AN SNP minister has been forced to apologise after plugging a speech by a controversial pro-independence activist who suggested British soldiers in Northern Ireland are “legitimate targets” and labelled the poppy a “bloodied weed”.

Maree Todd, minister for children and young people, shared information about an upcoming event featuring Jason Michael McCann in Alness, and marked herself as “interested” in attending on Facebook.

Mr McCann, who is based in Dublin, has previously labelled the British state “an oppressive anti-democratic regime” and accused it of trying to ignite a war in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

He recently tweeted: “British soldiers returned to the streets of Northern Ireland. Good Friday Agreement now utterly defunct.

“Without peace, as the rules of war have it, these British soldiers are now legitimate targets.”

HeraldScotland:

In one blog, he wrote: “When I see my fellow independentistas wearing the poppy I see a contradiction.

“This bloodied weed is nothing short of ‘Britain the brand’ painted over the bones of its victims, and we Scots have given it enough.

“Yet, my anger is not with those who wear it to remember. My frustration is that still there are people who fail to see how it is being used – with massive cultural force – to forge a sense of national unity in a state that is anything but one nation.

“It is being used by the British state and by the nationalist foot soldiers of British thuggery as a nation building tool much in the same way a dog marks its territory – all over its victims in Flanders, France, Ireland, India, and all over Africa.”

Elsewhere, he wrote: "Brexit is not only the end of the Good Friday Agreement, it is the beginning of a war that will be fought in England."

He has also suggested unionist politicians and media outlets are the “scum of the Earth”.

Ms Todd apologised for retweeting information about Mr McCann’s upcoming Alness speech, which described him as a “great speaker with an important message”.

She told the Daily Mail, which highlighted his views: “I was not aware of the, frankly, abhorrent views held by this individual and was horrified when they were pointed out to me.

“Obviously I am sorry for having retweeted this event.”

She added: “As soon as I was made aware, I contacted the organisers to share with them his views. They have, rightly, moved to cancel the event.”

Mr McCann told the newspaper he stood by his comments.

He said: “I’m a pacifist and a devout Christian and I don’t want Ireland to return to violence.

“The target comment comes from the Green Book issued to Provisional IRA volunteers. It’s a quote from the book.”

Last year, Ms Todd was criticised after promoting a sugar-packed tablet recipe days after the Scottish Government announced a crackdown on sugary foods.

The Scottish Tories said many SNP politicians follow Mr McCann’s posts on social media, and called on Nicola Sturgeon to “sever links” between the party and the blogger.

Tory MSP Edward Mountain, an army veteran, said: “These views are utterly abhorrent and cannot be excused by the SNP because of his belief in Scottish independence.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said people would wonder why Ms Todd was "sharing details of a speaker she now claims to know nothing about".

An SNP spokesman said: “Maree Todd condemned this individual’s views as soon as they were brought to her attention – and he is not an party member.

“But if the Tories are intent on trawling people’s Twitter followers they had better make sure their own house is in order.

“The SNP’s priority this week is passing a budget to provide extra cash for schools, hospitals and other services, providing some stability amid ongoing Brexit chaos – something the Tories just want to divert attention from.”

Mr McCann is currently on a speaking tour of Scotland, starting with an event at Airdrie and culminating in Stirling.