THE country’s leading historian has clashed with Gordon Brown (right) after the former prime minister suggested that Scotland is on course to become “one of the West’s most divided countries”.

Professor Sir Tom Devine said the only way “out of the present impasse” over independence was to “lance the boil” and hold another referendum.

Brown is due to make a keynote speech on “the United Kingdom; the case for cooperation” at Unionist blogger Kevin Hague’s These Island’s conference in Newcastle later today.

Ahead of the gathering, which will be addressed by Tory, Labour, LibDem and Brexit Party politicians, Brown pointed to a new YouGov poll of 2500 Scots, commissioned by the Our Scottish Future think tank, that suggests that 47% of respondents believe Scots will always be divided on the issues of Brexit and independence.

Another 44% of those surveyed also said that they now have less trust in politicians, while 34% said they are less likely to discuss politics with casual acquaintances.

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Ahead of his speech, Brown said: “The poll shows Scotland is at risk of becoming one of the West’s most divided countries and stuck in a rut.

“I want us to break out of the trench warfare from which everyone loses out. We are divided because we have been polarised by extreme positions – either a no-change, status quo ‘do nothing’ stance or an ever harder separation, including now abandoning the UK pound.

“The poll shows that Scotland is not just more divided than at any time in my lifetime, but these divisions could dominate our lives for many decades to come.”

Brown also spelled out more details on his own series of “Neighbourhood Assemblies”, which he plans to hold across Scotland in the spring.

He said: “With our Neighbourhood Assemblies, we will investigate over the next few months whether the divisions are so entrenched that nothing can be done or whether, as I hope, we can find some common ground to bring people together.

“So we have to listen and be prepared to rethink our view of what the UK is, the shape it takes, what binds us together, or many people fear the UK will collapse in this century just as surely as the British Empire collapsed in the last. We need not only listen and learn, but then have the courage to change and reform.

“All of us who love Scotland and want the best for its future know Scotland deserves better than this.

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“It’s time to do something radically different – work together, not pull apart.”

Devine said he agreed with Brown that “Scotland is divided on the future of the country”.

The National: Sir Tom Devine said that indyref2 was the only way out of the impasseSir Tom Devine said that indyref2 was the only way out of the impasse

He added: “It is a self-evident truth, hardly an original perception. For some time the opinion polls have shown that the nation is split down the middle on the issues of Union or independence.

“This is not at all a happy condition for a small country.

“The problem with Mr Brown, however, is that he has built a reputation as a robust and passionate supporter of the Union, one side of the bitter divide to which he alludes.

“Hence he can never play the role of an honest broker for reconciliation.

“His idea for local conversations of the citizenry to cross the divide is pie in the sky.

“If it is ever tried it is certain to be boycotted en masse by those of a nationalist persuasion.The only practical route out of the present impasse is to hold another referendum.

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“That lancing of the boil will be very painful for one entrenched side or the other. Reconciliation of opposing forces after the result will also take many years to achieve.

“Political skills of the highest order will be needed to provide some alleviation of the inevitable problems which will follow.

“As a country we will have to face this daunting prospect.To think otherwise is to see the future through rose-coloured spectacles.

“However, as citizens of one of the world’s oldest nations we can take comfort from the history of resilience which has marked Scotland’s story. Crises have come and gone, and Auld Scotia has survived.”