THE referendum debate has become so bitter it risks damaging Scotland in the long term whatever the outcome of the vote, Alistair Darling has said.
Mr Darling, the leader of the pro-UK Better Together campaign, called for less hostility from both sides as the campaign enters its final weeks.
The former chancellor claimed people were being put off contributing to the independence debate because of the vitriol being levelled by both sides against their opponents.
He said: “I have never come across this before, in any other campaign I have been involved in.”
Mr Darling said he was feared that, as the campaign entered its closing stages, the hostility between the two sides would increase.
His remarks came after a number of business people claimed that Scottish ministers were trying to stop them speaking about independence in the run-up to the referendum – a claim the SNP leadership has denied.
Mr Darling said: “More people are speaking out about the fact they have been approached by ministers or civil servants and told to keep out.
“There should be absolute zero tolerance for any kind of intimidation, of business people or anyone else.”
However, Mr Darling accepted that his side had also been guilty of escalating the rhetoric in the debate.
Kathy Wiles, a Labour candidate for the Westminster seat of Angus, was forced to stand down after she tweeted a picture making an implicit comparison between children at a Yes Scotland event and the Hitler Youth.
Mr Darling added: “It was a stupid thing to say. We need to think about what we are saying. On 19 September [the day after the referendum], we all have to live together.”