THE incoming Archbishop of Glasgow has been criticised by senior politicians from all parties for linking the death of a Labour MP to his homosexuality.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Labour leader Ed Miliband were among those condemning comments made by Archbishop-elect Philip Tartaglia about David Cairns at a conference on religious freedom and equality earlier this year at Oxford University.

Yesterday, a statement on behalf of the current Bishop of Paisley apologised for the hurt caused by the comments, adding there was "no offence or judgment intended".

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Mr Cairns's partner, Dermot Kehoe, accused Bishop Tartaglia of using the MP's death to make a political point, adding that the deeply painful remarks added to the grief and pain felt by him and Mr Cairns's family.

Criticism also came from Labour's Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper, while one English MP, Jamie Reed, said Bishop Tartaglia should issue a full apology or resign.

Glasgow MP Tom Harris, a close friend of Mr Cairns, has also written to the Archbishop-elect over the comment, stating: "I accept your comments may have been spontaneous and perhaps even a cause for regret after you had made them; you would not be the first public figure to make a mistake by thinking out loud. But I hope that you will revisit your words and honestly reappraise them in the light of the unnecessary and utterly unjustified distress they will have caused.

"I feel strongly that the Church should not be reluctant to voice unpopular or unfashionable opinions. It's important that those who oppose equal marriage for reasons of faith are not universally smeared as 'homophobic'. But I fear that your comments about David play into the hands of such critics and will do the reputation of the Church more harm than good."

Mr Cairns, who was Labour MP for Inverclyde and a former Catholic priest, died at the age of 44 in May last year.

He had been admitted to hospital in London a number of weeks before his death, suffering from acute pancreatitis.

At the Oxford conference, Bishop Tartaglia said: "If what I have heard is true about the relationship between the physical and mental health of gay men, if it is true then society is being very quiet about it.

"Recently in Scotland there was a gay Catholic MP who died at the age of 44 or so and nobody said anything and why his body should just shut down at that age. Obviously, he could have had a disease that would have killed anybody. But you seem to hear so many stories about this kind of thing, but society won't address it."

Mr Kehoe called on Bishop Tartaglia to "understand what he has done and why it is wrong, why to take David's life and to tell people that David died because of his lifestyle when that is simply not true and there are no facts to support that".

He said: "I want him to show contrition for that and to apologise. What happened to David could have happened to anybody.

"The bishop may have things he wants to say, based on scripture or based on theology about the issue of equal marriage. But to speak in this way in complete ignorance, not knowing any of the facts either about David's life or about his medical condition, is just an unacceptable way for someone to behave who seeks to show moral leadership."

Ms Sturgeon said: "I'm sure during Bishop Tartaglia's tenure as Archbishop of Glasgow I will agree with him on many issues and I will disagree with him on many issues. On this issue I profoundly disagree with him, both in terms of the specifics about the tragic death of David Cairns but also on the generality on the link between ill-health and homosexuality."

Mr Miliband, who was visiting Edinburgh, said: "I think Bishop Tartaglia's wrong. I think it's obviously caused hurt for totally understandable reasons."

A spokesman for Archbishop-elect Tartaglia said: "The Archbishop-elect's words have been taken out of context. They were made in answer to an audience question at a lecture he gave on religious freedom in Oxford 14 weeks ago.

"He had no previous knowledge of the question, which was not related to his speech. In his reply he mentioned a situation he had been closely involved in, namely the funeral arrangements for the late David Cairns.

"The Archbishop knew David Cairns, met him regularly at events in Inverclyde, and got on well with him, and was personally involved in his funeral arrangements. He is sorry for any hurt which has resulted, there was certainly no offence or judgment intended in his words."