Willie Rennie claimed the Lib Dems had a “good chance” of beating SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford when he put opposition to independence at the heart of his party’s manifesto yesterday.
The Scottish Lib Dem leader said his party’s vote was “growing” in the Ross, Skye and Lochaber seat being defended by Mr Blackford as he launched his party’s general election prospectus.
With the Lib Dems fighting the election on an anti-Brexit and anti-independence message, Mr Rennie signalled he would prioritise preventing the splitting of the UK over halting EU withdrawal.
Mr Rennie was asked whether he would accept another independence vote as the price for stopping Brexit alongside Labour and the SNP.
The Scottish Lib Dem leader answered: “No, because we’re not wanting to add to the chaos.
“We will use our votes in parliament at every opportunity to make it stop.”
The manifesto is committed to revoking Article 50 as well as fighting against Scottish independence.
Mr Rennie said that throughout the campaign the Lib Dems would oppose Brexit and Scottish independence “whatever the circumstances”.
The Lib Dems are involved in one of Scotland’s key election battles, challenging Mr Blackford for the Ross, Skye and Lochaber seat that used to be held by their late UK leader Charles Kennedy.
When asked about his party’s chances, Mr Rennie said: “The vote is growing. The campaign is strong.
“People remember the good quality service that Charles Kennedy provided.
“They see the good work that local councillors do and I think, therefore, we have got a good chance of beating them.”
Mr Rennie also claimed voters “feel very strongly” about claims that Mr Kennedy was subjected to unpleasant behaviour at the hands of the SNP in the 2015 election, held just before he died.
The 76-page manifesto, which was unveiled at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Ice Rink, includes pledges to end fuel poverty in Scotland by 2025, ensure mental health is tackled with the same urgency as physical health and 35 hours a week of free care for all children between nine months and starting school.
Other commitments include an extra £3.4 billion for the Scottish budget to use for public services and a £10 billion long term fund for infrastructure investment.
It also put forward what it described as a “radical, credible and detailed plan” to tackle climate change, while the party said it wanted to reverse Tory cuts to Universal Credit and create a fairer corporate tax system.
The SNP’s Ian Blackford said: “Polls in the past few days have been hugely encouraging for the SNP, showing that we have the wind in our sails heading into the final two weeks of campaigning.
“We take nothing for granted but I’m confident that with the tireless effort of activists the length and breadth of the country we can achieve a positive result here in Ross, Skye & Lochaber and across Scotland.”