Scots who stay in the UK Armed Forces following independence would be "mercenaries in a foreign country", a former Conservative Scottish Secretary has suggested.

The only other choice would be to leave and join Alex Salmond's "Dad's Army", Lord Forsyth warned.

His comments prompted a furious response from the SNP who said that the Conservative Party had insulted past and present servicemen and women.

The row follows that over a fellow Tory peer who suggested that independence would "dishonour" the UK's war dead.

Lord Lang made the remark as he opened a Lords debate on Scottish independence yesterday.

He refused to bow to SNP demands to withdraw controversial parts of his speech, after his words were briefed overnight.

He said England and Scotland had fought side by side for 300 years and suggested that independence would "dishonour the sacrifices made in common cause of those who died for the UK".

Alex Salmond challenged Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to disassociate herself from Lord Lang's remarks at First Minister's Questions.

She later moved to distance herself from the comments saying: "Lord Lang must speak for himself. I deplore all intemperate language in this hugely important constitutional debate, whatever the source."

She added: "I believe everybody in Scotland, no matter their views on the referendum, will come together throughout the year to commemorate those who fought for their country in the First World War."

No 10 did not comment.

Speaking in the same debate Lord Forsyth accused Alex Salmond of saying "to the Scots men and women who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq so bravely with the union flag on their shoulders, "You have got to choose between the British Army and Alex's Dad's Army.

"You have got to choose whether you wish to be, in effect, mercenaries working for a foreign country or go off on this half-baked idea which Salmond proposes".

SNP Westminster Leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson said: "Just when you thought the 'No' campaign couldn't stoop any lower along come unelected Tory Lords and insult past and present Scottish servicemen and women.

"They should have apologised for the disproportionate Westminster cuts to defence personnel, bases and spending in Scotland as well as broken Tory promises on historic regiments.

"The time has come to make better defence decisions in Scotland and not leave it to people who can't be trusted and aren't elected.

Last night Lord Forsyth said: "The SNP don't seem to be able to face up to the consequences of what they are suggesting."

He said Scottish soldiers who stayed in the British Army "would be fighting for a foreign country, and soldiers who fight for a foreign country are mercenaries".