London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was not accusing the SNP of being racists or bigots.
He was under pressure to clarify tweeted extracts of his Scottish Labour conference speech in which he attacked “narrow nationalist parties”.
Mr Khan told BBC Scotland’s political editor Brian Taylor that “now was the time to come together” in the face of Brexit and the US presidency of Trump.
He made his speech ahead of Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale’s address.
- Watch Kezia Dugdale make her conference speech
- Scottish Labour’s Dugdale pledges to work ‘tirelessly’ for union
- Follow @BBCPhilipSim who is covering the three-day conference
Mr Khan’s tweets before the speech prompted strong reaction on social media including a response from Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who described his intervention as “spectacularly ill-judged”.
Using social media, she said: “It is an insult to all those Scots who support independence for reasons of inclusion & social justice – the antithesis of what he says.”
Before taking to the conference stage, Mr Khan was interviewed by the BBC. He said: “Of course I am not saying that the SNP are racists or bigots.
“What I am saying is that the world is increasingly divided by Brexit result and the election of President Trump, with the rise of populist and narrow nationalist parties across the world, now is the time to come together, now is the time for unity, not a time for division or isolation.”
‘Time to build unity’
When he made his speech, he reiterated that he was not calling the SNP racists or bigots.
Mr Khan said: “Now’s not the time to play on people’s fears.
“Or to pit one part of our country – or one section of our society – against each other.
“In that respect there’s no difference between those who try to divide us on the basis of whether we’re English or Scottish, and those who try to divide us on the basis of our background, race or religion.
“Now of course I’m not saying that nationalists are somehow racist or bigoted – but now, more than ever – what we don’t need is more division and separation.
“Conference, now’s the time to build unity. To build a more United Kingdom. To ensure that no one is left behind and that everyone has the opportunity to succeed. To build an open and more inclusive economy.”
What Sadiq Khan tweeted ahead of his speech
London Mayor Sadiq Khan ‘not accusing SNP of being racists’}