THE historian and BBC presenter Neil Oliver has been met with derision after describing independence as a “dead dog”.

Oliver, who was a high-profile No vote backer ahead of the 2014 referendum, launched a sustained attack on the SNP as well as a highly personal and vitriolic assault on former First Minister Alex Salmond.

In an article in a Sunday newspaper, he referred to the independence referendum as a “hate fest” and castigated Nicola Sturgeon for leaving the door open on a future vote on the issue.

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His diatribe in yesterday’s Sunday Times follows an interview he gave to the same newspaper last year, in which he called the prospect of a second independence referendum a “cancerous presence”.

He started yesterday’s column with some caustic remarks on the rise of the SNP from a minor party to a major political force, stating: “The SNP are in the dead dog business. I’m old enough to remember when they were a joke. Somewhere along the line something truly awful happened and the SNP became the only joke in town, and it was on us. It was all over us and all over the country.”

He then went on to attack the prospect of a second referendum.

“Alex Salmond has been fond of saying independence is inevitable. He’s yesterday’s man, but still strangely unavoidable,” he wrote.

“I have two issues with [Salmond’s] more recent pronouncement – and with Nicola Sturgeon’s promise that she herself will choose the date for a second hate-fest”.

He added: “So, even if there was a second referendum and they won it ... (sorry, it all went dark for a minute. I think I might have passed out) ... that would make it one-all. At the very least we would have to follow the second with a decider, or am I wrong.”

Oliver then returned to his attack on Salmond.

“Salmond is a big, round wrecking ball of a man, shaped only to do damage," he wrote.

"He and his sort – Sturgeon and the rest – fail even to comprehend what it is they behold and despise.

So lacking in imagination are they, their vision of a post-Union future ... is all but indistinguishable from the present and past that so galls them."

The presenter of BBC Two’s Coast then went on to mock the independence movement, before concluding: “Vote SNP – they want to shoot the dog but it’s OK: after it’s dead you can still keep it in your bedroom and stroke it just like always. Maybe give it a new name. Call it Independence.”

After the article was published independence supporters took to social media to condemn it using the hashtag “#Yoon” to refer to Unionist.

One wrote on Twitter: “So, #NeilOliver got into the crayon box, and fired off a #Yoon screed. Ignore it, and him, and move on.”

A second Tweeted: “When #BBC presenters the likes of #NeilOliver become overtly political they lose all rights to continue under an unbiased banner.”

Also on Twitter, a third wrote: “Right, would someone just give #neiloliver a knighthood or something and then he’ll just go away? Cheers. #Yoon.”

Even Labour’s Blair McDougall suggested the article was extreme.

The Better Together chief Tweeted: “Ooof. I hope Neil Oliver stood up from his keyboard after finishing this article & did the boom-drop-the- mic thing.”

Responding to the article, a SNP spokesman: “These comments will not ring true with the majority of people in Scotland who would agree that Scotland’s referendum on independence was an engaging and inspiring democratic process.”