Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander triggered a row last night after claiming they had delivered more for northern Scotland than any other government in history.
The pair credited themselves for a raft of measures for the area in the Budget – including City Deals for Aberdeen and Inverness, a cut to electricity bills and support for the whisky and oil sectors.
But their opponents dismissed the remarks as “delusional”, arguing that the coalition’s austerity programme has been “hurting people and communities” across the region.
In an exclusive interview with the Press and Journal, Mr Clegg predicted the mood at today’s Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Aberdeen would be a “very gritty, determined and positive one”.
He made the claim despite polls suggesting the party faces wipe-out in all six of the its mainland seats in the north and north-east.
The deputy prime minister, who is the architect of the UK Government’s City Deal programme, said the lucrative packages would not be on their way to Aberdeen and Inverness without the Lib Dems.
“It’s very much an initiative that Danny and I have taken and, dare I say it, when the two most senior Liberal Democrats involved in the Budget negotiations want something then it generally happens,” he said.
“That’s why we’re glad we’re delivering for Aberdeen and Inverness – it wouldn’t have happened without Danny and myself.”
The Lib Dem leader added: “I’m certainly not aware of any government that has done as much as we have for the north of Scotland, and I’m very proud of the fact that’s only happened because we have Liberal Democrat Scottish MPs.
“Such an English party as the Conservatives would never have sought to deliver what we have done time and time again.
“Obviously having Mike Moore, and then Alistair Carmichael, and Danny around the table for the last half a decade, means that Budget after Budget, Autumn Statement after Autumn Statement, we have delivered for the north of Scotland.”
Mr Alexander, who is battling for his political survival in Inverness at May’s election, agreed, saying: “I don’t think any government ever has done as much for the north of Scotland.
“And there’s a simple reason for that – I don’t think there’s a government in modern history that has had a local representative as senior as I’ve been in this government.
“So we’ve been able to deal with some of the historic things – fuel duty discounts, investing in broadband, supporting the oil and gas sector, the whisky industry, the energy charges issue.
“Because I’m round the table, this government is delivering for the north of Scotland, and if I’m not there, I don’t think that will happen in the future.”
SNP MSP Mike Mackenzie rubbished the claims last night.
“These comments from the Lib Dems are nothing short of delusional from a party which has abandoned every single one of its principles and spent the last five years serving as the main cheerleaders for the Tory austerity cuts which are hurting people and communities across the north of Scotland,” he said.
“Unlike the Lib Dems, the SNP have a genuine record of delivery in government in the north of Scotland and we will never prop up a Tory government – which is why more and more local people are putting their faith in us as we approach the election.”