SIR David Steel, the presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament, yesterday came close to ejecting the first MSP from the chamber - after she refused to stop talking.

Sir David Steel rose to his feet and warned Johann Lamont, a back bench Labour MSP, that she would be ordered to leave after she failed to obey his instruction to end a question and sit down.

The rebuke led to a protracted row which dragged in speakers from almost every party and included accusations that Sir David was treating men and women differently.

The row blew up only hours after Sir David resumed full-time working after his ''successful'' treatment for prostate cancer.

Sir David, 64, who was diagnosed a year ago after a routine blood test, said his doctors were not using the words ''all clear'' because he had to return every three months for the next two years for check-ups.

He was presiding over the first minister's question time yesterday when Ms Lamont (Labour, Glasgow Pollok) came within seconds of being evicted.

The presiding officer stopped Ms Lamont while the MSP, who was heckled by mainly SNP MSPs, tried to ask a supplementary question on youth disorder to Jim Wallace, who was standing in for Jack McConnell, the first minister.

As her questions continued, Sir David, interrupted saying: ''No, no, no'' and ''enough''.

Ms Lamont then snapped: ''I'm sorry, I don't see why I should get held up for time, given the amount of time that's been given to other people.''

She called the issue ''very serious'' and continued with her speech at which point her microphone was switched off.

As Ms Lamont continued with her speech, albeit inaudibly, Sir David grew visibly angry and rose to his feet, for the first time since the parliament opened almost two years ago.

Waving a pen he said: ''The member must resume her seat or I will ask her to leave the chamber. Order, can I say if a member does that again they will be the first person asked to leave the chamber. That is not allowed.''

Ms Lamont, plainly enraged, then became involved in heated discussions with Labour colleagues as MSPs began a series of points of order.

Helen Eadie (Labour, Dunfermline East) suggested Sir David had a record of treating men and women MSPs

differently. She said: ''There is an issue, presiding officer, that in this chamber it is perceived by women in this house that you distinguish between men and women.''

This provoked howls of laughter and protest from opposition parties, including women MSPs.

Sir David rejected Ms Eadie's accusation as ''absolutely untrue''. He said parliamentary rules - the standing orders - made it quite clear supplementary questions had to be brief.