Writing in The Scotsman today, Lord McConnell calls for a “grown-up pact” between the main campaigns, in which both agree to a “positive and respectful” contest and refrain from “personal abuse and threats”.
Two years after leaving Holyrood to take a seat in the House of Lords, he declares that in contrast to his time as First Minister, there is now a growing level of “distrust” among MSPs. The ill-feeling, he says, “leaves Holyrood on too many evenings a dry, quiet and soulless place”.
His article is written to mark a lecture next week held in memory of Scottish Home Rule campaigner Bob McLean, who died last summer.
Lord McConnell says Mr McLean would have been “dismayed” by the potential of the current debate to turn “Scot against Scot”.
The task of all sides, he says, is to set out a positive vision of their own case.
“All the parties, political and civic leaders, have a responsibility for what comes next. We must not divide the nation so badly it takes years to recover. We can do this in a better way,” he writes.
Lord McConnell’s intervention follows a series of rows over comments that have tipped the referendum campaign into acrimony.
Before Christmas, writing in a book on Scottish independence, Alasdair Gray criticised the appointment of English “colonists” who came to Scotland short-term to further their careers in influential positions..
Incidents that have angered the pro-independence side include Labour MP Iain Davidson’s description of the “narrow, neo-fascism of the nationalists”.
Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick warned MSPs about their conduct last year, telling them that, with international interest focusing on Holyrood, they had to “set the correct tone” in debates and “consider very carefully their choice of words and the tone in which they are delivered”.
Meanwhile, there have been complaints about the tone of comments on the internet and social media networks, with reports earlier this month that the pro-independence Yes Scotland campaign was attempting to moderate the comments of so-called “cybernats” who use the internet to make personal attacks on opponents.