A series of myths about Scotland's financial position in the United Kingdom are exploded today in a special investigation by The Herald.

The research represents a vital contribution to a debate over whether Scotland should take on more tax-raising powers or become independent. Our findings come amid a growing clamour from English politicians and the London-based media to curb Scotland's £26bn spending grant from the Treasury.

But, as The Herald shows, much of this mischief is based not on facts but a series of myths, mistakes and misconceptions.

Our research scotches five key myths, concluding that Scotland does well in some ways, but does not get special treatment within the UK. Scotland, with pockets of deprivation, one-third of the UK's land-mass and far-flung communities, does indeed receive substantial state spending, but its average of £9631 public money per head is still less than London's at £9748 or Northern Ireland's £10,271.

Latest estimates show the tax take from Scotland - buoyed by the financial success of companies such as Royal Bank of Scotland - is higher than anywhere outside London. Arguments rage over North Sea oil and gas, but there is no doubt revenue from the natural resources found in waters off Scotland is being used fill the coffers of the UK exchequer.

While cities such as Glasgow have high levels of incapacity benefit, the overall welfare bill at £3086 per head is actually lower in Scotland than in swaths of northern England.

Public services are a mixed picture. Some have claimed Scotland gets free medical prescriptions, free school meals and has a world-leading health service, but only Wales has free prescriptions and the Scottish Government does not currently fund free school meals. It is true the Scottish Parliament has delivered a free care for the elderly package, but the flagship policy of devolution has been dogged by waiting lists and squabbles over funding. NHS waiting lists are no shorter in Scotland.

Gordon Brown's elevation to Prime Minister and Alistair Darling's promotion to Chancellor raised the temperature.With two Scots in Downing Street, some politicians and the London-based media have launched political attacks. Journalist Kelvin MacKenzie provocatively told a TV debate: "The Scots exist solely on the handouts of the clever English generating wealth in London and the south-east."

It is notoriously difficult to disentangle the UK's tax and spending totals to discover where the winners and losers lie. However, our study concludes that far from being "subsidy junkies", Scots pay their own way.