The SNP dismissed Tom Gallagher’s comments as “daft” and “silly” after the Professor of Peace and Ethnic Conflict at Bradford University said Salmond was “junking civic nationalism for an emotion-laden ethnic variety”.

Speaking to the Sunday Herald ahead of the launch of his new book, entitled The Illusion of Freedom: Scotland Under Nationalism, Professor Gallagher said: “The SNP chief sometimes finds it difficult to resist the emotional forms of mass manipulation associated with Europe in uglier times.”

A senior spokesman from the First Minister’s office responded: “Mr Gallagher objects to the term ‘nutty professor’, but it’s hard to avoid when his declarations get ever dafter and his pronunciations ever sillier. In the real world, the SNP Government remains popular, we have a clear vision of Scotland as a successful, fair and inclusive independent nation, and are confident that people will choose independence.”

Author of an acclaimed study on Scottish sectarianism, Gallagher says he is alarmed by the Scottish Government’s plans to celebrate Bannockburn by making it the centrepiece of another homecoming campaign and its decision to place site visits to Anglo-Scottish battlefields on the school curriculum.

Gallagher said: “This is replacing civic nationalism with the blood-and-soil variety. I’m angry that such ideas might see the light of day. How would an English child or an internationally minded Scottish one feel on such a visit?”

A Glaswegian, Gallagher said he was “broadly sympathetic to the party up to its assumption of office”, but is now alarmed by Salmond’s stewardship.

“Scotland is a country where the texture of society is still authoritarian and certainly conformist,” he said.

“I find it creepy that a movement’s future is so bound up with such a talented, impulsive and autocratic leader. The SNP would get more value out of Salmond if they made him accountable for his policies rather than crowning him the unofficial King of Scotland at each party conference.”

He added: “If independence is full of disappointment, then weak democratic institutions could be menaced by a demagogue.”

Scottish political commentator Gerry Hassan dismissed Gallagher’s critique as “offensive and inaccurate” and said it was “tragic because Gallagher was once a respected writer and voice.”

Gallagher’s book is launched at Blackwell’s in Edinburgh on Thursday, and Waterstone’s in Glasgow on November 4.