SCOTS LibDem leader Willie Rennie has demonstrated a distinctly illiberal side by reprimanding five members who wrote to The Herald protesting at the decision to deny pro- independence campaigners Yes Scotland a stall at the party's conference.

He wrote to them: "It is a matter of deep regret for me that you have chosen to show me such disrespect in sharing your views with the media without speaking to me first."

One of the five has blogged in response: "When did the Scottish Liberal Democrats become authoritarian?"

Nicola Prigg asks: "Since when does a member of a liberal party have to run things through central office?" adding: "Every single one of us signed it to stick up for liberal, open, pluralistic, democratic principles."

Mr Rennie argued in his letter: "It could have detracted from our messages for the conference. Even without some kind of stunt on the day, their presence would have been a focus for the media. As we don't get many opportunities to promote our own message the last point is important.

"It is the clear wish of members that we promote our vision of a federal UK.

"That is what I want our focus to be on as we unveil the Home Rule Commission Report.

"Whatever our response to their approach, it would have been made into a story by Yes Scotland. A rejection has been portrayed as not democratic.

"An acceptance would be used to indicate growing support for independence in the party."

One liberal blogger responded: "To treat opposition as showing him personal 'disrespect' leaves him in danger of sounding pompous, or at least like a Mafia padrone. Time to cool it, Willie."

Another of the signatories to the letter, Allan Heron, said: "That Willie felt the need to waste his time to get the letters typed and signed, and spent the money on stamps to send them really starts to raise questions about his judgment."