Willie Rennie has accused the SNP of fighting “personal, vicious” campaigns that have “gone very low” with personal attacks against Liberal Democrat challengers.
The Scottish Lib Dem leader said he would take “huge satisfaction” from beating the SNP in his party’s target seats and claimed “furious” voters were turning against the nationalists over calls for a second independence referendum.
Mr Rennie committed the Scottish Lib Dems to a policy of “no independence referendum, full stop”, even if Brexit is a “complete disaster”.
Tactical voting by Conservative and Labour supporters “may make the difference between winning and losing” in places such as Edinburgh West, East Dunbartonshire, North East Fife and Caithness, he said.
The campaign in Edinburgh West has been dubbed ‘the dirtiest election in Scotland’ after an SNP activist posted on Twitter that Lib Dem candidate Christine Jardine had campaigned after the Manchester bombing. She had been at her husband’s funeral that day.
“I’m afraid the SNP campaign in Edinburgh West has gone very low,” Mr Rennie said.
He added: “It would bring a huge amount of satisfaction to win those seats. Some of my friends in the party have had to go through quite a lot of difficulties in the election campaign, so to see them overcome personal, vicious campaigns is a joy.”
• READ MORE: Lib Dem’s Scottish manifesto will reject indyref2
An SNP spokesman said its campaigns were “positive”.
Mr Rennie claimed the SNP had “tried to hide” its claim that winning the election would complete a ‘triple lock’ mandate for indyref2, and said Ms Sturgeon had put independence “at the heart of her agenda”.
A poll gave the First Minister her first negative approval rating since taking office, with 50 per cent of respondents dissatisfied with how she is doing her job and 46 per cent satisfied. The overall score of -4 is down 18 points from the last poll in September.
“I’ve been astonished at the rage that is out there, including from some people who did vote for the SNP last time,” Mr Rennie said. “They are just spitting mad.”
He added: “I’ve felt it for some time on the doors – people are furious, they’re incandescent, enraged about how she has banged on about independence in the last year, and I think that has simply been reflected in the opinion polls.”
The manifesto promises £35 million for mental health services from Barnett Formula funds raised by increasing the tax on dividends by 1 per cent. Emergency services would get a £35 million boost by exempting them from VAT payments, and a new investment bank would support house building. EU citizens would have their rights guaranteed after Brexit, and the party would hold a referendum on the terms of the UK’s exit deal