RELATIONS between the Scottish Government and the national broadcaster plummeted last night as the row deepened over the BBC's ruling that Alex Salmond could not appear as a rugby pundit.

The corporation said the First Minister had asked to be included in its TV coverage of Saturday's Calcutta Cup Six Nations tie between Scotland and England at Murrayfield, but that his appearance had never been confirmed.

Mr Salmond also requested to appear on two other radio programmes covering the match, the broadcaster said.

But the Scottish Government accused the BBC of getting its "facts wrong". A spokesman pointed to emails from the editor of BBC TV Sport, which he said clearly showed the SNP leader had been invited on to the programme.

He added that Mr Salmond intends to raise fears of a "political ban" when he meets the head of the BBC Trust Lord Patten in Edinburgh today.

But opposition leaders accused the SNP leader of "spin".

The row erupted after the BBC yesterday published its response to complaints about the decision not to feature Mr Salmond during coverage of the tie, which England won 13-6.

The SNP had described the decision as "bonkers" with Mr Salmond comparing the broadcaster to a "tin-pot dictatorship".

He also denounced the BBC's chief political adviser Ric Bailey, who made the final decision, as a "political gauleiter". Mr Salmond's opponents demanded an apology over the term, used to describe a Nazi official, although the SNP denies it was used in that context.

The BBC said the initial approach about the match had come from the First Minister's Office. The corporation also said it turned down the TV request after similar requests for him to appear on Radio Scotland and BBC Five Live had already been rejected.

Explaining the decision, it said the singular nature of the high-profile game meant that it would not have been an "appropriate setting".

It also indicated that the independence debate and May's council elections were factors.

The statement also said clearance for such an appearance had to be received from Mr Bailey "before any decision is taken" to ensure no one party received "undue prominence".

But the SNP insisted last night that Mr Salmond had been "dropped".

A spokesman added that it was normal practice to alert the media if the First Minister was planning to attend high-profile events.

He also accused the BBC of getting its facts wrong, saying he "did not know" of any discussion with BBC Radio Scotland and that the Radio 5 Live request had come in after the TV appearance had been cancelled.

The SNP says the decision suggests Scottish ministers could effectively be banned from non-political programmes until the referendum, raising serious questions about coverage of events such as the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The party has also accused the BBC of double standards, suggesting that there will be no similar ban on Prime Minister David Cameron during this summer's London Olympics.

The BBC last night said there was no blanket ban and any decision would be taken on a case-by-case basis.

Scottish Labour MSP John Park said: "The SNP had us believe that an invitation from the BBC had been withdrawn. Now it transpires that it was actually Alex Salmond who demanded to get his face on the TV in the first place. The First Minister's spin is unravelling by the day. Our national broadcaster is not there to give him free publicity."

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: "So, now it appears that the BBC is a 'tinpot dictatorship' populated by 'gauleiters' simply for saying no to the First Minister as he shamelessly hawks himself from programme to programme demanding unfettered access to the nation's airwaves."