Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman has been forced to apologise for branding a senior coalition minister a "ginger rodent".
Mrs Harman admitted she had been "wrong" to use the description about Liberal Democrat Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander in a speech to the Scottish Labour Party conference in Oban.
She told delegates: "Many of us in the Labour Party are conservationists and we all love the red squirrel."
"But there's one ginger rodent we never want to see in the highlands of Scotland - Danny Alexander."
The joke about Mr Alexander, the flame-haired MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, was greeted with laughter in the conference hall but the former equalities minister found herself accused of insulting all Scotland's redheads.
A statement issued by Labour said: "Harriet Harman has today apologised for her comment about Danny Alexander and says it was wrong."
Before becoming an MP Mr Alexander was head of communications for the Cairngorms National Park, which is noted for its red squirrel population.
Posting on social networking site Twitter, Mr Alexander said: "I am proud to be ginger and rodents do valuable work cleaning up mess others leave behind.
"Red squirrel deserves to survive, unlike Labour."
George Lyon, Scottish Liberal Democrat election chair, said: "There is no depths to which the Labour Party will not stoop."