A FORMER Labour First Minister has said he is "very, very attracted" to independence if it means Scotland keeps its place in Europe as he labelled Thursday's referendum is a "game changer" for country's constitutional debate.

Reflecting on what he described as a "unbelievably shocking and disastrous result" for the UK, Henry McLeish also said it was time for Scotland to consider "what kind of political company we're keeping" following the emergence of "trickle down racism" and xenophobia in England.

Another Scottish Labour grandee, the widely respected former health secretary Malcolm Chisholm, said he believed yesterday would go down in history as the day that independence for Scotland became inevitable.

Mr McLeish, who supported a No vote in 2014 despite speculation he would back Yes, said an altogether different proposition would be on the table following the shock referendum result, which saw all 32 council areas in Scotland vote to Remain but Leave triumph UK wide, if the issue of independence is put again. His comments came shortly after Nicola Sturgeon said a referendum within two years is "highly likely".

He said: "We have now got to a point that has changed the whole dynamic of Scotland and the union. Scotland's choice now is does it want to be part of the UK out of Europe, or does it want to be out of the UK and a part of the European Union. I am very, very attracted to the notion that we be part of the European Union.

"I've always maintained this is not a narrow nationalist question. All the political parties should be debating what Scotland's interests are, where Scotland should be and what kind of country we want to be.

"Intellectually, politically and I suppose psychologically I'm really warming to the notion that Scotland should at some point, in some context, have another choice to make."

Mr McLeish, who led the county between 2000 and 2001, added: "Scotland and England are diverging at an accelerating rate in terms of politics. Referendums are dangerous, they become a lightning rod for grudge and grievance. What really perturbed me was the English nationalism that was emerging, the xenophobia.

"It was Mitt Romney who coined the phrase 'trickle down racism'. He was talking about Trump, but I could equally apply it to Farage. I think apart from just the EU vote, there's a lot for Scots to digest about what kind of political company we're keeping when you have Farage, Johnson and as I describe them, the march of the Trumps down south."

He called on Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, who earlier this year indicated she would consider backing independence if Scotland was dragged out of the EU but quickly backtracked, to open up a debate within the party that would include consideration of breaking away from the UK.

"She [Ms Dugdale] has a right to say this is beyond narrow nationalism, it's beyond the custodianship of the First Minister however eloquent she is," he added. "This is a Scotland issue, partisanship and tribalism has got to come second. She could do all of that without committing the party or anyone to a specific definite policy.

"Far too often, politicians do not say what they think. This is not a time for hiding behind the barricades. This is a time for debate that Labour's never had in Scotland, that says to Scots 'we are passionate about our country'. This is a time to speak out, last night was a game changer, a quite astonishing result of 32 council areas voting to stay in."

Ms Dugdale described the Brexit vote as "distressing" but said the priority now was best summed up by the phrase "keep the heid".

She said: "First and foremost our priority must be to stabilise the economy - to reassure people about their jobs, about their pensions and about the opportunities that are yet to come."