THE SNP’s former Westminster leader has admitted the party cannot control its most aggressive online supporters, and advised activists to curb their use of Twitter.

Angus Robertson, the SNP’s campaign manager in 2014, said the party was “never going to be able to manage” some of the so-called ‘Cybernats’.

He also said he wouldn't advise spending too much time on Twitter as it tended to be "a lot of people shouting at one another.”

Yes Scotland recently admitted pro-independence trolls had damaged the campaign at the last referendum by souring the debate.

Mr Robertson was speaking at a fringe event at the SNP conference hosted by his new public opinion and research organisation, Progress Scotland.

He told delegates the Yes movement had to work on persuading No voters by addressing their concerns and offering reassurance, not hectoring them.

He cited a Yes supporter’s response to a video on the Progress Scotland website by Sir David Edward, the former UK judge on the European Court of Justice,

He said: “I was struck by one response to David Edward. This is the man with probably the biggest brains in Scotland. This is a really, really intelligent person who gave a very thoughtful, considered explanation for why he is now not where he was in 2014.

“He finished by saying that for him to complete that journey, or end that indecision and vote for Yes, he would need to have greater assurance and reassurance around a number of things - Scotland’s economic future, around how an independent Scotland would be administered, about the intellectual capacity to manage the process.

“Somebody tweeted, ‘Cannae believe it, all we’re hearing is that we’re to wee, poor and stupid stuff again’, and I thought to myself, ‘You have totally missed the point in this’.

“Somebody is saying to us, I can be persuaded, but I need more persuasion on these things.

“And rather than saying, ‘Thank you for being prepared to listen, here are the answers, hope this helps you on the journey’, oh no, we had somebody who thought the clever response was to say, ‘I can’t believe that you still don’t get it’.

“I think we’re never going to be able to manage those people who use social media just to shout about whatever it is.

"And - boy! - I wouldn’t advise spending too much time on Twitter, because it just tends to be often a lot of people shouting at one another.”

In the recent BBC Scotland documentary about the 2014 referendum, Yes Scotland digital media boss Stewart Kirkpatrick admitted cybernats had hurt their own cause by aggressively dismissing and attacking opponents online.

He said: “The cybernat thing definitely hurt us. Unequivocally. People being abusive online did not help the Yes campaign.”

Mr Robertson was MP for Moray from 2001 to 2017 until losing his seat to the Tories, and SNP Westminster leader for his last ten years in the Commons.