EVEN among politicians convinced of its benefits, it’s rare to hear an argument from them in favour of the Union which isn’t based either on an appeal to the familiar or on some sense that an independent Scotland would manage less well over the piece in the world than it would as part of the UK.

To be clear, neither argument when made sincerely is in any way unfair. The onus is always on those of us who seek independence to persuade others positively of the merits of our case.

Nevertheless, it’s also true that there is a “Project Fear” tendency at play in some arguments. We have seen during the 2014 referendum, and afterward, Unionist politicians seeking to contend – even faced with clear evidence to the contrary – that leaving the UK would see Scotland in some way isolated from all that’s good in the world while left at the mercy of all that’s bad.

It’s been put forward most recently in the political weaponisation of the UK’s response to the pandemic. In this, it’s asserted that despite the comparable financial measures taken by countries of a similar size to Scotland, the package of measures taken by the UK went well beyond the scope of anything that an independent Scotland could ever have accomplished by itself.

The Barnett Formula is often – entirely incorrectly – hailed as a means of allocating undeservedly high levels of public spending to Scotland. Yet taken together with a lack of meaningful borrowing powers, the way the formula works means that despite devolution, an extremely large proportion of the resource available to invest in Scottish public services is still set rigidly in proportion to whatever a UK government decides to spend in England.

What this meant during the pandemic was that when the Scottish Government wanted to take a particular action with a cost implication, it had to ensure that the required resources had already been released through policy decisions taken in England. It also meant that if there was a need to act in Scotland in a way that hadn’t yet happened in England, then it would either require special pleading to the Treasury, or raiding domestic budgets already earmarked for other services, such as education, local government, transport or other aspects of healthcare.

Most obviously, it left Scotland extremely exposed in terms of furlough payments. If the public health advice was that Scotland should lock down and England was locked down too then no problem – there was resource for furlough UK-wide. But if Scotland alone had needed to continue? Well, under the present Union settlement of “pooling and sharing”, that would just have been too bad.

We should remember that in the debates to come on Scotland’s future. For whatever challenges we face in the future – in “building back better”, responding to the climate emergency or tackling the cost of living crisis – one thing is certain. We’ll only get the best outcomes for Scotland if we can elect our own governments which reflect our own choices and our values, and which are able to match the totality of our vast resources to the scale and nature of the problems we face, without having to worry about whether politicians in Westminster have approved it first.

This article was published as part of a special-edition paper distributed in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire by the Aberdeen Independence Movement. Click HERE to read more of these articles.