Tim Farron made an appeal to disgruntled SNP supporters to join the Liberal Democrats as he brought his annual party conference to a close.

The new Lib Dem leader suggested that his party could offer a home to Scots annoyed their votes were “being used to chase a second referendum” while the NHS in Scotland was “creaking at the seams”.

The Lib Dems tumbled from 11 Scottish MPs to just one at the General Election.

Overall the party dropped from almost 60 MPs at Westminster to just 8.

Meanwhile, recent opinion polls put the SNP on around 60 per cent and on course to a landslide at next year’s Holyrood elections.

Mr Farron told his party faithful there were millions of liberals across the country.

“We need to convince them now to become Liberal Democrats,” he said.

The party could also draw support from Conservatives outraged at the party’s cuts to tax credits and Labour voters questioning Jeremy Corbyn’s “fantasy economics”, he said.

In a direct appeal to viewers watching at home, he added: “If you have never been involved in politics before but are dismayed by the blame, division, fantasy or fear you see peddled by others, join us.”

Earlier this week former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg predicted that the party would be the “comeback kids” of May’s elections.

Mr Farron told party activists "our mission is to put Liberal Democrats back in power at every level throughout Britain" next year.

In a significant section of the speech he also claimed that the party could be back in government at Westminster by 2020.

That claim had been undermined overnight by one of his predecessors as party leader, Sir Menzies Campbell.

He described the forecast as “unrealistic” and predicted that the party would be in the wilderness for a decade.

Mr Farron also told his party it should be "serious about power".

But he also urged them to be proud of what they achieved in coalition with the Conservatives, despite the controversy over their U-turn on tuition fees.

And he recommitted the party to its policy to eradicate the Budget deficit within the next two years.

Aides admitted that the new leader wanted to send a message to activists who might prefer opposition to the hard graft of coalition politics.

In an emotionally charged section that brought the hall to its feet he also called on David Cameron to sign up to European Union quotas on migrants and condemned his response to the crisis as "pathetic".

And he used his first conference address since his election this summer to pay tribute to another former leader Charles Kennedy.

He said the party would "fight back" in Mr Kennedy's honour.

"Charles’s death has robbed us of the sharpest mind, the wittiest tongue and the nicest bloke.

"The 23 year old who came from 4th place to gain Ross Cromarty and Skye, that same Charles Kennedy who inspired so many who had doubts to support the merger of Social Democrats and Liberals.

"Charles, who led us to our largest number of MPs in living memory

"Charles, who took on every corner of the establishment and led the campaign against the illegal Iraq War.

"Charles, we are so proud of you, and we will rebuild and we will fight back and we will do it in your honour."

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow minister without portfolio, said: “The Liberal Democrat leader cannot rewrite history. The Lib Dems are a Party which promised to scrap tuition fees and then trebled them. They are a Party which promised fairer taxes and then gave millionaires a tax cut. They are a Party which backed the Tories all the way for five years.

“The Party leader may have changed but you still can’t trust the Lib Dems."