PATRICK Harvie yesterday accused the UK government of a “despicable lie” by blaming immigrants for strains on public services that were actually caused by Tory cuts.

Opening the Scottish Greens’ biggest ever conference in Glasgow, the city MSP said the Tories were ready to scapegoat the most vulnerable in society to hide their own sins.

He singled out Home Secretary Theresa May’s speech to the Tory conference, in which she railed against migration as part of a pitch to succeed David Cameron.

Referring to the forthcoming in/out referendum on UK membership of the European Union, Harvie said: "We cannot permit the right wing, the hostile, the divisive rhetoric of austerity, the absurd fanatic ideology of the free market to define both Yes and No in that referendum.

"In what must count as one of the most despicable speeches I have ever heard from a political party conference, Theresa May showed just how willing the Tories are to lie and blame some of the most vulnerable people in our society for the pressures that they themselves are creating. The lie that it is immigrants or refugees or asylum seekers that put pressure on our public services and infrastructure. What an outright despicable lie.

“It is the UK Government themselves, by undermining those services and robbing the country of investment, that is putting pressure on them."

Delegates later backed a motion on Israel-Palestine condemning "Zionism as a racist ideology based on Jewish supremacy in Palestine" and calling Israel's policy towards Palestinians "apartheid".

It also called for a separate Palestinian state, Israel shrunk to its 1967 borders, a boycott of Israeli goods and services, an end to Hamas being described as a terrorist organisation, and the release of all Palestinian political prisoners from Israeli jails.

His party’s co-convener and its longest serving parliamentarian, Harvie said he wanted the Greens to have more MSPs than ever next May, exceeding the seven returned in 2003.

Addressing 700 delegates at the Clyde Auditorium, Harvie said the party had been through an extraordinary year - its membership up from 1200 to 9000 since the referendum - and now had an equally extraordinary opportunity to advance its policies at Holyrood.

The Greens hope to secure a list MSP from each of the eight Holyrood regions, with Harvie and Lothians MSP Alison Johnstone also standing in constituencies in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Harvie said the SNP had a “mixed” record, praising their policy in free university tuition, but warning they remained wedded to oil and gas technologies contributing to climate change.

He welcomed the SNP extending its fracking moratorium to underground coal gasification but said this had only come about through “Green pressure”.

Caroline Lucas, the sole Green MP, also attacked May’s speech as “truly shocking”.

She said: "Now, apparently, very conveniently, the economic crisis is the fault of refugees and those seeking a better life. It’s not asylum seekers or low paid migrants who traded in credit default swaps, or were bailed out with billions of pounds of taxpayers’ funds, or who are now back to business as usual collecting huge bonuses as though nothing ever happened - that was her own Tory party backers.”

She also thanked delegates for an "inspiring example of positive politics” during the referendum.

The conference later voted to launch a distinctive Green campaign to remain in the EU and “non-compliance” to resist controversial Tory trade unions reforms.

A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: "Given some of the crazy motions being passed at their conference, the Greens are hardly in a position to criticise anyone on policy."