AN aide to Alex Salmond is under fire for comparing Scotland's relationship with the UK to domestic abuse.

Opposition politicians said Joan McAlpine must apologise for comments claiming Labour, the Tories and the LibDems were like "sexist old dinosaurs who insist men should handle finances".

She said it was like a marriage of a talented woman who handed over all her assets to a domineering man before "eventually she recognises the relationship for what it is – an abuse of power".

Her comments were made in the week that Dunfermline MSP Bill Walker was suspended by the SNP over allegations of domestic abuse.

Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran said: "I can't remember a more ill-judged comparison. This will spark real anger and she should apologise.

"Every day, women in Scotland face abusive partners seeking to manipulate and control the relationship.

"Comparing the United Kingdom to an abusive marriage is absurd and offensive to men or women genuinely trapped in that kind of relationship."

Scottish LibDem deputy leader Jo Swinson added: "There should be an unreserved apology from Joan McAlpine and if one is not forthcoming Alex Salmond should sack her as his parliamentary aide.

"This is a deeply offensive comment that shows profound disrespect for the many victims of domestic violence which is an appalling crime."

Tory constitution spokesman David McLetchie said: "She is insulting the intelligence, common sense of Scottish women who know exactly what the value of a good partnership is when they see it."

However, an SNP spokesman said the criticism of Ms McAlpine was "concocted nonsense".

This is the second time in months that Ms McAlpine has faced criticism over ill-judged comments.

In January, the MSP was accused of "political racism" by her opponents after she claimed that politicians who criticised the SNP's policies were "anti-Scottish".

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was forced to distance herself from the comments when she was challenged on the BBC's Question Time programme.