Scotland’s universities are “overdependent” on Chinese money, an SNP MP has warned. 

Stewart McDonald said the Scottish Government needed to become “alive” to the ways in which state institutions could be “exploited” by the Chinese state.

He was speaking at a press conference in London on Monday, alongside Tory MPs Iain Duncan Smith and Tim Loughton.

The three and one other were named by the Sunday Times as victims of  Chinese goverment hack.

READ MORE: Why we should care about China spying on UK and Scotland

Mr Duncan Smith said the MPs had been “subjected to harassment, impersonation and attempted hacking from China for some time”.

Chinese state actors, he claimed, had set up fake email accounts to pose as him and contact other politicians throughout the world to make false claims about him “recanting” his views on China.

The former Tory leader compared Britain’s policy towards China with the “appeasement” approach towards Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

He said: “What does it teach you when you try and please those that you think are threatening? The answer is, they get more threatening and that’s what appeasement teaches us.”

Mr McDonald said: “When I say this affects every single part of our society, this is what I mean and so often devolution gets forgotten about. And I tell you, they don’t forget about it in Moscow or in Beijing.

“They’re highly alive to the fact that huge swathes of financial and legislative powers don’t sit in London. But if I can be critical of the UK Government as well, by the way, they have a 20th century view of what national security is.

“So it’s not alive to either the modern way that our institutions of government are set up and the way in which they can be exploited. Take for one example, the issue of universities.

“Our universities right across the UK, but particularly in Scotland, are massively overdependent on money that comes from the Chinese state.

"If, God help us, we’re in a situation where there is a conflict in Taiwan or if there is an economic blockade of Taiwan and there are sanctions back and forward that our universities fall subject to that, what happens then?”

Mr McDonald called for a “national dialogue with all parts of society, about the change we need to see” in relation to Britain’s relationship with China.

READ MORE: Calls for Perth, Glasgow and Dundee to 'detwin' from China

In the Commons, Oliver Dowden, the Deputy Prime Minister said that as well as the MPs, Beijing was responsible for a cyber attack on the Electoral Commission.  According to the National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ, Beijing allegedly accessed the personal details of about 40 million voters.

Two individuals and APT31, a front company linked to the Chinese ministry of state security, have been hit with sanctions by the UK.

“The UK will not tolerate malicious cyber-activity targeting our democratic institutions. It is an absolute priority for the UK government to protect our democratic system and values,” Mr Dowden said.

“I hope this statement helps to build wider awareness of how politicians and those involved in our democratic processes around the world are being targeted by state-sponsored cyber-operations. We will continue to call out this activity, holding the Chinese government accountable for its actions.”

He told MPs the Foreign Office would summon China’s ambassador to account for its actions. “We will not hesitate to take swift and robust actions wherever the Chinese government threatens the United Kingdom’s interests,” he added.

China has rejected the claims. 

A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Britain said: “The so-called cyber-attacks by China against the UK are completely fabricated and malicious slanders. We strongly oppose such accusations.

“China has always firmly fought all forms of cyber-attacks according to law. China does not encourage, support or condone cyber-attacks.”

There was also support for China from Alex Salmond's Alba. 

The party's General Secretary, Chris McEleny said this "Cold War mentality" could end in "hot wars".

He said: "The Scottish Government should reject this viewpoint, defend valuable cultural exchanges and oppose any attempts by the UK Government to close them down or reduce the number of Chinese students that have the ability to be educated in Scotland.

"We have nothing to fear from talking and exchanging culture. The real danger is from those who wish to divide the world into armed camps and who wish to shut Scotland out from the international community."

Universities Scotland has been approached for comment.