A SENIOR LibDem figure has sparked controversy after claiming that a vote for Scottish independence would be a “defeat for liberal democracy”.

John Ferry, who is a Spectator columnist as well as the Scottish LibDem finance spokesperson, appeared on BBC Scotland’s Debate Night programme on Wednesday night.

During a discussion on the prospect of the next independence referendum, which Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to hold in 2023, the former financial journalist made his intervention.

"If the UK were to break apart, if we were to divide this island into two states, it would be the first time in the modern democratic era in fact, since after the Second World War, that any of the world's established liberal democracies had decided that inclusivity, pluralism, expansive democracy was intolerable,” he told viewers.

“And that would be a real shame. It would be a defeat for liberal democracy, it wouldn't be a defeat for Britain."

Few audience members applauded the comment.

READ MORE: Rory Stewart: 'Insane' to think of Borders and Cumbria as in different countries

Ferry neglected to mention that rejoining the EU is a central part of the SNP’s plan for independence – the bloc promotes co-operation between its 27 member states, but England and Wales voted to Leave it at the UK’s 2016 referendum.  

Michael Russell (below), the SNP’s president, described Ferry’s comments as “offensive nonsense”.

The National:

“The virtues of civic nationalism - freedom, tolerance, equality, the protection of individual and community rights and the rejection of prejudice and discrimination in any form - are the virtues of true liberal democracy,” the former constitutional secretary told The National.

“John Ferry’s approach contradicts all of those. His position is, in fact, that held by hard-line, right-wing, Spectator-writing Tories, which is in reality what John Ferry is.

“The threat to Scotland does not come from seeking the normality of independent membership of the EU, it comes from attempts to deny a small modern country the basic right to choose its own future.”

The SNP MSP Rona Mackay added that Ferry proved the LibDems are "neither Liberal nor Democratic".

"Anyone who denies the mandate to hold an independence referendum cannot seriously call themselves a democrat, the people of Scotland expressed their democratic will less than a year ago to put their future in their hands," she said.

"No one in Scotland takes anything the LibDems seriously as they would happily reignite the flames of their toxic coalition with the Tories in councils across Scotland.

"That is why the only way to guarantee that the sleaze-ridden, law-breaking Tories are locked out of council chambers is with a vote for the SNP on May 5."

Meanwhile, viewers online condemned Ferry’s claims as Phantom Power shared the clip, with one responding: “I might be living in the Twilight Zone here but, isn't that the exact same argument against Brexit?”

READ MORE: Varvara Shevtsova: Ukraine refugee on her life one month after arriving in Montrose, Scotland

Others pointed out that Scotland voting for independence would be an example of democracy in action.

“So in essence his logic is that Scots voting to run their own affairs wouldn't be the British idea of democracy,” said @jimbo_w.

Ferry’s comments come after the information commissioner ruled that the Scottish Government should publish legal advice it has received about indyref2.

Daren Fitzhenry, the Scottish Information Commissioner, said disclosing some of the advice would “significantly enhance public debate on this issue”.