FIRST Minister Alex Salmond faced accusations of an "ugly" smear campaign yesterday amid claims he compared a BBC executive to a Nazi official.

Opposition parties called on the First Minister to withdraw the remarks, in which he also dubbed the broadcaster a "tinpot dictatorship".

The row comes after the BBC dropped Mr Salmond from its coverage of a rugby match between Scotland and England on Saturday.

The corporation expressed concerns that featuring the SNP leader could leave it open to accusations of political bias.

However, the SNP protested against the decision, and Mr Salmond accused the BBC's chief political adviser, Ric Bailey, of behaving like a "gauleiter", a term originally used to describe a Nazi official, over the row.

Scottish Labour's Patricia Ferguson said that the First Minister was guilty of "hysteria" and described his reaction to being dropped from the sports programme as "embarrassing".

His attack on Mr Bailey was "totally unacceptable" and an "ugly smear", Ms Ferguson said.

She added: "Maybe he doesn't understand quite how offensive that term is, in which case he should withdraw it today.

"But if he is familiar with what the term means, that is a far more serious breach of the standards expected of his high office and he must apologise for it."

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, accused Mr Salmond of "bully boy" tactics.

In recent weeks the SNP had described those who disagreed with nationalism as being anti-Scottish, she said.

"Now we have the First Minister himself using words like 'dictatorship' and 'gauleiter' to attack a BBC official for daring to deny him his face on the television," she added.

"It is a completely inappropriate outburst from a man supposed to be running Scotland."

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said the SNP leader was trying to put political pressure on an independent broadcaster.

He said: "The First Minister is more like a tinpot dictator than the BBC will ever be. It is essential that we protect the independence of the BBC, free from control by our political leaders."

A spokesman for the First Minister last night insisted that the word 'gauleiter' had moved away from its Nazi-era meaning. He added: "The First Minister was rightly referring to over-officious BBC officials, and the real concerns about editorial decisions taken by BBC journalists being over-ruled by bureaucrats on political grounds."

Mr Salmond intends to raise his concerns with the BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten when he meets him in Edinburgh later this week.

The BBC said that it pulled Mr Salmond's appearance because of concerns it would be inappropriate given the debate about Scotland's political future.

However, the decision prompted the First Minister to tell the Sunday Herald: "Ric Bailey – the political gauleiter we should call him now – intervened to say this shouldn't happen and, really, he's lost the plot.

"What this means is that an editorial decision, a journalistic decision on the BBC by the sports editor, has been overridden for political reasons. That's what you get in tinpot dictatorships."

The row comes weeks after Tom Harris, the Labour MP, was forced to step down as the party's social media co-ordinator after a row over a spoof video he made of Mr Salmond as Hitler in the film Downfall.

The movie has spawned a number of spoof 'reinterpretations', in which footage of Hitler shouting is played alongside subtitles of fake outbursts from other public figures.

In 2006 Ken Livingstone, the then London Mayor, was suspended from office for comparing a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard.