The SNP group in North Ayrshire have called for Labour councillor Alex Gallagher to be removed from his post as economy portfolio holder after his controversial tweet in relation to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Cllr Gallagher waded into a row involving First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the BBC, telling a network reporter to 'grow a backbone and tell Nicola Sturgeon to f____ off."

It came about after Mrs Sturgeon hit back at claims she was ‘enjoying setting her own rules’ outside of England amid the coronavirus pandemic on a BBC news bulletin.

However, Cllr Alan Hill has told the News he was stunned by Mr Gallagher's refusal to apologise and said his party have no began action against him.

He said: “Cllr Gallagher’s tweet was disgraceful and juvenile. However, his refusal to apologise causes me some serious concerns.

"Instead he chose to try and justify such an offensive statement, citing free speech. Alex has the absolute right to criticise the Scottish Government, or anyone else for that matter, however these comments were not criticism but abuse - plain and simple.

"Cllr Gallagher is the Cabinet Member for the Economy which means that he will be the responsible councillor who will be working with local businesses and the Scottish Government to boost the economy in North Ayrshire. I now have absolutely no confidence in his ability to be able to do this.

"Can we, in all honesty, believe that he will treat all local businesses in the same way, or will his personal political views cloud his judgement?

"The SNP group on North Ayrshire Council have written to the council leader and the chief executive calling for Cllr Gallagher to resign or be sacked from his post. He has clearly demonstrated that he is unfit to hold a senior role within the council.

"Joe Cullinane should act to remove him but if not, then the SNP Group will seek to bring forward a motion of no confidence at the first available opportunity.”

Cllr Gallagher has confirmed that he has been reported to the council's ethical standards commissioner.

He said: “I acknowledge that my language in the tweet was inappropriate. If I were to repeat the sentiment, I would express it in more temperate language.

"If anyone was offended by the language that I used I would now give them a genuine apology."

A North Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “Complaints about potential breaches of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct are a matter for investigation by the Commissioner for Ethical Standards, and thereafter by the Standards Commission.”

A spokesman for the Ethical Standards Commissioner said: "We are unable to comment at this time."