FOR as long as there has been a campaign for Scotland’s independence there has been an active Westminster spin machine pumping out a stream of myths designed to persuade people that it would end in disaster.

However, with Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, many people are beginning to wonder if we really do need the superior intellect, ambition and the deeper pockets of the UK to run the country properly. After all, every small independent European nation outperforms the UK on almost every economic and social performance measure. So is it possible it’s the centralised, distant and dysfunctional Westminster system that can’t run a country properly?

You might think Westminster’s standing might have been dented by the long list of UK projects up to and including the fiasco of Brexit that have ended in disaster, but somehow Union supporters continue to argue that we need the UK and not the other way around. The myth-making reached a peak with Better Together’s self-named Project Fear approach in the run-up to the first independence referendum. We are now seeing a resurgence in Project Fear tactics as opinion poll after opinion poll suggests a majority supports independence. So we’ve decided to bust the top-10 myths about Scottish independence in this three-part article.


Westminster response number one to any suggestion that Scotland should vote again on independence. It’s rejected out of hand on the basis we already voted on the issue in 2014 and that a few key players in the Yes campaign said that they thought the vote was a “once-in-a-generation event”.

That was not a promise that Scotland would never again seek a vote on remaining in a failing Union. It was simply an expression to capture the magnitude of the referendum opportunity. And at the time it did indeed look like an event that would not be repeated any time soon. However, unexpected developments changed the landscape to such an extent that a second vote has become a necessity.

Brexit, at a stroke, undermined the main argument of Better Together. We were told the only way to guarantee remaining in the EU was to vote against independence. In reality, we were then thrust into a referendum to leave Europe in which Scotland’s and Northern Ireland’s desire to remain was overruled.

Never forget these figures: Scottish exports to the EU in January 2020 were 63% down on the previous year; Scotland’s largest food export category – fish and shellfish – was down 83%; meat exports down 59%; dairy exports down 50%. This was the legacy of Better Together. Yet Westminster rejects the principles of democracy. Boris Johnson stated that the 2019 General Election was a once in a lifetime election -– we doubt he thinks we won’t have to have another one.

Finally, it’s seven years since 2014 and the Good Friday Agreement states that an Irish unification referendum will be allowed if there is a demand for it and defines the time that must pass between unification referendums as seven years.


No matter how often pro-Union campaigners are shown the evidence to disprove this nonsense they keep on repeating it. There is no set of accounts that gives us any indication of how an independent Scotland’s economy would fare, nor what its finances would look like.

The deficit myth emerged from a set of financial reports called GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland), but the Government the GERS accounts relate to is the United Kingdom Government and GERS includes the hidden costs (billions) of being part of the UK. Every year since records began, Scotland has been paying interest on a population share of the UK’s debts. In the last five years (2015-20) this has added £18 billion – an average of £3.607bn per year – to the cost of running Scotland.

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Scotland has recently been granted very limited borrowing powers, but while the UK’s debt was being built up it had none. The truth is that Scotland’s economy was either in surplus, or had a lower deficit than the UK. In other words, Scotland did NOT contribute to the creation of the UK’s debt. The allocation of the debt is not related to the UK region or nation which generated the debt, nor where the money was spent or the economic benefit felt but simply as a percentage of the UK population.

Looking at GERS reports that go back 40 years, Scotland’s share of UK debt interest amounted to a staggering £133bn. Had Scotland been an independent country, its entire borrowing requirement over those 40 years would have been ZERO. If Scotland weren’t subsidising UK debt, Scotland would be at least £508bn better off today than GERS falsely claims it is.


Not so. Much of the infrastructure needed already exists and has done since devolution was introduced in 1999. Scotland’s governance infrastructure can be broken down into three categories:

  • Infrastructure already under Scottish Government control: Scotland already possesses most of the essential institutions and infrastructure to administer and govern in some of the most important and largest policy areas, including the Scottish Parliament, education, the environment, health, agriculture, forestry and fishing, limited tax-raising powers, some aspects of social security, housing, law and order, local government, sports, the arts, tourism, economic development, many aspects of transport, tourism in the shape of VisitScotland and its own economic development agencies.
  • Infrastructure that would transfer to Scottish Government control with independence: On these policy areas that are reserved to Westminster, Scotland would inherit the existing UK institutions that already exist north of the Border which we already pay for.

We would inherit the powers to change pensions, most benefits and social security, immigration, defence, constitutional matters, economic and monetary policy, foreign policy, employment, broadcasting, trade and industry, nuclear energy, oil, coal, gas and electricity. Those are the very powers that make other smaller independent European nations thrive.

Some UK infrastructure that delivers a service to Scotland, such as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), is already mostly based in Scotland and paid for in GERS – we just don’t get the benefit of the jobs that go along with those departments not based in Scotland.

  • New infrastructure required as a result of independence: Essentially, the only major institutions Scotland would need to establish from scratch would be a central bank, a financial services authority and other financial regulators.

According to research by the London School of Economics, this would require 1500 staff and cost £50 million over five years. However, at the current rate of tax, those staff would return £30m to the Scottish Treasury. Around 6600 public-sector jobs would need to be created or transferred to Scotland to build the governance infrastructure.

The transition costs over five years (including the £50m for banking and financial regulation above) would be £439m. The additional tax and national insurance revenues to Scotland would be £75m, meaning a net cost of £364m. To put that into context, as part of the UK, the cost to Scotland of the refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster will be around £300m over the same period, a cost that Scotland won’t have to meet if it becomes independent.

The ability to manage monetary policy and set exchange and inflation rates (in the long term) that are tailored to Scotland’s needs means any costs would be an investment that will be a massive advantage to the Scottish economy.