EDINBURGH Police tweeted an off-colour joke about Edinburgh Zoo panda Tian Tian losing her cub within minutes of the news breaking.
Alongside a black and white picture of a police car from the 1950s, they tweeted: “It looks like the only new Pandas in Edinburgh this year will be ours.”
The tweet was deleted within minutes of it being drawn to the attention of police chiefs who later apologised.
But by then it had already been retweeted by almost 40 people – including Ian Rankin.
Scottish Conservative Chief Whip, John Lamont MSP said: “While this tweet was obviously done in jest, it is clear that it can easily cause offense.
“With the news having only just broken about the miscarriage it was in poor taste and it is only right that they chose to delete the tweet shortly afterwards.”
A spokesman for campaign charity Scotland for Animals said: ” It’s very concerning that the Police think they can do that.
“If they’re showing this level of inconsideration I think it is deeply concerning, especially when we trust these people to look after our animals.
“If they think its funny to say something like that when an animal has suffered a tragic loss and will be suffering then it is absolutely not acceptable.
“They are supposed to be professionals, it is wrong on so many levels.”
But a Conservative councillor from Edinburgh, Cameron Rose, disagreed.
He said: “We shouldn’t be oversensitive about a tweet which is just part of the twitter sphere.
“The arrival of Tian Tian has helped boost tourism for the area and for the country.
“I don’t think the tweet is that bad.”
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “We share everyone’s disappointment that Tian Tian is no longer expecting a cub.
“Our tweet was not intended to cause any offence, and we apologise to anyone who thought the content to be inappropriate.”
Last month, police were criticised after tweeting about a couple they had helped at the roadside.
Officers in the Tayside area assisted an elderly man who had stopped on the A90 to change a tyre. Leaving him by the side of the road to await rescue, they tweeted with the hashtag “Couldn’t make it up”.