SCOTLAND'S Advocate-General and former Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace yesterday said the Scottish Government must ensure its independence referendum is legally binding, warning: "Wherever law ends, tyranny begins."

Lord Wallace said the SNP administration at Holyrood should accept UK Government proposals to transfer the power to hold a legally binding referendum through a process known as a "Section 30 Order", adding it would be "attractive" if the referendum complied with the UK Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

The Scottish Government has previously indicated it is sceptical about any conditions that may be attached to the Order.

Lord Wallace said it was outwith the powers of the Scottish Parliament to hold a referendum, even on a consultative basis, contrary to the opinion of the SNP. He also described the SNP's "advisory" referendum as "a wolf in sheep's clothing".

At a lecture at Glasgow University Law School, Lord Wallace said: "If I were the First Minister and I wanted a legal referendum on independence, then I would be snatching the hand off the person offering me a Section 30 Order. No hands have been snatched thus far, but I remain optimistic.

"A referendum that purported to pave the way for something that was ultra vires is itself ultra vires. If, as the law currently stands, the Scottish Government were to proceed with this legislation, it would be open to challenge in the courts.

Lord Wallace concluded that it would be "a matter of great concern if the Scottish Government, as a democratically-elected body, were to seek to challenge the rule of law".