Tom Gordon

Scottish Political Editor

A TOP LibDem official has taken personal command of Danny Alexander's election campaign in a last-ditch bid to save the party's biggest scalp north of the border.

Scottish convener Craig Harrow, who is also vice president of the UK LibDems, has moved into Alexander's Highland seat to act as his election agent.

It is understood that Harrow, a former director of Better Together who normally lives in Crieff, has been based in the constituency for several weeks.

His focus on Inverness, when the LibDems could lose up to nine other mainland seats in Scotland, is a sign of the deep problems facing Alexander.

On paper, the LibDem chief secretary to the Treasury should have a healthy majority of 8,765 over Labour in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey.

However the SNP, who came third in the seat in 2010, now threaten to end Commons career.

At the last election, Alexander polled 41% of the vote to the SNP's 19%.

But according to a constituency poll conducted by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft in February, the SNP is now on 50%, while the LibDems are on 21%, a swing of 25.5% to the Nationalists.

In a sign of his plight, Alexander was last month forced to appeal to tactical voters to help him fight off the SNP.

He claimed the Nationalists wanted to use the election as a "stepping stone to independence".

Asked if he would encourage Unionist supporters of other parties to back him, he said: "Yes. I am absolutely saying to people that the nationalists here are campaigning for independence."

Colleagues say Harrow and Alexander are close friends, having campaigned together in the past.

In 2007, Harrow was the LibDem candidate in the Holyrood seat of Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, when he came second to the SNP's Fergus Ewing.

Harrow was also Alexander's election agent in 2005, when the pair were party small-fry.

Harrow last hit the headlines a year ago when it emerged the Coalition government had handed a £30,000 contract to his company for "communications support" on the referendum.

The money was paid by the UK Cabinet Office to the limited liability partnership Engine Partners UK when Harrow ran its Edinburgh operation a few doors from the LibDem-run Scotland Office.

Harrow insisted the money went to another part of Engine Partners and he had no personal involvement with the contract, but the SNP questioned if it was legitimate use of public money.

Drew Hendry, the SNP candidate in Inverness and the leader of Highland Council since 2012, said Harrow's return to Inverness showed the LibDems were panicking.

He said: "This further cements what we already know - that the Lib Dems are running scared and will do and say anything to try and keep Danny Alexander in a job.

"Parachuting Craig Harrow into the Highlands cannot disguise the fact that Mr Alexander is the Treasury's man in The Highlands - he has spent the past five years propping up a Tory government that has cut spending on vital public services.

"The SNP are taking nothing for granted and working extremely hard to win this seat."

A LibDem spokeswoman said: ""Craig was previously the candidate in Inverness East. He was Danny's agent in 2005. He's always been campaigning in the seat.

"The party is concentrating national resources in the eleven seats we hold where the election is a straight two horse race between the Liberal Democrats and the SNP. We are getting across to people that the incumbent Liberal Democrats are best placed to stop the SNP."