SCOTLAND'S Catholics are shifting towards a Yes vote in the referendum because it represents core 'Old Labour' values, academics claim.

It comes after Professor Tom Devine, Scotland's pre-eminent historian, writing in The Herald yesterday, described a "silent revolution" in Catholic attitudes towards independence since the 1970s.

His fears that denominational schools would be threatened in the event of a Yes vote have also been debunked by a leading educationalist.

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Professor Lindsay Paterson, professor of education policy at Edinburgh University, said he was in general agreement. He claimed people from a Catholic background had secured educational parity with Scots of other faiths by the 1970s.

He said:"As a result of that Catholics achieved striking rates of social upward mobility. Those born in the 1970s are now no more disadvantaged than anyone else."

Dr Peter Lynch, senior lecturer in politics at Stirling University, said that while it was difficult to gauge how people of an Irish Catholic background would vote on September 18, he agreed there had been a major move away from Labour in recent decades. He said: "That will feed into the independence debate."

Professor Devine, author of the acclaimed The Scottish Nation and director of the Scottish Centre of ­Diaspora Studies at Edinburgh ­University, cited recent data from the Scottish Social Attitudes survey, which suggested those aligning ­themselves with Catholicism were most supportive of independence and least fearful of a Yes vote.

He said the main reasons were the death of structural sectarianism and labour market discrimination, adding that by the 1990s, people from the ­Catholic community had educational parity with other organised religions.