I’m beginning to wonder if there is an SNP publication entitled “How to fool the public, a guide to presenting distortions and half-truths as facts”.

Last week I ran into an owner of a significant Scottish business who declared they were in favour of Scotland leaving the UK because the UK is taking our money. The specific examples of theft they gave were that the UK charges Scotland interest and that value-added tax collected in Scotland is given to the UK – with the clear implication we don’t get it back.

The problem with these two “facts” is they contain some small grains of truth but the manipulation of those grains leads to a ludicrous conclusion.

The UK as a whole borrows money and pays interest on it. Part of the money borrowed is spent in Scotland so it is entirely sensible that a proportionate part of the interest should be added to the figures when looking at Scotland’s overall fiscal balance. Far from a distortion it is an attempt to present the facts fairly. We don’t actually pay the interest in cash, it’s just an allocated figure.

The VAT point is even more nuts. Yes, VAT is a tax controlled by the UK and not Scottish Parliament. It is collected by the UK but then, luckily, for every pound of VAT and other taxes collected in Scotland, we get rather more than a pound back. What is just a collection mechanism is presented as the UK picking our pockets when the reverse is true.

It turned out that a relative of the person in question works for SNP High Command – which is what got me thinking there is some sort of cult members’ guide for this nonsense.

Closer to home I was interested to see that somebody wrote a letter to The Herald in response to my last article. I’m delighted they bothered to write – debate and different views are the lifeblood of a liberal democracy but, unfortunately, they had been a reader of the same SNP guidebook.

They declared that the UK state pension is the lowest percentage of average income in the developed world and about two-thirds less than the EU average. I think we should probably agree that the US is part of the developed world. The pension to which you are entitled without means-testing is lower as a percentage of average income in the US than in the UK.

More importantly, the different percentages in the UK relative to the EU reflect entirely different systems. The valid comparison is not of the basic state pension but of average retirement incomes. In the UK virtually all public sector workers and many in the private sector receive a large proportion of their retirement income not from the basic state pension but from a pension fund established by their employer or, increasingly, themselves. This is less common in the EU where higher taxes and higher basic pensions are more normal – but don’t necessarily leave a pensioner with more money overall.

More frightening is the proposed SNP solution to this “problem” – double the state pension. About £10 billion is spent annually on Scottish pensions and pension-related benefits. Income tax in Scotland raises about £13bn. Can anybody see the problem with doubling the state pension?

The person responding to my article declared that the UK charges Scotland 4.4% of public expenditure for defence, most of which is not spent in Scotland and for comparison Sweden spends 1.1% of its GDP, Finland 1.5% and Switzerland 0.7%. I think you are supposed to compare the percentages and be outraged.

Did you spot the distortion? The UK actually spends 2.1% of GDP on defence. The figure quoted for Finland, a country with a rather good record of standing up to bullying neighbours, is wrong, it spent 2% in 2020/21. The figures for Sweden and Switzerland are correct but these are neutral countries whose record of not fighting for freedom is rather shameful.

Defence spending is actually about, err, defence rather than which part of the country the spending takes place. Scotland has about 8% of the UK’s population but far more than 8% of the armed forces personnel are Scottish, all of the UK’s major surface warships are built in Scotland, all of the UK’s submarine fleet is based in Scotland and Faslane is the second-biggest single-site employer in Scotland supporting many thousands of jobs.

We get more than our fair share from the UK and not just in defence. Time for the nationalists to bin the guidebook and stick to the truth.

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