Alex Cole-Hamilton has insisted Humza Yousaf will be the “last nationalist first minister of Scotland” as he appealed to SNP voters “looking for a party to inspire them” to back the Liberal Democrats.

The plea came as he addressed the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth.

During the speech to the party faithful, he also made a jibe about Nicola Sturgeon's launch of the Glen Sannox ferry in November 2017 where it later emerged that windows had been painted onto the ship to make it look more ready than it actually was.

“In 2017, Nicola Sturgeon attended the official launch ceremony. 'May god bless her and all who sail in her', she said.

"Three cheers. High-vis and hard hats. School children waving the saltires they had been given as the ferry slipped into the Clyde.

“But every last bit of it was fake. The windows were painted on. The wrong bow. Fake funnels. Fake engines.

“It's enough to make Kim Jong Un blush.”

He said it spoke to “the rot at the heart of Scottish politics that not one nationalist minister has had the decency to resign over a scandal that can be seen from space.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton said the SNP were “haemorrhaging fair-minded, reasonable voters.”

“People are looking for a party to inspire them again,” he added. “We are the answer they’ve been looking for, and it's why Humza Yousaf will be the last nationalist First Minister of Scotland.”

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The Lib Dems have just four MSPs in Holyrood, though the most recent YouGov poll suggested they are on course to double that number.

Despite that, they would likely remain the Scottish Parliament’s fifth biggest party.

SNP MSP Kevin Stewart said: "As a party that abandons principles quicker than a rat scuttling up a drainpipe, whether it be Brexit or tuition fees, goodness only knows what the question was if the Lib Dem’s are the answer.

"While the Westminster parties continue to ignore Scotland and fight amongst themselves to win Tory seats in England, the First Minister will continue to lead a government focussed on the priorities of the people across Scotland and supporting households through Westminster's cost of living crisis.

"Whether it be tackling poverty with game changing the Scottish Child Payment or growing our economy by investing £500 million in a Just Transition fund, the SNP will continue standing up for Scotland and working for a fairier, greener, independent future.”

Earlier in the day, Sir Ed Davey refused to rule out a Westminster power-sharing deal between his party and Labour. Though he explicitly said no to any coalition with the Conservatives.

He said his predecessors had been “distracted from the task in hand” by focusing on that possibility.

“There’s no way we could deal with the Conservatives. They’ve ruined our country,” he told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme.

The Herald:

“I fought them in Government every day,” he said, referring to the Tory-Lib Dem coalition where he served as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Mr Cole-Hamilton was also asked about the party’s previous coalition with the Tories during an interview with BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show.

“We've obviously apologised for that and been, well, I think over time, people have understood why we did the deals that we did at that time.

“But this is a long time ago now, a lot of water under the bridge.

“But it's a really important thing to stand for election and to have a hope of actually delivering change for people. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.”

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He was also pushed on Brexit after Sir Ed said that re-joining the EU is currently "off the table".

“It’s just a statement of reality,” Mr Cole-Hamilton said. “I don't think that Europe would have us right now and nobody believes we're going back into Europe this year or anytime soon.”

When it was put to him that the SNP were the only party in Scotland pledging to join the single market.

“I think that's absolutely for the birds,” he said. “Nobody believes that independence is coming. And even if it were that we would get into the European Union for even a decade after that, so no, it's pie in the sky.”

“I'm a Liberal Democrat,” he said. “Of course, I would love to be back in the European Union. But I recognize that's not where we are. That's not the reality. It will take time.”