THE Westminster spin machine has generated many myths surrounding the independence question over the years. Our three-part article on the 10 most prominent scare stories and downright untruths about independence started in The National on Wednesday when we tackled three ridiculous claims. Today we bust another three myths and next Wednesday we’ll conclude with the final four.

Myth 4: Business leaders are worried about the effects of independence.

It’s not difficult to blow this one out of the water. Just look at the success of Business for Scotland, an organisation of business people who all support the principle of independence and campaign to bring it about. Business for Scotland was set up by Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp in 2012. It campaigned in the run-up to the 2014 referendum and continued growing after the vote. As we approach another independence referendum, it’s more successful and larger than ever.

But the group’s members are not the only businesspeople who look forward to an independent Scotland. A survey carried out in 2020 found that only 4% of the UK’s most senior business leaders believe Scotland will not become independent, with most chief executives and finance directors relaxed about the prospect.

The survey carried out by leading research company Ipsos MORI found 95% of the top executives are confident their company would adapt to the consequences of the new constitutional arrangement.

A majority of those questioned either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement: “If Scotland became an independent country it would be a significant risk to my company.” Some 22% either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, while 19% had no opinion.

The research was carried out between February and July 2020. It was based on interviews with 102 chairmen, chief executive officers, managing directors, chief operating officers, financial directors or other executive board directors. Their companies were all among the UK’s top 500 by turnover.

Emily Gray, managing director of Ipsos MORI Scotland, said: “This survey shows that the leaders of Britain’s biggest businesses are relatively relaxed about the potential implications of Scottish independence for their companies, viewing it as something they will adapt to if necessary.”

The mood about independence among business leaders marks a significant change from opinions before the 2014 vote.

READ MORE: Open Minds on Independence #17: Westminster myths about referendum are wrong

Myth 5: A new Scottish currency would be difficult to establish

The question of which currency an independent Scotland would use loomed large over the first referendum. The idea of a separate new Scottish currency has gained support, although it is generally accepted it would only be introduced after a period during which sterling would still be used.

There are several relatively recent examples of newly independent countries that have created and launched their own currency both quickly and effectively. Estonia gained independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991. Less than a year later it became the first former Soviet Union country to replace the Russian ruble with its own currency, the Estonian kroon.

The introduction of this new currency was efficient and successful. Alongside other monetary policies, its establishment led to inflation in Estonia dropping below 3%, unemployment below 6% and foreign investment rising. Estonia joined the European Union in 2004 and adopted the euro in 2011.

Croatia formed its own national bank in 1990, before the country was actually independent. When it became independent the following year it introduced its own currency, the dinar. After the Croatian economy was damaged by the Balkan wars, it implemented a stabilisation programme which introduced a new currency, the kuna. Since then, the currency has remained stable and has effectively countered inflationary expectations. Croatia continues to use the kuna in the present day.

Slovakia became an independent state in 1993 after the Velvet Revolution peacefully ended communist rule in Czechoslovakia. By February 8, 1992 the official monetary separation had taken place and the Slovak coruna was established, just one month and seven days after the separation of the Czechoslovak Federation took place.

Slovakia and its new currency succeeded in ensuring stable and low inflation, a steady, growing economy and convergence to the EU economies. Slovakia adopted the euro in 2009, five years after joining the EU in 2004.

These examples demonstrate that new currencies were created and launched quickly and effectively under far more difficult circumstances than would be the case with Scotland leaving the UK.

Scotland would not, for example, have to face a war. None of the nations mentioned worried about the cost of introducing a new currency, as it was clear that the benefits of full monetary policy control would outweigh any potential costs. And in any case, the government has the option to simply create enough of the new currency to cover such costs.

READ MORE: Open Minds on Independence #16: How indy can re-ignite north-east energy sector

Myth 6: independence would threaten pensions

We looked at pensions earlier in this Open Minds series, explaining that UK state pensions are the worst in the developed world. An independent Scotland could do very much better.

It is remaining in the UK which poses a threat to our pensions. The UK state pension system is failing older people and, with an ageing population, it is unsustainable for future generations. It is inadequate to help pensioners live a life free from worrying about financial security. A report about pensions in an independent Scotland published by the Scottish Government in 2013 states that “everyone currently in receipt of the basic state pension, graduated retirement benefit, state earnings-related pension scheme or the state second pension would receive these pensions as now, on time and in full’’.

It goes on to say that for those in Scotland in receipt of the UK state pension at the time of independence, the responsibility for paying that pension would transfer to the Scottish Government. For people of working age living and working in Scotland at the time of independence, the UK pension entitlement they have accrued prior to independence would become their Scottish state pension entitlement.

The UK Minister of Pensions, Steve Webb, told a Westminster committee those who had “accumulated rights” would be entitled to the money. He said: “Yes, they have accumulated rights into the UK system, under the UK system’s rules.”

Asked whether citizenship would matter, Webb told MPs: “Citizenship is irrelevant. It is what you have put into the UK National Insurance system prior to separation.’’

So it’s clear the money you have paid into the UK state pension pot will be protected if Scotland votes to become independent. However, that doesn’t mean your pension will continue to be paid at its present low level. The government of an independent Scotland could decide to increase it.

The SNP conference in 2019 agreed that “as a minimum, an independent Scotland should plan to meet the OECD average for a Scottish state pension as a top priority for all Scottish pensioners”. This is to say, there is a willingness by the SNP to increase the state pension to the OECD average. This would mean an increase of around £200 per week per pensioner.

To suggest, as some pro-Union campaigners did in the run-up to the 2014 vote, that Scots pensioners could lose money if Scotland votes for independence is nothing short of scurrilous scaremongering for which there is no evidence at all.

The reason that such claims were never made or referred to by UK ministers is that they were not true and could be proved to be untrue by referring to statements and information provided by their own departments.