Nick Clegg has accused his erstwhile Conservative coalition partners of steadfastly putting their own interests over those of the people of Scotland.
The former Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister said the Tories switched from “indifference” to “confrontation” with Scots during their five-year partnership in which they successfully saw off the threat of Scottish independence.
Mr Clegg said “cunning” Conservative leaders David Cameron and George Osborne wanted to hijack the independence referendum – an SNP manifesto pledge – and put it on their own terms and timescale to send “a clear message that the UK Government, and not the Scottish Government, was in charge”.
The Tories tried to make the pre-referendum “vow” of more powers for Scotland contingent on the delivery of “English votes for English laws” (Evel) until the Lib Dems stepped in, he said in an article for The Times.
Lib Dem ministers “had to go to great lengths” to promote devolution “when it was of little interest to English Conservatives”.
Mr Clegg said: “Whenever Scotland was on the agenda, I saw time and time again how they sought to secure short-term political advantage before the long-term interests of Scotland and the Scottish people.”
Lib Dem Scottish Secretary Michael Moore urged the Tories to work in partnership with the SNP to prevent the referendum descending into “a confrontation between Holyrood and a belligerent Westminster government that refused to respect their mandate or accept the need to relinquish powers in any meaningful way”.
The Tories “displayed little interest” in Scottish devolution until the Lib Dems proposed the greatest handover of powers since the Act of Union, he added.
Mr Clegg said: “Don’t be fooled by what has happened since the election: the new Scotland Act was drafted by Liberal Democrats in the Scotland Office before the election, based on the cross-party work of the Smith Commission.”
The Tory “mask really slipped” the morning after the referendum when Mr Cameron chose to “antagonise Scottish voters by turning the debate immediately towards the divisive issue of Evel”.
The Lib Dems vetoed Tory plans for a government commission on Evel and called for a cross-party examination of all areas of devolution.
“It was the Liberal Democrats who insisted that the ‘devo max’ reforms that we, the Conservatives and Labour had promised in the vow made shortly before the referendum would go ahead with no strings attached, instead of making them contingent on English votes as the Conservatives initially wanted,” he said.
He urged Scottish voters to reject the Scottish Conservatives, and their leader Ruth Davidson, in the Holyrood elections next week.
“Don’t buy Ruth Davidson’s nonsense about the Conservatives being the real opposition in Scotland,” he said.
“Time and time again the Tories have put their own interests before those of the Scottish people.”
A Scottish Conservative spokesman told The Times: “The hypocrisy of the Lib Dems knows no bounds.
“Only weeks ago, Willie Rennie declared that the Lib Dems were now free to support independence in an attempt to win over SNP voters. Rather than fabricating nonsense from two years ago, they should explain that position first.
“The truth is that if Willie Rennie has had to draft in Nick Clegg to rescue their campaign, he is in deeper trouble than we thought.”