THE BBC has apologised after commentators laughed about Catholics being “cleared out of Scotland” by John Knox during coverage of the Queen’s coffin.

The remark was made during live coverage of the royal hearse travelling from Balmoral to Edinburgh on Sunday as crowds thronged the Royal Mile.

With the Queen's coffin due to rest at St Giles’ Cathedral, one BBC presenter mentioned Knox, its radical minister during the Scottish reformation. 

A guest contributor then said: “John Knox of course being your great Scottish Protestant reformer, who cleared the Catholics out of Scotland.”

After the anchor replied “that’s how history remembers him”, there was laughter from several presenters, who were off-camera throughout.

The apparent levity about Catholic suffering drew scores of complaints from viewers.

Among those who complained was Chris McEleny, the general secretary of Alex Salmond’s Alba party, who today released his response from the corporation.

It said: “Thank you for contacting us about comments, and the reaction to them in the studio, about the Scottish presbyterian John Knox made during our live coverage of the cortège carrying the coffin of HM Queen Elizabeth II to Edinburgh, 11 September.

“We are sorry for the offence caused by this unscripted exchange.

“Your concerns have been included in our overnight report. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback at the BBC, and help inform our future editorial judgements. Our apologies once again.”

Mr McEleny said: “It is welcome that the BBC have acknowledged that they had to apologise for the ridiculous remarks but what is still disappointing is that they seem to be brushing the incident under the carpet. 

“Not only was it the latest in a long list of ill informed comments on Scotland and our history during the BBC’s coverage of the passing of the Queen, it was overtly anti Catholic in the sentiment and reaction. 

“At a time when many will be asking questions that go to the heart of Catholic prejudice in the UK on the back of the sectarian element of the Accession Council, the BBC must do better and set out exactly what action they are going to take.”