A top civil servant who once compared the SNP to the Omagh bombers has quit weeks after the Nationalists' win in the Holyrood election.

Susan Dalgety, one of the key officials in charge of the Scottish Executive's Malawi initiative, has walked away after Labour's defeat last month.

She has refused to comment on whether her departure is linked to her describing the SNP as being full of "oddballs" and "out-and-out racists".

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Dalgety was a high-profile civil servant who joined the Executive after Jack McConnell became first minister.

A one-time Labour councillor, she became one of McConnell's press aides and acquired a reputation for being one of his closest confidantes.

She was then rewarded with the plum post of international communications manager, which involved her working on the Executive's policy of sending aid to Malawi.

Dalgety was paid around £50,000 a year to work with the Malawi media and help oversee the "co-operation agreement" struck between the Executive and the impoverished country.

However, she was said to be "gutted" after the SNP won last month's Holyrood election and was unsure whether she had a future under the Nationalist administration.

Her Labour loyalties and queasy attitude towards the SNP are said to have informed her decision to quit last week. The Sunday Herald understands her resignation was made around the same time her new bosses were reminded about a column she wrote before joining the Executive.

Written in 1998, when she was a Labour councillor, Dalgety stated: "I detest the Scottish National Party and everything it stands for."

She continued: "Scratch below the almost acceptable surface of Smarmy Alex Salmond and his small band of MPs and his barmy army is exposed as an assortment of oddballs, extremists and out-and-out racists."

Dalgety then compared the SNP to the IRA: "We need to look no further than the butchery of Omagh to see for ourselves what happens when nationalism gets out of control. Innocent children die."

She concluded: "Readers might find my gut reaction to the SNP overdramatic, but I love Scotland too much to stand by and watch it succumb to the intolerant, adolescent demands of bigots."

Dalgety informed her colleagues on Friday of her decision to quit, and her valedictory email even contained a dig at the new first minister.

"I have also been very privileged to have worked with some wonderful people here at the Executive, talented, committed, people (yes, you) who help make Scotland the best small country in the world," she said.

Salmond, much to the fury of the outgoing Executive, had mocked McConnell's "best small country" slogan.

One Executive source said: "Her resignation suits both sides. I don't think she would have found it comfortable working with us."

Dalgety is said to be considering a variety of options about her future, and has been tipped for a research post for the Labour group at Holyrood.

She said yesterday: "I want a change in direction."

Asked if she would have quit had McConnell remained as first minister, she said: "I have got nothing else to say."