A TORY minister’s claim that a “great wall of Gretna” would be built after Scottish independence has been criticised as a “mischievous exaggeration” by a leading expert on borders.

Katy Hayward, a professor of sociology at Queen’s University Belfast, also pointed out that such images were never used by UK ministers when talking about the relationship with EU countries post-Brexit.

The comment was made last week by Home Office minister Kevin Foster on a visit to Scotland, in which he spoke out against independence.

He said an independent Scotland in the Schengen scheme, which permits free travel without passport checks between European nations, would necessitate the construction of a hard border between Scotland and England.

Speaking to journalists during his visit to Linlithgow and other parts of the country, he said: “If they wanted Scotland to join Schengen that does mean a hard border, it means building a great wall of Gretna.”

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But Hayward (above), who is an internationally recognised expert on Brexit and the Irish border, told the Sunday National: “It’s clearly mischievous exaggeration to even make mention of a border wall.

“Such an image is notably never one that British government ministers raised when anticipating the sort of borders post-Brexit UK was going to have with its neighbours.”

Hayward said there would be “checks and controls” for crossing the Anglo-Scottish border.

She added: “And in the event that Scotland joins the Schengen area (even though it could opt-out), there would be different passport regimes between Scotland and England.

“But this would no more require a wall than a moat.”

In April, when asked about the consequences of a border with England if Scotland rejoined the EU after independence, Nicola Sturgeon said: “I want us to be part of the world’s biggest single market. It’s seven times the size of the UK market .

“But of course I want to and will work with others to make sure we keep trade flowing easily across the border between Scotland and England.”

On the issue of having “physical border posts” on the Border, the First Minister said arrangements would be negotiated so that businesses “do not in a practical sense suffer from any of that”.

She added that all of the implications, advantages and practical issues that people would have to consider when deciding if they would vote for Scottish independence would be set out before another referendum.

The comment made by Foster was also criticised last week by Kirsty Hughes, former director of the Scottish Centre on European Research, who dismissed it as “scaremongering”.

She said: “Brexit has certainly put trade barriers between Britain and the EU which add costs and bureaucracy but while Brexit has damaged trade, there still is EU-UK trade, there’s no ‘great wall’ between England and France or the Netherlands.

“There is also hypocrisy here which needs calling out: putting barriers between Britain and the EU – and barriers within the UK between Britain and Northern Ireland – is what Brexit did.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “It’s unsurprising to see experts debunking as utter drivel these Tory fabrications, which are an extension of their anti-democratic campaign to tighten Westminster control over Scotland.

“It is the Tories with their anti-European obsession who are building borders and that is a reason Scotland voted in May for the right to hold a post-pandemic referendum on independence when it is safe to do so.

“At that point the SNP will bring forward a comprehensive prospectus for a more happy, more equal and more successful future for all in an independent Scotland.”