CLAIMS that senior SNP figures including Westminster leader Angus Robertson pressured Scottish firms to stay out of the independence debate should be urgently investigated, the Better Together campaign says.

The allegations, which the SNP denies, are made on Channel 4's Dispatches tonight. Gavin Hewitt, former chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, told the programme he or his senior staff met Mr Robertson at least six times in two years.

"He and the SNP have regularly tried to get the message to the Scotch Whisky Association that the industry should stay out of the independence debate. He was trying to neuter business comment," said Mr Hewitt.

He said with the SNP likely to be in power for years, "there was a genuine fear … [of] ­retribution."

The SNP pointed out Mr Robertson's constituency of Moray had a large number of whisky distilleries, and none of his regular meetings with the association on taxation and other issues were unaccompanied. The party said claims about Mr Robertson are "utterly false".

A Better Together spokesman said: "Businesses and other impartial voices saying they received phone calls or visits from SNP ministers or senior figures like Angus Robertson to pressure them into silence is a deeply troubling development. These allegations need to be investigated urgently and fully."

Mr Robertson was unavailable for comment last night.