HOLYROOD LibDem Alex Cole-Hamilton is being investigated by the police over alleged “financial irregularities” in his election expenses, the Sunday Herald can reveal.

The Edinburgh Western MSP, who is tipped as a future party leader, was reported to Police Scotland earlier this month.

It is understood a member of the public gave a statement alleging Cole-Hamilton filed an inaccurate spending return that under-declared his campaign costs.

The force says it is now establishing if any “criminality” took place.

The development is a blow to Cole-Hamilton and his mentor, current Scottish leader Willie Rennie, both of whom are attending the LibDem UK conference in Brighton this weekend.

The Sunday Herald first revealed unusual patterns in Cole-Hamilton’s spending in June.

The 39-year-old former charity worker was a “dual candidate” in May’s election, standing both in Edinburgh Western and on top of the LibDem regional list for the Lothians.

Electoral Commission guidance says dual candidates must make “an honest assessment” of whether their spending promotes their constituency or regional campaign.

With Edinburgh Western a high-profile target seat, Cole-Hamilton recorded the highest spending of any candidate in the capital, splurging £32,549 on his campaign, 75 per cent more than SNP rival Toni Giugliano, who spent £18,593.

In the last leg of the campaign Cole-Hamilton came within £543 of the legal spending cap.

He only stayed under it by attributing thousands of pounds of leaflet and office costs to the Lothians regional fight, instead of counting it toward his constituency campaign.

However many of the leaflets claimed by the LibDems as regional spending were heavily skewed towards Edinburgh Western and named specific neighbourhoods in the seat.

One bill of almost £1000, for 38,500 copies of the 'West Edinburgh News', was attributed 39 per cent to the party’s Lothians-wide fight and 61 per cent to Cole-Hamilton’s constituency.

Other bills for leaflets, delivery costs, paper and envelopes were split in a variety of ratios between region and constituency, including 64:36, 75:25, 80:20 and 88:12.

A third of Cole-Hamilton’s office costs were also put down to the list fight, despite the party’s regional election agent being based just three miles away at party HQ.

Cole-Hamilton beat the SNP by 2,960 votes and is now his party’s health spokesman.

A spokesperson for Police Scotland said: "We are investigating an allegation of financial irregularities. Our inquiries into this matter are ongoing as we work towards establishing if any criminality has taken place."

A LibDem spokesman said: “All campaign spending during the election was forensically and properly recorded through detailed accounts. Everything is fully within the rules.

"The police have not contacted Alex Cole-Hamilton or his agent."

Tory Aberdeenshire West MSP Alexander Burnett was also reported to the police over his election expenses last week, amid claims he too under-declared his campaign spending.

Meanwhile the former SNP MP for Edinburgh West, Michelle Thomson, is being investigated in connection with potential mortgage fraud linked to her £1.5m property empire.