Lib Dem aide latest target for mail poisoner

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A Liberal Democrat office worker emerged yesterday as the latest target of a terrorist campaign linked to a fringe group of hard-line Scottish nationalists who sent a toxic package to Cherie Blair.

Mike Rumbles, a Lib Dem member of the Scottish parliament, said his assistant received a vial of corrosive liquid labelled "aromatherapy oil" at her home near Aberdeen on Friday. The package is thought to be identical to one sent to the prime minister's wife which contained caustic soda in a bottle labelled "eucalyptus oil". There was speculation last night that Michael Martin, Speaker of the House of Commons and Labour MP for Glasgow Springburn, was sent a similar package.

The bottles arrived on Friday, several hours before a male caller claiming to represent the Scottish National Liberation Army told the police and a newspaper reporter that up to 16 packages had been sent out.

The parcel sent to Mrs Blair was detected during routine screening. Mr Rumbles said he had no idea why his assistant was targeted. "It has been a really despicable act, I hope the police catch them," he said.

The SNLA, founded in the early 1980s by Adam Busby, a former soldier, has a handful of members. It has used hoaxes, crude incendiary devices and threats against politicians, the Royal Family and economic targets to provoke security scares and generate publicity.

Mr Busby, who has lived in Dublin since fleeing arrest in Scotland in 1983, denies any active involvement in the group and observers believe a few young hardliners have adopted his techniques.

In 1997, Mr Busby was jailed for two years in Ireland after a hoax letter bombing campaign against English immigrants in Scotland.