Alex Salmond SNP
Emily Benn has urged the MP and former SNP leader to retract his comments Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Alex Salmond has been criticised after the former SNP leader claimed late Labour stalwart Tony Benn would be "birling in his grave" over his son's pro-air strike speech in the House of Commons on 2 December.

The nationalist firebrand made the comments after Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn won plaudits for an impassioned pro-war speech as MPs debated David Cameron's plan to bomb Islamic State (Isis) targets in Syria.

Benn took the opposite position to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who gave his MPs a free vote on the issue, and argued it was imperative to attack the jihadists in the wake of the Paris terror attacks. But Salmond claimed Benn's father, who famously opposed the Iraq War, would have thought otherwise.

"His father, whose speech I heard in the Iraq debate all these years ago, would be birling in his grave hearing a speech in favour of a Tory prime minister wanting to take the country to war and that's just a reality," the MP for Gordon told LBC Radio.

The remarks drew criticism from Labour MPs, including Wes Streeting, who was "simply stunned that any parliamentarian would seek to invoke the memory of Tony Benn to inflict hurtful comments on his son and family".

Emily Benn, the granddaughter of Tony and a Labour councillor for Croydon, asked Salmond to retract his comments. "Your comments are both deeply offensive and simply untrue. I hope you reflect and retract them," the former parliamentary candidate said.

MPs passed the prime minister's motion by 397 to 223 and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has since confirmed four RAF Tornado jets based in Cyprus had carried out operations in Syria.

UPDATE (16:48 - 3 December)

Alex Salmond has argued that his remarks were "fair comment" and stressed that he do not intend to cause offence. "'Birling in your grave' is a well-known Scottish idiom, which means a deceased person would be enormously surprised by the current turn of events," the SNP MP said.

"I think it is a fair comment that Tony Benn would have been astonished to hear his son make a pro-war speech in favour of a Tory Prime Minister's war plans.

"There was certainly no disrespect meant to Tony Benn, who I held on the highest regard. Not least of which because of his passionate anti-war speeches – for which I was present.

"The Labour Party would be better employed demanding an apology from the Prime Minister for calling their own party leader a 'terrorist sympathiser'."

Daesh – What's in a name?

Should we cease referring to the terrorist group that controls swathes of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt's Sinai as Islamic State, Isis or Isil and begin using Daesh?

The term Daesh has become official terminology in Russia and France, where it was adopted as far back as September 2014, and has a major advantage in that IS fighters and leaders hate it. The word is an Arabic acronym of "al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa ash-Sham" – meaning the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams – but Daesh when spoken sounds similar to the Arabic words translating to "the sowers of discord" (Dahes) or "one who crushes underfoot" (Daes).

Due to Arabic wordplay, Daesh could be considered an insult. IS threatened "to cut the tongue of anyone who publicly used the acronym Daesh, instead of referring to the group by its full name". Muslims have always preferred to use the term Daesh rather than Islamic State, arguing the territory the group controls in Iraq and Syria is not a state, and its oppressive style of rule does not reflect Islamic values.

Why Isis hates being called Daesh: What's the correct name for the world's most dangerous terrorists?