THE SNP would have us all believe that Scotland would be better off outside the UK.

This goes beyond just feeling good about ourselves but actually better off – more teachers and nurses, better social care – and all without an increase in our overall tax burden. How nice – unfortunately it’s not true.

The reality is that Scotland has a very significant underlying fiscal deficit even before account is taken of the damage caused by Covid-19.

Scotland spends considerably more on public services than it generates in tax. This is not a new problem, it has been the case for some years – but it does mean that if Scotland separated from the UK the choices it would have to make are what taxes to raise and which services to cut. Borrowing more is not really a viable option given the high level of existing debt, the aspiration to join the European Union (EU) and the muddle over which currency we could use.

The Scottish Government loves to set little traps for the UK Government. The mythical scandal of a UK power grab of powers being returned from the EU is one but another is the request for more borrowing powers. This has, entirely sensibly, been turned down by the UK Government in the same way as the Scottish Government would turn down a similar request by Inverclyde Council – it’s just a bad idea.

The agenda which lies behind the Scottish Government request is what is so disappointing.

When the inevitable No comes it's another opportunity to trot out more of the poor wee Scotland being done in by cruel Westminster rubbish. The second verse of this tedious narrative is that we just can’t do much with the powers Scotland already has and must therefore be given more.

In fact the current devolution settlement gives the Scottish Government plenty of powers.

The Scottish Government wants to spend more money – even more than the huge sums already spent to protect the Scottish economy from Covid-19.

What is doesn’t want to do is raise the money itself because that will start to reveal the truth about separation from the UK – if we want to spend more money we will have to pay more tax.

Here are some suggestions of what the Scottish Government could do right now.

In 2006 the Burt Review suggested that Council Tax should be reformed and simplified so that everybody paid 1% of the market value of their home in local tax each year. The then Labour administration immediately squashed the proposal as a vote loser and the SNP joined the chorus of disapproval.

The Scottish Government has the power to revisit this today and raise more money for local councils in order properly to fund the hugely under-resourced social care system.

Income tax in Scotland, currently set at 1% over the UK rates after you earn about £25,000. This means that including National Insurance the tax take is 48% for a top rate tax payer.

Why don’t we raise what Scotland calls the “Intermediate Rate” by 1% to 22% and the rates above that by 2% each? Earmark all the money raised for the NHS. Everybody but the least well off pays a bit more tax and we get a better funded health service.

LBTT – not a transgender rights issue but the tax the Scottish Government levies on property transactions through the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax.

The rates are stupidly high but only the buyers pay. Why not reduce all the rates by 40% but make both buyers and sellers pay LBTT? More money is raised but the load is spread more widely and fairly.

The Scottish Government has the power – but not the courage – to do these things right now raising hundreds of millions of pounds each year, it should just get on with it or stop moaning.

Guy Stenhouse is a Scottish financial sector veteran who wrote formerly as Pinstripe