SCOTLAND'S most celebrated historian has told how the SNP has been a barrier to the "blood and soil" nationalism that has swept Europe citing an absence of hostility towards English-born voters who backed the Union in 2014.

Professor Sir Tom Devine said there had "hardly been a murmur of complaint" from the Yes movement about the decisive role English voters played in the referendum despite voting "overwhelmingly" against independence.

Sir Tom dismissed comparisons between the SNP and ethnic-based nationalist movements mushrooming across Europe, claiming that while Anglophobia had been evident in Scotland in the later decades of the twentieth century it had been been in marked decline.

He said the "politics of Westminster not English people" were the chief opponent of Scots nationalists.

Speaking ahead of an event at the Scottish Parliament on the First World War, nationhood and nationalism, Sir Tim said the SNP had shed its 'claymores and Bannockburn' image over the past 40 years and that their ideology was based not on "bloodline or national ancestry of voters but whether their home is in Scotland or not".

He said the party's brand of 'civic nationalism' was key to its electoral success and while its imagery and sense of identity still pointed to a ethnic element Sir Tom said the SNP's studied avoidance of discussing issues such as the role of English voter in the 2014 and stance on immigration marked it out different to other European nationalists movements.

Sir Tom said: "There has hardly been a murmur of public complaint from the SNP, or indeed from those of a nationalist persuasion, that English people resident in Scotland, the country's largest migrant group by far, voted overwhelmingly against independence in 2014 in what became a closer contest than had been expected. That is convincing evidence of the influence of civic nationalism in practice.

"By keeping to its identity of civic nationalism the SNP has helped at least to contain the emergence of xenophobia which could raise its ugly head again in what would be a bitterly fought second independence referendum.

"As the recent if partial Conservative resurgence has shown unionism has become more robust while nationalists will see another referendum as the last chance in a lifetime to to achieve independence. The polls are also currently split 50/50 on the question. There can be little doubt that next time the contest will be fought on both sides with even greater passion and commitment than in 2014."

Sir Tom has previously pointed to the swing to independence by Catholics of an Irish background over the past 30 years as evidence of the appeal of the SNP's civic nationalism, as well as support from other ethnic groups.

With ideologues pointing to the lack of sufficient historic grievance or sense of oppression similar to that which fuelled Irish Nationalism, Sir Tim said that since the 1980s the party has attempted to project a nationalism underpinned by social democracy.

Sir Tom famously declared himself in favour of Scottish independence in the run up to the 2014 vote but insisted he was "looking at the evidence in non-partisan way as a historian".

The Professor Emeritus at Edinburgh University added: "Of course, no nationalist party can be entirely devoid of ethnic roots. The SNP is after all committed to one nation, Scotland, whose identity has been shaped over the centuries by the markers of history, religion, memory and myth.

"The key point is that the modern nationalist party pursues a policy of national self- determination in order to achieve social democratic and economic goals which it believes cannot be obtained within the UK state."

Adam Tomkins, the Tory MSP and legal academic, said the SNP's leadership had worked hard over the past in recent decades to turn "what was historically by all accounts quite a nasty nationalism into something which on the surface is more inclusive".

But he added: "Underneath all that they are just like any other nationalist party. They are still very divisive. What the SNP want to achieve is division, to divide Scotland and the UK.

"I don't buy the argument that the referendum was all a harmless carnival of fun, colour and carnival. If there was a second, which I don;t believe there will be, it will be even more unpleasant."