THE Scottish Parliament has been criticised for lending credibility to the man dubbed "the last dictator in Europe" by laying on the red carpet treatment for his UK ambassador.

Holyrood Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick publicly welcomed "the ambassador of Belarus, His Excellency Mr Sergei Aleinik" at the start of First Minister's Questions on Thursday.

Aleinik stood in the Parliament's VIP gallery as MSPs around the chamber applauded.

But human rights groups say the Parliament should have snubbed Aleinik given his country's atrocious human rights record under dictatorial president Alexander Lukashenko.

Belarus is the only country in Europe still executing its citizens - choosing to shoot people in the back of the head.

People are imprisoned for political beliefs, and gay rights activists are targeted.

Yulia Gorbunova, a Moscow-based lawyer and researcher for Human Rights Watch, said Holyrood should not have engaged with Belarus.

She said: "Belarus is the most repressive state in Europe. The human rights situation remains very poor and continues to deteriorate."

A Holyrood spokeswoman said: "The Scottish Parliament conducts its international relations in line with UK foreign policy.

"It is normal protocol to facilitate requests for visits to the Scottish Parliament by ambassadors who represent countries with which the UK has diplomatic relations."