Editorial: Better Together Are Lying To You

Any rational person should be willing to accept that those they disagree with may sometimes have a point. Or, at least, you may feel that their conclusion is wrong but they have at least got there based on a rational argument. Sometimes, two people will look at the exact same information and come to entirely different conclusions. That’s why we debate ideas and seek to have a public dialogue – and there is no issue that deserves an honest debate more than whether or not Scotland should become an independent country.

But you, as a member of the public, are being denied your right to an honest debate because Better Together are lying to you.

That is a big claim, so let’s clarify what we mean. You can lie in different ways. Politics is full of people presenting partial information, taking information out of context, or presenting irrelevant facts into the debate to distract from the issue at hand. It’s called spin, and just about everybody does it.

But there’s a point when spinning your side of the argument slips into deliberate dishonesty and with their ‘leaked report’ Better Together have crossed that point.

Our friends at Wings Over Scotland have beautifully dissected the various lies and misinformation contained in Better Together’s analysis of the report and it’s worth reading their analysis in full. But just to give one specific example, Better Together claim that the SNP admit privately, but refuse to say in public, that defence spending would fall after independence, despite this information being in the public domain for months after a well-publicised debate on defence at SNP Conference last year. The staffers at Better Together are intelligent, informed people. There is no way that they were not aware of this – but the temptation to smear the Scottish Government was too much.

But even within this blatant lie, there are the smaller pieces of disinformation. This drop in defence spending is presented as something bad for Scotland, the implication being that we would see job losses to accompany it. In fact, due to the concentration of the UK military outside of Scotland, and the massive losses of Scottish personnel over recent years, an independent Scotland could decrease overall defence spending while increasing spending in Scotland and increasing jobs created. The savings made from ending our huge underspend could then be invested in our health or education systems, rather than paying for nuclear weapons, foreign wars or bases in Germany.

This is hardly the first issue where Better Together are unable to present an argument that fails to stand up to even the slightest scrutiny. Let’s take their argument on university research funding: the No campaign present the information that we receive 15% of research funding despite having 8% of the population. But this is simply a fact without any context or understanding. Why do we get this level of funding currently? Is there any reason an independent Scotland could not maintain this level of funding?

In fact, according to the Complete University Guide, 8 Scottish Universities are in the top 50 in the UK – meaning that we have 16% of the UK’s top universities. Scotland therefore receives, at 15% of funding from UK research councils, a relatively fair funding package. And we know from recently released, independent statistics that Scotland is in a significantly healthier fiscal position than the rest of the UK, and so would be perfectly capable of maintaining, or even increasing, the level of funding that currently exists. And completely absent from the No campaigns spin is the fact that research funding has been cut by the Westminster government.

We could go through all of Better Together’s claims like this.

How about their claims that Scotland would lose being part of the UK’s diplomatic network, while at the same time the UK makes plans to share embassies with Canada, New Zealand and Australia?

How about the unconfirmed reports that Better Together activists were distributing their leaflets boasting of the UK’s AAA credit rating after the credit rating was downgraded?

It is no wonder that the Scottish Sun said that ‘frankly, the scare stories are wearing a bit thin’.

Any political campaign with the lead in the polls that Better Together currently have should be comfortable to sit back, push out a positive line and engage the opposition in a spirited, but healthy debate. Instead, Better Together are deliberately feeding the public a constant stream of attacks and negativity, where hollow arguments are now straying into blatant lies. On the one hand, it makes sense: John Swinney is a well-respected, competent Finance Secretary while his Westminster counterpart, George Osborne, appears at best an incompetent public schoolboy and at worst a malicious ideologue. Either way, the Scottish public are much more likely to trust Swinney than Osbourne, and any attack that can seem to damage Swinney’s reputation will tempt Better Together.

But on the other hand, it is simply thoroughly depressing. It signals that the No campaign are too scared to deal with the arguments on merit, and would prefer to try everything to discredit the SNP and hope that it discredits the independence movement as a whole.

There is, somewhere, a case to be made for the Union: our very own Michael Gray recently debated against independence at Durham Debating Union. In fact, we’re confident that any of our collective could construct a more convincing argument against independence than Better Together have made so far. And we would do it without lying.

Are you still not convinced? Check out these 10 blunders by Better Together since the start of the year.

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