A cartoon featuring Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond by one of The Guardian's most prestigious satirists has been branded racist for including a joke about incest.
Steve Bell's Monday cartoon shows the SNP leader saying she would work with a Labour government after the May election but would not compromise on its "core demand" of "incest and Scottish Country Dancing".
Social media outrage took hold almost immediately, with claims the cartoon had been reported to police as a hate crime as tweeters took to the digital barricades. Police Scotland told HuffPost UK it was unable to confirm any official complaints.
The cartoon, which is a reference to a quotation that people should try "everything once, except incest and Morris Dancing" was labelled "racist" and "xenophobic" while "Steve Bell" trended in Glasgow on Twitter on Monday.
— Drouthy Scot (@DrouthyScot) March 9, 2015
For those who are cross at the xenophobic and racist Steve Bell cartoon - complain!!March 9, 2015
Dear @guardian, I'm not even Scottish but could your Steve Bell cartoon today be any more racist? Disgusting.— Melissa Murray (@meljomur) March 9, 2015
If I could see some sense of satire or humour in Steve Bell's cartoon then fair enough but there isn't any. It's just offensive. @guardian— David Fenton (@davefenton) March 9, 2015
Read a comment on Facebook that someone's reported the Steve Bell cartoon as a hate crime. Lordy, lordy, catch yersels on.— Stophmcc (@stophmcc) March 9, 2015
Meanwhile, outside Steve Bell's house...... pic.twitter.com/8n5VqYJhoi— Patronising BT Lady (@PatronisingBT) March 9, 2015
One user wrote: "Not sure Steve Bell understands how to be satirical without being racist, here's a lesson," and posted a previous cartoon by Bell on the SNP.
I'm not sure Steve Bell understands how to be satirical, without being racist.
Here's a lesson. pic.twitter.com/h2E5I0ctye— McV (@IndyForTheGuy) March 9, 2015
Bell's cartoons are merciless on their subjects. He has previously drawn David Cameron as a condom and Nick Clegg as a mask-wearing gimp.
He has also poked fun about the late intervention of the main party leaders before the vote on Scottish independence in September.
Commenting on the page of the latest cartoon, one reader wrote: "I just can't believe this. Shame on you Steve Bell, shame on your editors, and shame on the moderators who edit this. Is this actually the Guardian? Has this app been hacked?
"Breathtakingly offensive. If I was a Muslim or a Jew the law would protect me from this filth. But not, apparently, if I am a Scotsman. You just lost me, I'm off to join the SNP right now. Goodbye."
"We don't support those who trash our nation and people," wrote another who, apparently thinking she had the power to hire and fire at The Guardian, added: "Your p45s in the post!"
But not everyone agreed and felt the cartoon was little different to Bell's other cartoons that skewer and mock politicians.
The SNP / Steve Bell stramash this morning increasingly reminds me of this. pic.twitter.com/1zMepzfxOd— James Doleman (@jamesdoleman) March 9, 2015
Dan Hodges, Telegraph and Total Politics columnist, said it showed that journalists who attacked parties that identified as progresssive faced "the Twitter firing squad" while those who attacked right-wing parties had free rein.
Steve Bell cartoon again proving that as long as you attack the Right, anything goes, but attack the Left and it's the Twitter firing squad.— Dan Hodges (@DPJHodges) March 9, 2015
Best understood as one of those timelessly enjoyable spats between nasty and stupid. http://t.co/wWhaiBXjPL— Hugo Rifkind (@hugorifkind) March 9, 2015
But there were also people who simply weren't that bothered and may have been feeling left out by the whole controversy.
Steve Bell's SNP cartoon just isn't funny, it's a bit crap. But it isn't racist, wish people would understand this in their OUTRAGE.— Dwayne Pipe (@NudgeAndNurdle) March 9, 2015
I'm not offended by that Guardian cartoon, by the way, and I think calling it "hate speech" is OTT. I also wouldn't call it racist...— Limmy (@DaftLimmy) March 9, 2015
"I love satire, I am a Scot & do not have a problem with this cartoon. I'm also sure that Nicola Sturgeon could not care less about it," a reader commented on the Guardian site.
"But, given this newspaper's cowardly refusal to reproduce the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, one is forced to conclude that (as far as this newspaper is concerned) some targets are easier than others."
Ipso has received complaints about the cartoon but has no power because The Guardian is not a member of the press watchdog.
A spokeswoman for Guardian News & Media told HuffPost UK: "Steve Bell is recognised by his peers - and Guardian readers - as a raw, controversial and talented cartoonist, and his work is often in a pugnacious style.
"The cartoon in question is a commentary on the old joke or saying 'You should try anything once, except incest and Scottish country dancing' and is intended to be viewed in light of this.
"The readers' editor is aware of complaints and will be responding individually."