THE Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been criticised for using a “vile and derogatory word” to describe supporters of Israel amid the ongoing row over anti-semitism.

The volunteer group has referred to “zio” four times on its Facebook page, a word described as a “term of abuse” by a Labour inquiry set up leader Jeremy Corbyn.

However, SPSC chair Mick Napier said: “I use ‘zio’ because I am hostile to the political ideology of Zionism.”

He added: “‘Zio is not to be confused remotely with a racist epithet.”

Reports of anti-semitism have been dominating the headlines over a spate of comments made by Labour party members about Jews and the Holocaust.

The controversy came to a head last month over a social media post by Corbyn, which also triggered a street protest.

In 2012, Corbyn criticised the decision by authorities to scrub a mural off a wall that featured alleged anti-semitic tropes. He apologised and confirmed that “pockets” of anti-semitism exist within his party.

However, a wider debate is taking place on which words and phrases amount to legitimate criticism of Israel, and language that is abusive and anti-semitic.

In 2016, civil rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti published an inquiry into anti-semitism and other forms of racism in Labour.

Her report stated: “I have learned of a new modern-day racist epithet. 'Zio' is a word that seems to have gained some currency on campuses and on social media in particular. No doubt it began as an abbreviation of 'Zionist' (a term I will discuss later). However, I am clear that no one uses this word to describe their own political or cultural identity. It is a term of abuse, pure and simple, and should not in my view have any place in the vocabulary of Labour members, whether online, in conversation or anywhere else.”

One of her recommendations was that “epithets such as ‘Paki’, ‘Zio’ and others should have no place in Labour Party discourse going forward”.

Corbyn concurred at the time: “'Zio' is a vile epithet that follows in a long line of earlier such terms that have no place, no place whatsoever, in our Party.”

The Sunday Herald has identified four instances of the SPSC, which is the most visible pro-Palestine organisation north of the border, using “zio” on its Facebook page.

The official SPSC account has twice referred to “zio-troll”, as well as to a “nasty Zio page” and “ Zio smears”.

The campaign supports the BDS movement, which calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions towards Israel, over what it regards as the unjust treatment of Palestinians.

Speaking to the Sunday Herald, Napier said: “It ['zio'] is not a term of endearment, but there is nothing endearing about what is happening to the Palestinians.” He added: “Chakrabarti made a mistake.”

Sammy Stein, chair of Glasgow Friends of Israel, said it was “unsurprising” the SPSC had used this “vile and derogatory word.”

He said: “When it comes to anti-semitism, I am rarely on the same page as Jeremy Corbyn but in this case I wholeheartedly agree with him and the Chakrabarti report about the use of the word zio.”

Paul Masterton, a Scottish Tory MP for East Renfrewshire, whose constituency includes a sizeable Jewish population, said: “The Chakrabarti report makes it clear this is a racist term and one that has absolutely no place in society. That doesn’t seem to bother the SPSC.”