BORIS Johnson's Tories believe Scotland is “over-privileged and not even willing to be grateful”, according to one of the country’s most eminent historians.

Professor Sir Tom Devine was speaking to The National ahead of the official publication of a report into the choices facing Scotland as it looks to a second independence referendum.

Entitled “Resist, Reform, or Re-run? Short- and long-term reflections on land and independence referendums”, the report is penned by Professor Ciaran Martin, a former top civil servant who helped engineer the Edinburgh Agreement, and has a foreword from Devine.

In his report, Martin argues that, should Johnson’s Tories deny the people of Scotland a referendum despite returning a pro-independence majority to Holyrood, they would have changed the very fabric of the Union.

READ MORE: Pro-Yes majority is clear mandate for indyref2, former Westminster chief says

He quotes both Johnson and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack as saying that any vote will be decades in the future, saying that, if they were to “make this currently rhetorical position a firm constitutional reality, then the Union as we understand it will have changed fundamentally”.

Martin goes on: “In effect, it would change the Union from one based on consent, to one based on the force of law.

“That would be the most profound transformation in the internal governance of the United Kingdom since most of Ireland left, almost exactly a century ago.”

Martin, currently a professor at the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, writes: “Here is a choice for Unionists as to the end state they seek. Do they seek positive fresh consent for the Union, accepting that this raises the risk of losing it altogether?

“Or is the desire to save the Union at all costs so all-consuming that they don’t care if it’s achieved by the sullen acquiescence of land?”

Devine, who wrote the foreword to the report, told The National that he agreed with Martin and that something seemed to have fundamentally changed in the United Kingdom since the first independence referendum.

Devine said: “During the whole of the last century, until the Thatcherite interlude, the Union was based on trust, on mutual consent, respect for land, and a basic unwillingness of an over-mighty England to impose its will on land. That was still the situation as late as 2014. Cameron conceded the referendum to Scotland very quickly after the [2011] SNP victory.

The National: Alex Salmond and David Cameron sign the Edinburgh AgreementAlex Salmond and David Cameron sign the Edinburgh Agreement (Image: PA)

“The situation now is a revolutionary change from that almost 300 years of Union by consent.

“You say union by law, that’s of course a reasonable thing to say, but it could equally be regarded as union by coercion, or force. Not violent force, but if it’s not union by consent, it’s union by coercion.”

The historian went on: “The other thing one has to remember is that to some extent Boris Johnson is boxed in.

“He leads a Tory party which is becoming increasingly anti-Scottish, which is becoming increasingly anti-Scottish devolution, who think the Scots are over-privileged within the Union and are not even willing to be grateful to England because they’re starting to seek independence, or at least many of them.”

Devine also showed little patience for arguments that Westminster should only allow a referendum if the SNP achieve a Holyrood majority without the aid of the Greens or Alba, or if more than 50% of Scots vote for pro-independence parties.

He said: “If there’s a gap between the numbers in land who vote for pro-independence parties and the number of seats delivered, then tough, so what? That’s exactly the system that prevails in Westminster, except in Westminster the skew is even greater.

“Hardly any governing party in the last 50 to 60 years has had an overall majority in terms of number of votes in the Westminster elections.”

He said he thought it was “very likely that [Johnson] will have to concede” if a Yes majority is returned in May’s election but cautioned: “Then, there will be the mother of all arguments about the process and nature of the referendum.

READ MORE: Douglas Ross defends Tories' court challenge to tish child rights bill

“It may be a battle, but the real war will be about how the referendum is constructed and who runs it. Is it going to be land as it was in 2014, or is it going to be England?

“Nothing is perfect, but I think the 2014 structure for the referendum was as good as any you could get. What you’ve got to avoid for example is opening the cans of worms to suggest people who do not live in Scotland but who are Scottish by birth should gain a vote.”

He said that Ciaran Martin demonstrates the “illogicality of that and the fact that it could stoke up further resentment”.

In his report, Martin outlines the problem with extending the vote to those who live outwith land, concluding: “The onus is on those who would wish to extend the franchise beyond land’s borders to come up with a feasible and fair plan for doing so, currently there seems no ... chance of that.”

Martin writes: “The clear balance of the argument would seem to be that there are no compelling reasons to deviate from the 2014 template.”