FIRST Minister Henry McLeish faced down opponents yesterday in the row over his intention to style his administration the Scottish government, pointedly using the term several times during questions in the parliament.

The SNP sought to keep the spotlight on him, embarrassing him with their overwhelming support for the terminology, but seeking to drive a wedge between Mr McLeish and Westminster colleagues.

But the impression was that, after a torrid 48 hours of media flak and some brutal criticism from supposed party colleagues at Westminster, Mr McLeish performed well yesterday and rode out the storm.

John Swinney, SNP leader, invited the first minister to join in condemnation of some of the disparaging remarks emanating from London, most notably the jibe equating the Scottish administration to the White Heather Club.

He did not name names about the source of this particular comment, although several SNP MSPs shouted out the name of Brian Wilson, and the former party leader, Alex Salmond, later claimed in a BBC TV interview that the Scotland Office minister had been the source of this slight against the Scottish Parliament.

However, Mr Wilson yesterday fiercely condemned the use of unattributed personal attacks on Scotland's first minister, or anyone else. Distancing himself and Dr John Reid, the Scottish secretary, from yesterday's criticism of Mr McLeish, Mr Wilson told The Herald that anyone who was prepared to launch such a ''disgusting attack'' should at least be prepared to attach their name to the quote.

In Edinburgh, Mr McLeish said the administration's first document outlining its goals had been called Programme for Government and the update, due later this month, would be called the same.

''In devolved matters, we are governing Scotland. This has always been so,'' he said.

He referred to his administration several times as ''a government,'' although only fleetingly as ''the government'' during well-rehearsed responses which struck a careful note combining defiance and acquiescence.

Mr Swinney sought to pin him down with an abundance of SNP support for the principle of calling the administration the Scottish government, but Mr McLeish replied: ''Let's not get silly. We have no plans to change the name of the Scottish Executive because we don't need to - we are the government.''

He added: ''We are taking decisions on devolved matters in Scotland for the Scottish people. On three occasions, I have said Scottish government. And we are governing for the whole of Scotland. It's crystal clear - if they want to take advantage of a storm in a tea cup, that's up to the nationalists.''

Mr Swinney claimed this showed Tom McCabe being ''hung out to dry'' for suggesting a formal name change was under consideration. He pressed Mr McLeish on media accounts of the alleged ''slap down'' by Downing Street.

David McLetchie, the Conservative leader, mocked the confusion of names by saying he would avoid the term Scottish cabinet ''in case people think it's a drinks cupboard''.

Meanwhile, Sandra Osborne, Ayr MP and former chair of the Scottish group of Labour MPs at Westminster, yesterday rose to the defence of Mr McLeish.

She said: ''While people may have their own thoughts about the change of name, their over-the-top reaction is mystifying since only months ago the overwhelming number of Scottish MPs clearly thought Henry was the best candidate for the job.''