I was intending to write a post in the near future about how well Willie Rennie was doing as Scottish Lib Dem leader. I may yet as he has raised some important points about devolved Scotland and the independence referendum while also being quietly effective at FMQ, marked improvement on Tavish Scott’s loud ineffectiveness. He is also shortlisted for being Holyrood’s Newcomer of the Year.

However, then I saw the photo below from the Scottish Lib Dems, my heart sank and thought it best to go negative on them once more before I go positive. Let me be clear, this photo wasn’t on a Lib Dem blogger’s website, it was (and still is for all I know) on the main Scottish Lib Dem Twitter feed and appears to be some sort of leaflet that may be doing the rounds:

Where to begin with how offensive the picture above is?

‘Blacking up’ the First Minister? The suggestion that Qatar is full of sand and camels and nothing else? Implying that an independent Scotland would take on all laws and rules that Qatar have? Painting the SNP as homophobic when they look set to lead the UK on gay rights legislation? Even the “Mr Salmond” is needlessly disrespectful.

It is a terrible statement that the Lib Dems are making, for barely any gain given the cack-handed, amateurish visuals that they have employed.

Qatar is a small oil-rich nation and Scotland is a small oil-rich nation, there is a comparison there that is a valid one to make and at least deserves being contested in good faith.

I don’t know if Willie Rennie personally sanctioned this attack advert above but, either way, he should sack the person(s) who put it together and/or released it online and then have a long hard think about what party he wants to lead and where he wants to place that party in the coming independence debate.

UPDATE: Thanks to Anndra Moireach in the comments, it has been pointed out that Willie Rennie put the ad up on his own Facebook profile. Willie was happy to debate with me on Twitter when I agreed with him about what a Yes-Yes result in the referendum means; time will tell whether he’ll be as keen to respond to my challenge that he should take the link off his page unless he can defend it…

UPDATE 2: It’s worth noting that the emir of Qatar seemed perfectly welcome by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition in a UK state visit this time last year, receiving “special favour” from the Queen. I wonder how Nick Clegg will be taking Willie Rennie’s line of attack…

UPDATE 3: The headline says it all: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg meets Qatari Deputy Prime Minister

Update 4: From Willie Rennie’s Facebook page – “I apologise for the offence that has been clearly caused by our cartoon on the First Minister’s remarks in Qatar. Although I did not approve its publication I accept responsibility for it. It has been interpreted in ways that were not intended. It has now been withdrawn. I apologise.”