POLITICIANS have been urged to show more caution on social media after evidence emerged that Wikileaks supporters were encouraged to use an SNP MP to spread their message on Twitter.

Followers of Julian Assange were told to try and persuade Paul Monaghan to retweet content as part of a wider campaign to use parliamentarians to amplify their views.

The revelation came in private chats between Mr Assange and his online supporters published by an American online magazine, The Intercept.

Mr Monaghan, one Wikileaker said, had “RTed” unspecified content and should be targeted for more. Mr Assange responded: “Exactly what we were hoping for. Be the troll you want to see in the world.”

The leak in The Intercept, which has been in a feud with Wikileaks for some time, also exposes Mr Assange’s hostility to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton – he called her a “sadistic sociopath” - and his defence of Vladimir Putin’s bloody foreign policy.

The Intercept did not say what Mr Monaghan retweeted or why he should have been be singled out by Wikileakers. 

However, it later emerged that he had retweeted a campaigner supporting a Royal Navy weapons engineer who was dishonourably discharged after he raised what the Ministry of Defence said were inaccurate safety concerns about the Trident nuclear deterrent.

The Herald was unable to contact the former MP, who lost his seat last year. The SNP had no comment. 

However, a spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives suggested The Intercept leak should serve as a warning to all MPs.

He said: “This exposes the kind of role people like Paul Monaghan – wittingly or unwittingly – can play.

“Politicians of all parties should be responsible for the material they retweet or engage with online, it’s just something that has to come with the job.

“The fact Mr Monaghan was held up as a beacon by an organisation like this shows just how dangerous a part they can play when it comes to propaganda and sinister messaging.”

Mr Monaghan has previously been criticised for using intemperate language on social media. He was forced to apologise to Jews for tweets made before he was an MP.

Before his election he also referred to Westminster as resembling the early days of the Third Reich. After his election, Mr Monaghan was accused of peddling conspiracy theories about the Scottish independence referendum. He told the Kremlin propaganda outlet Sputnik there was a “shadow over the result.”

Mr Monaghan has referred to Russian misinformation outlets as “impartial”, much to the horror of former SNP parliamentary colleagues who have been at the forefront of challenging Putin propaganda. He also tweeted in late 2016 that the expulsion by Barack Obama of Russian diplomats was “regrettable”.

Mr Obama had moved against Russia after evidence the Kremlin had interfered in the US election, culminating last week in 13 Russians being indicted for meddling.

Wikileaks published damaging emails from Hillary Clinton shortly before the 2016 presidential election, boosting Donald Trump.

The initial retweet by Mr Monaghan was in support of William McNeilly, a weapons engineer who claimed Trident missiles were "a disaster waiting to happen."

Mr MoD said Mr McNeilly's concerns, reported in The Sunday Herald, were "factually incorrect or the result of misunderstanding". Mr McNeilly later told Russian TV station RT that he had been vindicated after a Trident missile misfired during tests. 

Writing on Twitter, a Wikileaks supporter who said she first flagged up the MP as a target for retweets accused The Intercept of turning "a simple re-tweet by Mr Monaghan of my modest campaigning tweet in support of a legal defence fund for William McNeilly to goodness knows what! Very unfair, very dishonest!"

This story was updated on Tuesday, February 20, to add the nature of the initial retweet