The SNP’s former deputy leader is plotting to rebel against Nicola Sturgeon by campaigning for an EU exit.
In a move of defiance against the First Minister’s policy, Jim Sillars revealed he will speak out in favour of a so-called Brexit in the referendum, and claimed many Nationalists back his view.
He slammed the party for not having “discussed Europe in any substantial way since 1992”.
Mr Sillars said: “I’ll do what I can among members of the SNP to persuade them the party is wrong and they should take an entirely different position to that urged upon them.
“The great problem with the SNP membership is the hangover from the referendum.
“If you have the temerity to criticise anything you are described as disloyal. A lot of folk will have to break out of that.”
He also said he had “never bought” Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that if Scotland voted to remain and the UK overall wanted to leave, demand for independence would rise.
“This is the love affair with the EU,” he added. “I don’t have a love affair with the EU. If the UK comes out of the EU then fine.
“That should allow those in favour of independence to look at alternatives to the EU, which keeps telling us to get stuffed.
“The difficulty is that because of the SNP position over the years and particularly the dominant position they have got, there has been no debate in Scotland or examination of the issues involved.”
Mr Sillars is the first big name in Scottish politics to formally declare his preference to leave Europe.
Previously only Ukip MEP David Coburn publicly backed a Brexit.
Now the former SNP and Labour MP will provide a voice for those on the left sceptical about voting to stay in.
He said he would argue for “the SNP out people point of view,” adding be had “been quite surprised” at the number of party members opposed to staying allied to Brussels.
But with polls showing around two-thirds of Scots support the EU, the 78-year-old conceded Scotland would vote to stay in.
Former First Minister Alex Salmond said: “This comes as no great surprise. Jim has been moving in a Eurosceptic direction for quite some time now and he is perfectly entitled to his own opinion.
“However, the SNP remain the only major political party where every single one of its parliamentarians will be campaigning for the Scotland in Europe position a concept which has overwhelming support among the people of Scotland.”