Paddy Ashdown has claimed that the SNP are coming south to burn Westminster and make it dysfunctional.

The former Liberal Democrat leader made the statement whilst speaking to the BBC this morning as the first official day of campaigning for the 2015 general election got underway.

Polls suggest that the SNP will secure the majority of seats in Scotland at the general election, with an ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper last week putting support for the SNP at 43%.

Ashdown said: "The SNP has got one aim. They're not coming south to help Westminster work, they're coming south as a Scottish raiding party to burn Westminster down and to make the thing dysfunctional.

"I watched it happen in the Balkans, by the way. You first of all make it dysfunctional and then you have a case for breaking away. That's what their aim is."

Ashdown added that he was not comparing Alex Salmond to former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.

His comments have caused controversy on social media, with Twitter users branding his statement 'outrageous'.

In a separate interview, First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC that the party "would never put the Tories in office".

She also urged Scottish voter to "send a big SNP team to Westminster" and "vote SNP if you want Scotland's voice to be heard in the next House of Commons".

The SNP have ruled out any post-election deal with the Conservatives but have said they would be open to supporting Labour.

Ed Miliband has ruled out a formal coalition, after repeated calls for him to do so, saying there will be no SNP ministers in any government he leads.

However, last week Nicola Sturgeon claimed that Miliband was "clinging to the pretence" that he has a chance of winning an overall majority in the election and said her party was still open to an arrangement with Labour.