A DECISION to leave the EU could spark a second Scottish independence referendum and lead to the break-up of Britain, one of the UK’s leading investment fund managers has said.

The remarks from Martin Gilbert, the co-founder and chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, came just 24 hours after Downing Street for the first time signalled that a vote to leave the EU could raise the prospect of a second Scottish independence vote.

Mr Gilbert told BBC Radio’s Today programme: “Brexit will certainly put a Scottish referendum back on the table. Scotland is more pro Europe than England…and my great fear is it would inevitably lead to the break-up of the UK.”

It comes as Alex Salmond claimed there would be an “inescapable” shift in public opinion towards independence north of the border if there were an EU vote to leave.

The former First Minister was asked by ITV if leaving the EU would lead to Scottish independence and whether Scotland could technically remain a member of the bloc.

“The answer to both questions is yes,” declared the Gordon MP.

"Yes, because if you go back 18 months to the Scottish referendum, one of the big arguments that David Cameron was making was ‘look, you are going to jeopardise Scotland’s position in the European Union’.

"It sounds a bit ironic now but that was what was being said. So the circumstances have changed if that situation came about.”

He went on: “Secondly, and importantly, there’s a mandate for it. Because Nicola Sturgeon made it quite clear last year during the general election that that would be her approach and her policy. And that resulted in a huge endorsement for the SNP; 56 out of 59 seats. So the mandate’s there and the rational is there."

Mr Salmond added: “Could it happen practically? Well, the answer to that is yes as well. Why? Because...if the UK votes out, there’s a two-year period under the Lisbon treaty. And what would happen then is Scotland would negotiate its position and, effectively, Scotland would just stay in and the rest of the UK would move out. So it’s a yes to both questions.”