A BBC journalist has condemned the "vicious abuse" he received from independence-supporting "Cybernats" after interviewing Nicola Sturgeon about claims she wants David Cameron to win on May 7.
James Cook put it to Sturgeon that he had spoken to people within SNP who saw the value of a Tory victory in the general election as it would stoke nationalist feeling in Scotland.
The interview was part of a blizzard of coverage on Saturday of Sturgeon's denials that she had told the French ambassador that Ed Miliband was not "PM material" and she wanted to see Cameron stay in Number 10.
The claim is damaging to the SNP leader, who has always sought to distance the party from the Tories and called on Miliband to join the SNP in "locking out" Cameron from Downing Street if there is a hung parliament after the election.
The Cabinet Secretary has ordered an inquiry into how a memo claiming she did say this was leaked to The Daily Telegraph.
During the interview, Sturgeon told Cook she would not comment on Cook's claims of what his SNP sources said, saying she did not know if they were true.
Hours later, Cook described "vicious abuse" he had received since this was aired.
Though he did not specify what had been said to him, he was called "the scum of the earth" and he has received a huge volume of tweets in the 24 hours since the interview.
@BBCJamesCook You and your discredited broadcasting company are the scum of the earth. Lies and disinformation are an affront to Scotland.— Ralph Semple (@Aristilus) April 4, 2015
@BBCJamesCook pathetic attempt by you James to perpetuate the smear!— Andrew Murdoch (@porridge_time) April 4, 2015
In a series of tweets, Cook said he was "simply reporting the news" and asked "Is this country we want folks?"
What an extraordinary level of vicious abuse I have received today for simply reporting the news. Is this the country we want folks? Is it?— James Cook (@BBCJamesCook) April 4, 2015
OF COURSE there are some SNP strategists - I know, I've spoken to them - who say in private a Tory victory would hasten independence.— James Cook (@BBCJamesCook) April 4, 2015
OF COURSE I won't identify the SNP folk who said to me in private conversations that they could see the attraction/would prefer Tory govt.— James Cook (@BBCJamesCook) April 4, 2015
He said he had to ask "tough questions" and invited those who believed he invented his conversations with the SNP should simply unfollow him rather than abuse him.
OF COURSE I should ask tough questions of politicians. This is a democracy. This is my role in it. We're the poorer without challenge.— James Cook (@BBCJamesCook) April 4, 2015
And finally if, despite my 23 years of reporting things straight, you think I simply make up conversations then do feel free to unfollow me.— James Cook (@BBCJamesCook) April 4, 2015
Sturgeon herself tweeted to condemn the abuse, calling Cook "one of the best journalists in Scotland".
For the record and IMO @BBCJamesCook is one of the best journalists in Scotland. Tough but scrupulously fair and a consummate professional— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) April 4, 2015
Influential Nationalist blog Wings Over Scotland called the abuse "counter-productive".
Ex-MSP Tommy Sheridan said abuse was "unacceptable" but the BBC was "tarnished", echoing a common nationalist claim the broadcaster is pro-union.
Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, said the abuse showed "the uglier side of Scottish nationalism".
He wrote: "The SNP leadership are, in my experience, refreshingly open-minded, good-humoured and intelligent. But the problem with nationalism as a creed is that it attracts, as its followers, an angry mob – in the SNP’s case, a digital lynch mob."
It is not the first time a BBC journalist has been singled out for bias on the issue of Scottish independence.
During the campaign, Nick Robinson was called a "liar" for his coverage.
At an anti-nuclear rally in Glasgow on Saturday, Sturgeon said: "Anyone who knows anything about me knows I don't want to see a Conservative government. I'm campaigning to get the Tories out of Downing Street. We've made if very clear that we will lock David Cameron out of Downing Street - the only person who's not made that clear is Ed Miliband.
"We've said that if there are more SNP and Labour MPs than there are Tory MPs, then we will vote to stop a Tory government even getting off the ground. I reissue my challenge to Ed Miliband today to say likewise."
She said the Telegraph leak suggested "a Whitehall system out of control - a place where political dirty tricks are manufactured and leaked".
She said she would be happy for a minute of her meeting with the French ambassador to be published.