The leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats has accused Alex Salmond of inciting voters to back Brexit and urged him to withdraw from campaigning in the EU referendum.
The former First Minister suggested, in a TV debate, that Scotland could be independent in two years if “the rest of the UK, or England, drags Scotland out [of Europe] by voting to Leave”.
His comments echo those of SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, who has suggested a “material change” in circumstances, such as an EU exit without Scottish backing, could trigger a second vote on the future of the UK.
However, Willie Rennie has said that Mr Salmond is “behaving like a not-so-secret agent for the leave campaign” and is encouraging pro-independence voters to back Brexit.
Polls suggest a majority of Scots support remaining in the EU, with the vote south of the border considerably tighter.
Last night, a spokesman for Mr Salmond accused the Liberal Democrats of “clownish attempts to attack the SNP” as the “only way (to) get noticed”.
But Mr Rennie said: “Alex Salmond spends more time rubbishing the official remain campaign and promoting Scottish independence than making the positive case to remain in Europe.
“He seems more interested in using the Europe poll to advance the cause of Scottish independence than actively working to keep us in the EU.
“Too many senior figures in the SNP are approaching this 2016 referendum with a 2014 mindset. Alex Salmond is a serial offender.
“His threats about another independence vote may encourage his supporters to back Brexit. His attacks on the remain campaign are undermining it and risking Brexit.
“On both counts, he is risking our place in the European Union, not supporting it. Alex Salmond should opt out of the campaign before he does any more damage.”
Mr Rennie’s intervention came after Mr Salmond suggested any referendum on Scottish independence would take place “within the two-year period of the UK negotiating withdrawal”.
The former First Minister told a BBC audience that given how in 2014 “the people of Scotland were told that voting No would secure Scotland’s position within the European Union”, a second vote on the future of the UK was “justified” in the event of Brexit.
Last night, a spokesman for Mr Salmond and fellow pro-EU panellist Alan Johnson said they won the debate “hands down”.
He added: “Rennie’s contributions to the Remain campaign so far have amounted to no more than a continuation of his clownish attempts to attack the SNP by any means necessary as his only way he can get noticed.
“In contrast, Mr Salmond has actually been active in making the positive case for Europe.”