THE Salmond row has made Nicola Sturgeon’s Government look like a “second-rate tin-pot dictatorship” and the SNP’s “poisonous infighting” is damaging the reputation of Scotland in the eyes of the world, Liam Fox has claimed.

The former International Trade Secretary told The Herald that in all his time in politics he had “never known a senior politician accuse a government of such a clear breach of their ethical duty”.

He said there were an increasing number of MPs becoming concerned about the governance of Scotland under the SNP and called for a “full-scale debate” in the Commons on the subject.

“It is quite clear that the SNP’s poisonous infighting is being put ahead of the interests of the people of Scotland and damaging the political reputation of the Scottish Parliament itself,” declared the former Cabinet minister.

Earlier this week, Mr Salmond accused officials in the Scottish Government and the SNP of a "malicious and concerted effort" to damage his reputation; "even to the extent of having me imprisoned".

He questioned the Crown Office’s “unprecedented and highly irregular actions” after it intervened to have his evidence to a Scottish Parliament committee redacted.

Mr Salmond also claimed Peter Murrell, the SNP’s Chief Executive and husband of Nicola Sturgeon, deployed senior figures to recruit and persuade staff members to submit police complaints against him; an allegation strongly denied by Mr Murrell. And the ex-FM has accused his successor of breaking the ministerial code by misleading the Scottish Parliament; an allegation Ms Sturgeon has strongly denied.

Meanwhile, the SNP has dismissed its former leader’s claims as "just more assertion without a shred of evidence".

But asked about the extent of the damage the Salmond row was having on the UK’s political system, Dr Fox replied: “First of all, it damages the SNP Government in Scotland because it makes them look like a second-rate tin-pot dictatorship.

“Secondly, it damages the whole of Scotland by reputation; that this is happening in the name of the Scottish Government.

“And, thirdly, because it is a devolved parliament under Westminster law, it actually brings into question the ethical basis of the Government of Scotland, which is a Westminster responsibility.”

The Scot went on: “If the accusations that Alex Salmond makes are even partly correct, it is a terrible indictment on the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon as the Government of Scotland.”

He told The Herald: “There should be a full-scale debate in Parliament about the governance in Scotland, not least because as a net recipient of taxpayers’ funds Scotland is funded by taxpayers across the whole of the United Kingdom, not just Scotland, and, therefore, they have a right to have a say not on the individual policies being conducted by the Scottish Government, that’s for them and the Scottish people, but on the breakdown of ethics, if as Alex Salmond says, it’s as serious as he accuses them of.”

Asked if Ms Sturgeon was proven to have broken the ministerial code - as Mr Salmond alleges but she vehemently denies – she would have to resign, Dr Fox said: “That’s very clear.

“What a pity,” he added, “that at a time when Scotland is facing a pandemic and all the economic issues that flow from it, the main issue in Scottish politics is whether Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon is telling the truth; it’s quite clear both of them cannot be.”

Earlier, the Somerset MP raised the issue in a Point of Order in the Commons when he noted how Mr Salmond had accused the Scottish Government of the “complete breakdown of the necessary barriers which should exist between government, political party and indeed the prosecution authorities in any country which abides by the rule of law”.

He told Dame Eleanor Laing, the Deputy Speaker: “This would be damning in a tin-pot dictatorship, but this is happening in a part of the United Kingdom.

“Given that the Scottish Parliament derives its authority from legislation passed in this Parliament, what mechanisms do we have to ensure that the conduct of the Scottish Government does not bring politics in the whole of the United Kingdom into international disrepute".

Dame Eleanor said her fellow Scot had “raised some very significant issues concerning the relationship between the legislature, the executive and the court, that is the doctrine known as the separation of powers, which is the very bedrock of our constitutional settlement”.

The Essex MP made clear it was not for her to make any judgement about what Dr Fox had specifically referred to but added: “This House is, of course, always concerned with safeguarding democratic standards and I'm sure that he will use his ingenuity to find a way of bringing this matter once again before the House when it can be fully examined.”

Later, Dr Fox noted: “If even a part of what Alex Salmond says is true, it represents an ethical collapse in Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish Government.

“It is quite clear the SNP’s poisonous infighting is being put ahead of the interests of the people of Scotland and damaging the political reputation of the Scottish Parliament itself.

“Given that the legal authority for devolution comes from legislation passed by the Westminster Parliament, there will increasing demands for greater scrutiny about the governance of Scotland under the SNP,” he added.