BBC Radio Scotland was yesterday plunged into a furious row after Tom Morton, one of its leading presenters, said there was hardly any traditional music good enough to broadcast.

Morton, who presents Radio Scotland's weekday afternoon show, outraged the music community, leading artists, and members of the Scottish Parliament's traditional arts group.

His comments came in an e-mail to Dougal Carnegie, a member of Start, the cross-party group in the parliament on Scottish traditional arts.

Mr Carnegie had written to Morton - who took over from Iain Anderson in April - to ask for more Scottish traditional and Celtic music in his programme.

His reply has been described by various members of Start as ''shocking, ridiculous'' and ''bordering on the incredible''.

Cathy Peattie MSP, the convener of Start, who sang at the funeral of Donald Dewar, called for a public apology from Morton and a debate about the future role of Radio Scotland. Ian Green, the managing director of Greentrax, one of Scotland's leading traditional music companies, called for Morton to resign.

Morton's e-mail complained of a dearth of really good contemporary/traditional Scottish music that is well enough recorded to play on the radio.

Last night, Sheena Wellington, who sang A Man's a Man for A' That at the opening of the Scottish Parliament, said: ''I find his comments incredibly disappointing and quite wrong and I was quite shocked when I read them.

''And of course it is a huge embarrassment for the BBC - they have a moral responsibility to reflect Scottish culture.''

Aly Bain, the Shetland fiddler, added: ''I really do not understand what he means. He may not like the music, but to say that no music of the right quality exists - well, it's just stupid.''

Morton's show is described by the BBC as ''an afternoon of good music with a Celtic twist''.

The traditional music community has been anxious about the BBC's commitment to the art form since schedule changes were made by BBC Scotland's radio controller Maggie Cunningham earlier this year.

Now Morton's outburst has fuelled fears that the corporation has turned its back on an important indigenous art form.

In a letter to Morton, Mr Green said: ''I have come to the conclusion that either you are completely ignorant of what is currently going on in Scotland or you have no particular interest in or understanding of Scottish traditional music, in all its current exciting forms.''

''Quite frankly I consider your outrageous remarks should result in your immediate dismissal from Radio Scotland and you have my assurance I will bring your comments to the attention of Scottish members of parliament and others. Stupidity I can live with, but crass ignorance and arrogance is another thing.''

Colin Hynd, the director of the leading Celtic Connections festival, said Morton's comments were ''absolute rubbish''.

He said a whole generation of new artists, such as Malinky and Fiddler's Bid, were recording music worthy of radio broadcast.

''I feel that Tom is not really interested in the music. He probably doesn't know what is out there, and it seems he hasn't made the effort to find out,'' he said. ''Unfortunately, he's opened himself up to an avalanche of abuse.''

Ms Cunningham, in a letter to Start, said Morton, while contributing to selection, was not the final arbiter of the music played on his show.

''This may state BBC policy,'' said Ms Peattie, ''but it does not address the scandalous comments about Scottish music, which is supported by a broad, vibrant and creative community.''

Neither Morton nor Ms Cunningham commented yesterday.

But a Radio Scotland spokes-man said it had a long-standing commitment to traditional music, adding: ''Tom Morton's show is not for a specialist music audience - they are already well catered for elsewhere.''

what the e-mails said

Dougal Carnegie, a non-MSP member of the parliamentary cross-party group for the Scottish traditional arts (Start), e-mailed Tom

Morton to ask for more Scottish traditional and Celtic music and song in his afternoon Radio Scotland programme.

Tom replied to Dougal as follows: ''The programme does have a commitment to Celtic and Scottish music, but the problem we have, and this is little appreciated, is the dearth of really good contemporary/traditional Scottish music which is well enough recorded to play on the radio, which doesn't sound very much like other Scottish music, and which we haven't already played.

''Believe it or not we need and would welcome more good Scottish music. When we find it, we will play it.''

Cathy Peattie, convener of Start, said: ''Contrary to some people's perceptions, (Scottish traditional music) is not a museum piece but a living and developing tradition, combining essentially Scottish origins with other influences and innovations. That evolutionary process is part of the tradition.

''Radio Scotland should reflect and encourage that process. After all, what is wrong with them promoting our culture - both our heritage and its contemporary expression?

''We are trying to sell Scotland as a premier destination for cultural tourism, but comments such as Tom Morton's are undermining the efforts of all those involved in the traditional arts.''