FORMER Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has admitted that the SNP did not allow prisoners to vote in the independence referendum because the party feared "lurid headlines" in the run up to the crucial vote.

The MSP has urged the Scottish Government to review what he described as a "shameful" position if it was to have credibility in its opposition to David Cameron's plan to scrap the Human Rights Act.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that a blanket ban on prisoners voting is a breach of human rights.

Writing in the pro-independence newspaper The National, Mr MacAskill said: "Shamefully, the Scottish Government has so far refused to adhere to the spirit and the judgements of the European Courts.

"Initially it hid behind the franchise being reserved to Westminster but did indicate that it did not support its extension to prisoners. That was compounded by replicating the Westminster line in the franchise for the referendum. Votes were granted for 16 and 17-year-olds but not prisoners.

"In that act I am as complicit as any as the former justice secretary. It was the wrong thing done, albeit for the right reasons. It was to avoid any needless distractions in the run-up to the referendum, to deny the right-wing press lurid headlines that could tarnish the bigger picture.

"To have credibility on the issue the Scottish Government must now review their position on votes for prisoners or the defence of the Human Rights Act will ring hollow."

The Scottish Liberal Democrats hit out at Mr MacAskill for blocking the party's moves to give some prisoners the vote in the referendum and failing to act in seven years as justice secretary.

John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, said the Scottish Government had "no plans" to change its position over the issue, with powers over Scottish elections set to be devolved to Holyrood.