AN EXTREMISM expert has warned there is a danger that campaigning for – or even debating – Scottish independence could come under UK counter-extremism legislation in the future.

Professor Chris Allen – who leads the extremism hub at Leicester University’s Centre for Hate Studies – told The National that Yessers could potentially even be referred to the Home Office’s Prevent counter-extremism programme.

It comes after Rishi Sunak included “Scottish nationalism” in a major speech on Monday about extremism.

The Prime Minister, in a passage under the heading "The dangers", listed Russia, Iran, North Korea, antisemitism, "gender activists", and finally "Scottish nationalism" as posing threats to the UK.

The UK Government’s use of the term “extremism” has come under fire recently after a new broader definition was unveiled by Communities Secretary Michael Gove in March.

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak mentions 'Scottish nationalists' in speech on 'extremist' threats to UK

It updated another definition from 2011 and defined the term as advancing ideologies “based on violence, hatred or intolerance” which aim to “destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others” or “undermine, overturn or replace the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy and democratic rights”.

Allen said that while Scottish nationalism doesn’t fall under either of the definitions, the UK Government is weaponising the term against perceived critics and enemies to “delegitimise” them and that it could have “knock on effects”.

“Not only does [the new definition] help to shape and inform and sway the opinion of the general public, but I think that also it kind of delegitimises those who are being named,” he said.

“One of the things the Government said was that they will try and stop funding going to these groups – any engagement or interaction at a state level.

“It could start to inform the way the police thinks, the way local authorities thinks, the NHS and the education system.”

READ MORE: Extremism expert debunks Rishi Sunak attack on 'Scottish nationalists'

Allen added: “Even having a university debate around the strengths and weaknesses of an independent Scotland could come under counter extremism legislation.

“And suddenly someones expressing this could be referred to the Home Office’s Prevent counter-extremism programme.”

The academic added that indy marches could also be under threat.

“We saw it with peaceful protests around the monarchy, we’ve seen it with Gaza,” he said.

“It's not even scaremongering, it's not being sensationalist. These are things that have actually happened.

“This is looking at where this could go and the possibility for where it could go.”

The National: Tommy Sheppard pictured at a rally in Edinburgh

The academic’s comments come after a similar warning from Tommy Sheppard (above).

The SNP MP previously told The National that the new definition should be regarded as a threat to Scots’ rights to campaign for independence and constitutional change.

“It’s not just pro-independence marches [this could affect]. It could also affect groups who want to change the monarchy or wish for change to aspects of foreign policy. It’s outrageous,” he said.

“Anyone who goes against what this Conservative Party wants is now in their sights for these sort of restrictions.”