ALISTAIR Carmichael has accused Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond of turning a blind eye to online abuse by SNP “obsessives”.

The former Scottish secretary told The House magazine that he and his family were the victims of “vicious” abuse by Nationalists following the controversy in which he admitted leaking a memo in a bid to undermine the First Minister by suggesting, falsely, that, ahead of the last General Election, she privately wanted David Cameron to remain in Downing Street.

The MP for Orkney and Shetland said: “I had not anticipated the sheer viciousness that would come my way, the abuse on social media and the rest of it.

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“The fact that some of it would not just be directed towards me, but towards members of my family and friends, I had not anticipated. That is also difficult but the old saying is ‘if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger’. It didn’t kill me, I’m here and I like to think I’m a stronger, better politician as a result.”

Indeed, Mr Carmichael suggested it was “more likely than not” that he would seek to stand again for the Northern Isles in 2020.

Asked whether Ms Sturgeon and her predecessor Mr Salmond could do more to stop the online abuse, the Liberal Democrat replied: "I have a suspicion that they don’t tackle it because, frankly, it makes their internal party management easier if their obsessives are focused outwards rather than focussing inwards.

“I just don’t understand why anybody who does want a rational, reasoned mature debate would do that. These are the people who have the opportunity to do more. It’s up to them to decide how they want to do their politics but I don’t think, ultimately, it’s healthy."

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Frenchgate, as it became known, centred on a leaked memo between a Scottish Office official and the French consul general in the run-up to the 2015 General Election. It claimed the FM had suggested she privately wanted Mr Cameron to remain in No 10; which was the opposite of what she was saying in public. Both Ms Sturgeon and the consul general said the claim in the memo was not true.

When quizzed, Mr Carmichael told Channel Four News he had only found out about the memo when a journalist contacted him about it. However later during a Whitehall leak inquiry, he admitted he had in fact approved the leak by his spin doctor.

In a subsequent unsuccessful court hearing brought by constituents to oust him as an MP, judges said Mr Carmichael had told a “blatant lie” but ruled it had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt that he had committed an "illegal practice".

In the interview, the former Scottish secretary said: "Of course I regret[the leak] but I will be judged by my constituents and others on the totality of what I’ve done in public life, not just that one TV interview.

“From the constituency point of view, I can point to the things I have achieved both in government and opposition. These things actually matter an awful lot more to people in the Northern Isles than the things that the SNP want to talk about.”

He added: “You saw evidence in the fact that at the Scottish Parliament elections in May, despite the fact they threw everything at Orkney and Shetland, and Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted to see the SNP win it in order to wipe the smile of Alistair Carmichael’s face, in fact both my Scottish Parliament colleagues were returned with thumping majorities and 67 per cent of the vote."

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An SNP spokesman said: "As the SNP have repeatedly made clear, online conduct should always be conducted in a civil, courteous manner befitting of our wider political debate."