SCOTTISH LibDem leader Willie Rennie has lost one of his frontbench team over the party's failure to improve on gender balance.

Christine Jardine, a special adviser to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg in the Coalition government, has quit after just three months as environment spokesperson, the Sunday Herald can reveal.

She resigned late last month after a series of conversations with Rennie about a lack of activity to get more women elected.

She is now demanding an apology over Rennie's response to her exit.

In the last parliament, the LibDems had just one female MSP, Alison McInnes, but she lost her seat after being ranked behind a man in an internal party selection contest.

All five LibDem MSPs are now men, the worst gender balance at Holyrood.

When Jardine was appointed in May she was hailed as one of a 12-strong ”gender-balanced Lib Dem leadership team”.

However in her resignation letter, Jardine, the new chair of Scottish Women Liberal Democrats, complained not enough was happening.

She told the Sunday Herald: “I made clear to Willie what I was unhappy about, particularly with regard to gender balance. I felt I was out of step with the leadership. I was concerned at the lack of action to further gender balance.

"It will take a lot of graft and determination. What gender balance needs is action, it needs commitment and it needs and strategy and a momentum to keep it going and achieve its ends.

“It’s going to be a challenge to overcome the fact that we have an all male MSP group.

“My commitment to the party, Liberal ideals and social justice remains unchanged, and I will continue to campaign in whatever capacity I can in the future.”

A former BBC reporter, Jardine has been a high-profile LibDem candidate in numerous Holyrood and Westminster elections, and stood against Alex Salmond in Gordon in 2015.

She is now a journalism lecturer at the University of the West of Scotland.

A spokesman for Scottish Labour, which has the best gender balance of MSPs at Holyrood, said: “This shows how far our politics need to go to smash the glass ceiling for women. We can't think it's job done because the three main party leaders are women."

A LibDem spokesman responded saying: “Willie Rennie is taking some big reforms through the party and it is clear this has been challenging for some people. Christine has made a big contribution as a candidate in three elections in recent years. We wish her all the best for the future."

Jardine, 55, said that idea of reforms being “challenging” for her was an insult, adding: “I’m disappointed and offended at the tone of Willie’s response over my resignation. I would now like an apology from the leader."