EXTREMISM and intolerance lie just beneath the surface of the SNP, the UK leader of the Liberal Democrats has claimed on a visit to Scotland.

Campaigning in Edinburgh for the local election, Tim Farron also accused the head of the city’s SNP group of “doing a Trump” by questioning other people’s Scottishness.

Mr Farron said his party, which suffered its worst Scottish council result in a generation in 2012, was now doing “amazingly well” and predicted gains across the country.

The MP criticised Frank Ross, the probable SNP boss of Edinburgh after May 4, for saying pro-Union parties only called themselves “Scottish” as a branding exercise to win votes.

Mr Ross’s comments have a basis in fact - though the SNP, Scottish Greens and Scottish Socialists are registered in their own right at the Electoral Commission, Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish LibDems are all offshoots of UK-wide parties.

However the comments prompted fierce criticism from the SNP’s opponents, who claimed they were preposterous and offensive and constituted an “incredibly insulting” rant.

Mr Farron likened Mr Ross to Donald Trump, who previously led the “birther” movement that queried whether Barack Obama was born in America and therefore eligible to be president.

He said: “I think we’ve seen recently the leader of the SNP group on Edinburgh council doing a Trump and questioning [LibDem MSP] Alex Cole-Hamilton’s birthright - ‘Where are your Scottish birth papers?’

“It just underlines some of the extremism that is beneath within the SNP, and the intolerance frankly. What you want is a more inclusive, diverse council.”

Earlier this week, in a bid to cool the temperature of the independence debate, Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted to campaign on the issue with “courtesy, empathy and respect”.

Responding to her comments, Mr Farron said: “You see in Scotland in particular- perhaps you were trailblazers, I regret, for the rest of the country - a kind of movement in the direction of heated and personal abuse, particularly online.

“It’s the danger of small-n nationalism of any kind and identity politics, that people believe that those on the other side are somehow morally different and worse than them.

“You undermine the whole basis of politics, the whole vocation, if you sink to that kind of level.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “People in Scotland remember the LibDems voting loyally with the Tories to cut Scotland's budget, inflict the Bedroom Tax on the disabled and betray their vows on tuition fees.

"Tim Farron is evidently completely out of touch with the political debate in Scotland - no wonder the Lib Dems are so deeply unpopular if this is the best they can come up with."