SIR Arthur Conan Doyle, late of Picardy Place, Edinburgh, knew how to tell a tale and make the driest of facts dance.

One of the most intriguing of the Sherlock Holmes casebook is “Silver Blaze”. This is about the disappearance of a famous horse the night before a big race and the associated murder of the horse’s trainer. Holmes solves the mystery by spotting the curious fact that no-one he had spoken to in his entire investigation had heard any barking from the watchdog during the night.

Thus, “the dog that didn’t bark” entered the lexicon as illustrating the significance of the non-event.

READ MORE: Scottish independence 'nothing to be afraid of', says top European banker

Pensions policy in the first independence referendum was such an issue, and that mystery is easily solved. Back then, the Scottish Government had produced a detailed pensions paper setting out the position, and was well prepared. In contrast, the UK position was confused, with the then pensions minister Steven Webb struggling to explain himself in front of a Commons Committee.

At first Webb was definite that the UK Government would meet its contractural obligations to those who had contributed and gained pensions entitlements up until the point of independence. Then, with the heid puddocks of the No Campaign blowing a collective gasket, he issued a “clarification” statement seeking to muddy the waters. The strength of the Scottish position in 2014 was that it was made clear that the Scottish Government would guarantee Scottish pension payments, come what may, as was succinctly explained at page 144 of the White Paper.

The National: Former minister Steven WebbFormer minister Steven Webb

Thus, although the naysayers still did their level best to scare the elderly and the infirm, pensions were not a dominating issue of the 2014 campaign because the Yes side were well-armed and the No side were not. Of course, this clarity of Yes information didn’t stop the doorstep scaremongering or Daily Mail hysteria, but it did draw its campaign teeth. The pensions dog basically did not bark.

Contrast that with this last week, when the SNP have struggled to be clear on pensions and left a number of open goals for Unionists. Even old “Project Fear” himself, Blair McDougall, has found a new lease of virtual life, reconstituting himself online, almost like Count Dracula in a dusty Hammer Horror movie.

Many of us could have been where Ian Blackford found himself last week, floundering in an interview, and there but for the grace of God etc. However, if the groundwork had been done in the expectation of fighting an imminent referendum, then he would not have been caught flat-footed, even by the most malicious of mainstream media.

READ MORE: Martin Lewis 'fuming' at UK minister Kwasi Kwarteng over scam remarks

At the same time the SNP were getting themselves into a fankle over pensions, it was revealed that twice as many civil servants are working on the Gender Recognition Act as on our national prospectus for independence. This does not lend confidence that the Government recognise the urgency of getting all pro-indy spokespeople properly informed.

Indeed, Sherlock Holmes would have regarded the lack of resources into elementary homework, as evidence to support a deduction, that this lack of preparation could betray a lack of serious intent.

The National:

Some damage has been done by the pensions imbroglia. Unionist journalists and commentators have piled in with barely suppressed glee. Even Tories, bruised and battered by their own self-inflicted wounds, have taken some time off to dance up and down on the discomfiture of the SNP Westminster leader and the First Minister.

However, at least the confusion brought back to the campaign fore the array of bloggers and commentators who have done the independence thinking and actually done the work.

The answer to the pensions conundrum is comparatively simple. Yes, Westminster has a contractural obligation which it currently meets to over a million UK pensioners living overseas, but it is also a fact that pensions are financed from current taxation.

It is also true that all of the gargantuan UK debt liability legally lies with the Treasury. Thus, if Westminster plays politics with pensions and risks becoming an international pariah, then all the Scotland side needs to do in negotiations is adjust any contribution to UK debt accordingly and downwards. In any and all events, UK state pensions for those living in Scotland at the time of independence will be guaranteed to be paid through the Scottish Government and, over time, enhanced from their present miserly level. That last bit is the same assurance from 2014 when the pensions dog did not bark.

Let me draw on Corinthians for a final thought: “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”

The worst aspect of the last week is that it suggests a fundamental lack of necessary independence preparation by the SNP/Green government. Having been ambushed on state pensions, expect similar snares to be laid on currency, borders, trade and the timescale of any re-admission to the European Union.

Luckily, in the next few weeks a new publication will appear which will place a different perspective on these matters, and which is aimed to give confidence to the Yes movement, as well as information to the people.