NICOLA Sturgeon should not press for a second Scottish independence referendum as it could create even deeper divisions than those facing the UK after the Brexit vote, constitutional expert Professor Jim Gallagher will warn today.

Instead, the former senior civil servant, who backed the Better Together campaign, will argue in a lecture at Glasgow University that the best way forward would be to use the opportunity afforded by the Brexit vote to develop the constitution north and south of the border as London and Edinburgh get more powers as a result of Britain exiting the European Union.

In this way, he will argue, most people in Scotland would get most of what they wanted rather than splitting the nation, leaving half of it bitter and resentful.

Prof Gallagher’s view comes as Tommy Sheppard, the SNP MP for Edinburgh East, became the latest Nationalist figure to urge Nicola Sturgeon to stall calling a second Scottish independence vote.

Speaking ahead of this week’s SNP conference in Glasgow, Mr Sheppard, a candidate in the party’s deputy leadership race, argued there was no room for independence “vanity projects” and the case for breaking up the UK had to be “tested to destruction” before another vote was called.

His view, which is in stark contrast to that of former leader Alex Salmond, who has forecast a second vote on Scotland’s future by autumn 2018, led Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, to urge the First Minister to end the uncertainty and rule out once and for all calling a new vote on independence.

"The rifts in the SNP are getting wider and deeper with this intervention from Tommy Sheppard,” declared Mr Rennie. “Nicola Sturgeon's headlong rush towards independence over the summer has been criticised by a host of party grandees from Kenny Macaskill to Joan McApline.

"Tommy Sheppard doesn't want to be rushed into another referendum because he knows that people in Scotland don't want a referendum and don't want independence.

"The SNP are all over the place on what to do which is why Nicola Sturgeon needs to bring an end to this damaging uncertainty and rule out another independence referendum,” added the party leader.

In his lecture entitled: “The Brexit Paradox: how the wrong choice for Britain offers the right opportunity for Scotland,” Prof Gallagher will suggest that because the most likely outcome of the June 23 poll is set to be a deal which would not have commanded a majority had it been put in front of the people fairly and squarely, then it would not be unreasonable to describe this kind of referendum as being “antidemocratic”.

Confronting the question of a second independence poll, the former Whitehall mandarin will ask: “Might Scotland find it’s in the same position as the UK today; gaining independence only to find it was based on promises that can’t be delivered?

“And might it face worse problems of division? If a referendum didn’t settle the question last time, why should it settle it in future?”

Prof Gallagher’s lecture is the first in a number of high-profile speeches on Brexit organised by Policy Scotland at the University of Glasgow. Expert speakers from a range of fields are set to examine the consequences of the UK’s decision to leave the EU at a series of events over the coming months.