine to portray Scotland and our communities in this patronising way is a disaster for the anti-independence parties.
"I trust that they too will disassociate themselves from it.
"The Economist's own inside article doesn't even reflect its ridiculous front page.
"As it says, Scotland is not subsidised from Westminster, the Scottish economy performs better than any other nation or region in the UK outside South East England and we account for 10% of the UK's GDP with just 8.4% of the population."
But Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman David McLetchie said: "The SNP would be better advised to answer the important points made in the article about Scotland's future. Instead, they are manufacturing outrage aimed at anyone who dares to question their perspective that a separate Scotland would be a land of milk and honey, a line they are constantly pedalling about our future.
"If this is the level of debate we are going to get from the SNP while we wait 1,000 days for their referendum, then it is no wonder that they are more interested in trying to avoid the big questions on issues such as currency and welfare."
Scottish Labour constitutional spokeswoman Patricia Ferguson said: "I have no doubt that Scotland could stand on its own two feet if the Scottish people decided to go it alone after the referendum.
"The real question is whether we would be better off and I am in agreement with the majority of Scots that staying within the United Kingdom allows us to share the benefits and spread the risks.
"Most people will recognise that this front page does not represent the facts, is way over the top and will not endear itself to readers in Scotland.
"But the SNP owe it to Scots to be straight with us on the costs of separation."
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "The front page cartoon was a bit silly but it didn't actually represent what was contained in the article. It was well balanced and posed a number of difficult questions that the SNP have so far failed to answer.
"What is disappointing, although not unusual, is that rather than dealing with those questions, senior Nationalists have chosen to do everything possible to distract people's attention from the substance of the analysis.
"We need more light than heat but with the SNP, we rarely get it."
Labour MP Tom Harris, who stood for the leadership of the Labour Party and is a staunch unionist, said he "must remember to buy this week's Economist".