Former Nato general secretary Lord Robertson has come under fire after claiming Scottish independence would be welcomed by global “forces of darkness” and jeopardise Western security.
The Labour peer warned a Yes vote would have “cataclysmic” geopolitical consequences in a speech to the Brookings Institution in the US.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was shocked by the language used by the peer, adding it does a “real disservice” to the referendum debate.
She said: “I think many people, whether they’re Yes or No, will find these comments insulting and offensive.”
Lord Robertson was a UK defence secretary in Tony Blair’s government and called on other states around the world, including Britain’s allies, to make their views public on the issue.
He said: “The loudest cheers for the break-up of Britain would be from our adversaries and from our enemies.
“For the second military power in the West to shatter this year would be cataclysmic in geo-political terms.
“If the United Kingdom was to face a split at this of all times and find itself embroiled for several years in a torrid, complex, difficult and debilitating divorce, it would rob the West of a serious partner just when solidity and cool nerves are going to be vital.
“Nobody should underestimate the effect all of that would have on existing global balances and the forces of darkness would simply love it.”
The Obama administration said the referendum debate is an internal UK issue after First Minister Alex Salmond claimed at the weekend that the US would not stand in the way of independence after a Yes vote.
But Lord Robertson added: “This is not a purely domestic matter, even though it’s a decision that will be taken by the Scottish people.
“The Scottish people need to be conscious that they are taking a decision, not just for themselves and for future generations in a one-off vote, but that it also has an effect elsewhere and people who are affected, or think they will be affected, have every right to speak out.”
He insisted he was not scaremongering and urged Scots to consider current global events.
He added: “I think if people think carefully about the world as it is today and what we’ve seen in Ukraine, what we see in Syria, what we see in the East China Sea and elsewhere, they’ll recognise that this is a time for solidarity and solidity among the countries that are known as the West.
“The break-up of one of the principal countries in the West would certainly have major repercussions in the world, and people in Scotland I know will bear that in mind.”
The SNP has set out plans for a separate Scottish Defence Force in the event of a Yes vote, which would be based at Faslane. It has also indicated that it wants to see the UK’s submarine-based Trident nuclear weapons system removed from the Clyde by 2020 if there is a Yes vote.
Ms Sturgeon said yesterday that Lord Robertson is a “longstanding and very vociferous opponent” of independence.
She added: “I am quite shocked at these comments. The contribution George Robertson made last night, and in particular the language he’s used to make it in, I think does a real disservice to the debate.”
Lord Robertson suggested the commitment to get rid of Trident could hamper Scotland’s hopes of entering the western defence alliance Nato.
However, this was dismissed by Mr Salmond as he set out his vision for Scotland in Nato as he delivered the inaugural Caledonian lecture at Glasgow Caledonian University’s New York campus
“We won’t have nuclear weapons – nobody seriously believes that a nation of five million people should be a nuclear-armed power,” he said.