Gordon Wilson scored Yes Scotland just three out of ten and Better Together four out of ten, in a “half-time” assessment of the campaigns by both sides so far.
He said: “There is an absence of vision, passion and emotion. National freedom does not exist in a sterile environment.
“Yet in Scotland there is little such expression and the politicians, particularly on the Yes side, prefer to argue a case with all the excitement of a robot.”
He warns that the “strong card of Scotland’s national identity” has disappeared from the debate, with more than a year until the vote, which will take place on 18 September 2014.
“The dynamic of nationalism has seemingly been dulled by dose of devolutionary ‘Mogadon’” Mr Wilson adds.
He said the No campaign had been “better prepared, better organised and more effective” before it “ran out of control”.
“They began to look anti-Scottish, disparaging to the point of racism. Indeed, the anti-Scottish tone caused people to wonder are these rancourous people in London on our side?” he said.
A recent Ipsos Mori poll found that 59 per cent of people will vote No, with 31 per cent voting Yes and the remaining 10 per cent undecided. Another poll by TNS BMRB found that 51 per cent would vote No, 30 per cent Yes, and the remaining 19 per cent did not know how they will vote.
Mr Wilson led the SNP from 1979 to 1990 and was replaced by Alex Salmond in his first stint as the party’s leader.
A spokesman for Yes Scotland said: “The Options for Scotland report is a useful contribution to the debate as we move towards a year to go to the referendum.
“Gordon Wilson has suggestions for both campaigns, but in the final analysis we think we can be confident that he will be voting Yes.”