I NEARLY didn’t watch the BBC European referendum debate broadcast from the Briggait in Glasgow. Catching up with Peaky Blinders was a more enticing prospect. But I caught the first five minutes of the debate and I was actually hooked. For the first time I started to feel a bit of passion, stoked by revulsion at the arguments of the proponents of Brexit. I simply cannot stomach being on the side of these people.

It’s not that I’m suddenly a fan of the European Union as it is – but when I contemplate the political terrain following a vote to leave, I shudder.

Yes, there are coherent and honourable arguments against the European Union, which have been skilfully articulated by Jim Sillars and a few others. Unfortunately, these arguments are like a whisper in the thunderstorm of xenophobia generated by the Leave side.

A Brexit will be a victory for the right and the far-right. The British National Party may no longer be around but its politics live on in the darker recesses of the Tory party and Ukip. The scenes following a Brexit vote are easy to imagine. The streets of London will turn red white and blue, and the Rule Brittania brigade will be in full flow. Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Iain Duncan Smith will be hailed by the tabloid media as the new masters of the universe.

Fortunately, the arguments of the Leave side were comprehensively annihilated before millions of viewers on Thursday night. And the arguments that resonated most powerfully with the young audience came mainly from Alex Salmond. He faced down racism in a way that few Labour politicians have the stomach to do these days, and made the two Brexiters sound like a couple of latter-day Alf Garnetts. Salmond also dealt transparently with every question that was put to him, which is what the public expect of elected politicians. When he was asked if a leave vote in England alongside a remain vote Scotland could trigger another independence referendum, he could have bobbed, weaved, weaselled and flannelled and sought to deceive the audience.

Instead, he expressed his opinion honestly and reasonably. He pointed out that one of the oft-repeated arguments of the No campaign in 2014 was that an independent Scotland would be locked out of the European Union, and only a No vote would guarantee that Scotland would remain part of the wider European community.

The presenter then pressed him on the timescale. Again Salmond could have tried to deflect the question. Again he stated his opinion openly and clearly.

Willie Rennie, the leader of Scotland’s fifth party, believes Salmond should have deceived the audience. That he should have been dishonest. That he should have lied about his views on UK-wide TV. I suppose that’s only to be expected from the Liberal Democrats, a party that lied to the voters about tuition fees back in 2010.

Imagine Alex having the cheek to answer a question honestly and directly! He’s right of course. If, as Alex said, England votes to drag Scotland out of the EU, that could trigger another independence referendum.

But that won’t be decided by Alex Salmond or any other individual – it will be determined by the strength of feeling in Scotland.

And the momentum for independence, I suspect, will not just be driven by the disruption and isolationism of leaving the European Union. It will also be affected by the aftermath of a Brexit vote. If Boris Johnson were to become prime minister and Ukip were to leapfrog Labour to become England’s second party, I suspect it wouldn't just be Scotland wanting to leave the UK. A lot of folk in the north of England might well be inclined to join the exodus.

There is another scenario which may also have consequences for the future of the UK – and if the latest opinion polls are accurate, it’s an even more likely prospect than Brexit.

What if the UK votes to stay, but England votes to leave? What if Scotland tilts the balance? Will that lead to a surge in English nationalism? Will the Brexiters ever forgive Scotland? These are all questions we may well have to ponder after June 23.

In the meantime, Willie Rennie and others have laughably called for Salmond to leave, so to speak, the Remain campaign. They even claim the SNP are a liability because the party insists on distancing itself from Cameron and Osborne, and is therefore “divisive”.

Seriously? In Scotland the Remain campaign is 22 points ahead, according to the latest polling evidence. In the rest of the UK, the race seems to be neck-and-neck. Why? Not because of Willie Rennie and the might of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, but because of the authority of the SNP.

The people who are damaging the campaign are not Nicola Sturgeon or Alex Salmond but David Cameron and George Osborne, who are merely using the European referendum as a proxy war for supremacy in the Tory party.

We’ve now got one of their own ministers, Priti Patel, accusing Cameron and Osborne of living lives of “luxury” that put them out of touch with fears about immigration. There’s nothing as odious as a right-wing rammy.

I’m not comfortable at all being on the same side as Cameron and Osborne. And when Tony Blair pops up on the side of Remain, I want to run and hide. He is a liability personified.

Alex Salmond may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but even his fiercest critics are not calling for him to be locked up for helping cause an international war that has led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and plunged the world into a new age of barbarism.

The Remain camp needs more Alex Salmonds. The Tories should go hire the dinner hall at Eton to throw puddings at each other.

And Tony Blair should make his way to the War Crimes Tribunal.

Letters I: Charge against Brexit-backing MSP is not fair

George Kerevan: Vote Leave and you risk playing into the hands of the right wing