A Scottish painter in Fife has lost a defamation claim against a former friend who called him a “gay painter”.

George Cowan alleged part-time comedian Mark Bennett had damaged his reputation among the local community.

According to the BBC, the comments were said to have left Mr Cowan “embarrassed and upset”.

However, Dunfermline Sheriff Court ruled he was not defamed, although it said what had happened was “deeply regrettable”.

It was claimed Mr Bennett often referred to the decorator as the “gay painter” during weekly meetings of a community business group.

Mr Cowan sought legal advice and asked for over £10,000 in compensation.

Mr Bennett’s response was to expel Mr Cowan from the business group.

A few weeks later Mr Cowan got a call from a local burger van owner to say she had found some of his business cards defaced with sexual comments about him.

Mr Bennett admitted he had referred to his ex-friend as a “gay painter”, but denied being behind the comments on the cards.

In a written judgement, Sheriff Kenneth McGowan said he was satisfied “no reasonable person” witnessing the comments would believe Mr Bennett was “seriously” claiming Mr Cowan was gay.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, actor Sir Ian McKellen criticised New Zealand Prime Minister John Key after he mocked a radio host for wearing a “gay” red jumper last week.