Independence campaigners risk making Scotland a laughing stock, according to a Scots-born Canadian tycoon.

Bob Buchan, who was born in Aberdeen and was installed as Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh last week, said: "Generally speaking we Scots Canadians are aware [of the independence campaign] but our view is coloured after three decades of ongoing debate on Quebec's independence which has been a tiresome project for us all."

He said: "A number of political decisions made by the separatist government in the Quebec administration have resulted in the country being laughed at," citing the work of the Quebecois "language police" as evidence of independence campaigners making Canada a "laughing stock" and a "circus".

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Buchan, who gave £1.3 million to Heriot-Watt University in 2010 to establish a chair in sustainable energy engineering, said: "Being outward-looking is not part of Scots culture.

"The outward looking ones left. The Scots have been givers to the economies and have materially helped the economies they have gone to but the result is that a great deal of skill and entrepreneurial drive has left the country."

He supported the Scottish Government policy on free education but hinted that the principle should be open to reassessment: "Nothing is inviolate, everything should be subject to a cost benefit analysis even if the cost and benefit aren't dollar amounts, but societal amounts. Society has to constantly question whether it has the right approach to education."

He urged Scottish universities to conduct more aggressive fund-raising amongst wealthy alumni where, he said, educational philanthropy is more part of the culture.

"I suggest to you that no university will ever achieve its full potential on public funding alone. And if you don't believe that's a legitimate position you have to get over yourself.

"You have to go out there and you have to ask and you have to ask again."

Buchan, 65, is chairman of the Canadian National Trust for Scotland Foundation, and a recipient of the Scot of the Year award from the Canadian Scottish Studies Society.

Meanwhile, in an interview published at the weekend, author Iain Banks, who died last Sunday, said he thought the Yes vote would be defeated but that the question would not go away.

"I was saying last year that if we don't get it in 2014 we'll get it in my lifetime and now it turns out my lifetime might not extend as far as the first referendum and that just seems wrong," he said.