THE SNP has hit out at the BBC over its independence referendum coverage after the corporation named a panel for tomorrow night's Question Time that contained a majority of pro-Union supporters.

Deputy SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Hollywood actor Alan Cumming, who has declared his support for independence, will be outnumbered by the other guests on the show, which is being aired from Inverness.

The panel includes former LibDem leader Charles Kennedy, who is expected to be at the forefront of the pro-Union campaign alongside former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling and former Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie.

Fellow panellists will also include Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, former Scottish Secretary Lord Forsyth and Melanie Phillips, a columnist for the right-wing Daily Mail.

Ms Phillips has written that Scotland is a "dependency culture" and described First Minister Alex Salmond as a "preposterous populist".

She also wrote: "The fact is that many of Mr Salmond's positions amount to little more than bluster.

"Scotland is the dependency culture writ large. It can whine about England safe in the certainty that the Westminster cash cow will continue to deliver regardless."

SNP senior backbencher Kenneth Gibson said: "It is inevitable that independence will be discussed on this week's Question Time, and it would be in the best interests of a fair and measured debate if the BBC invited equal numbers of panellists from both the Yes and No campaigns.

"In future the BBC should ensure a balanced panel, from both sides of the referendum debate, whenever independence is expected to be discussed."

A Question Time spokeswoman said: "This Thursday's programme in Inverness is a regular edition of Question Time, rather than a special programme on independence.

"We have picked a balanced panel reflecting a range of political views and debates in both Scotland and the UK as a whole. The range of questions about Scotland, the UK or international politics is, as always, down to our audience on the night."

BBC guidelines say that impartiality "lies at the heart of public service and is the core of the BBC's commitment to its audiences".

They say: "We must be inclusive, considering the broad perspective and ensuring the existence of a range of views is appropriately reflected."

The BBC Charter "requires us to do all we can to ensure controversial subjects are treated with due impartiality in our news and other output dealing with matters of public policy or political or industrial controversy.

"But we go further than that, applying due impartiality to all subjects."

Earlier this week, it was revealed the BBC is advising its staff against using terms such as "divorce" and "break-up" in its coverage of the independence debate.

Following talks between Mr Salmond and BBC chairman Lord Patten, who met the First Minister at Holyrood earlier this year, it has been reported that guidelines will be issued to the broadcaster's staff on how to avoid terms favoured by the independence and pro-Union camps.

Nationalist politicians have complained about the use of "separation" instead of independence.

Phrases favoured by the SNP such as "normal European state" are also likely to be discouraged.

Meanwhile, it has emerged the launch of the pro-Union campaign is likely to be June 22, a week after Mr Salmond appears at the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking.

It is expected it will be a more low-key launch than the glitzy but poorly-received Yes campaign launch in Edinburgh last month.