STRANGE, is it not, how people bent on defending the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland seem to have a sketchy idea of how the Union works?

What's stranger - or perhaps not so strange - is their refusal to sort facts from cartoon fiction. Which is worse: don't know, or don't care?

Last week, Her Majesty's Press Corps went over the top. I counted them out, and I counted them back again: the Times, the Express, the Telegraph. In the second wave came the Daily Mail, the Guardian, Channel Four News and gullible conscripts, home and abroad. Where truth and journalism were concerned, it was a massacre.

The intended gist (accompanied by the same snap of Queen and consort) was in near-identical front-page headlines in the Times and Telegraph. "Scotland to cancel funding for Queen," said the first; "Scotland accused of cutting Queen's funding," said the second.

For a moment, wishful thinking got the better of me. "Terrific," I thought. Then reality intruded. First, the ever-loyal SNP wouldn't do such a thing; second, they couldn't if they wanted to. A couple of checks by a trainee would have sent the story to the spike. So what fresh madness was this?

Textual scholars will notice that, for the Times and the Telegraph - and for the Express, if it matters - Scotland, Scots and SNP are now interchangeable. That's rough, I'd have thought, on those who voted No, or withheld their votes from Nationalists in May. These must be the breaks you hear about. Note only that it's easier to fit "SNP" in a headline than cram in "Scotland". Simultaneous creative accidents can be discounted.

Not so the tale itself, Or rather, both tales. The publicised version was plain spin. It involved a character called Sir Alan Reid, a man prepared to be known publicly as Keeper of the Privy Purse, putting it about that Holyrood control of Crown Estate assets in Scotland could leave a £2.2 million hole in the royal dole, otherwise known as the sovereign grant, when the Scotland Bill becomes law.

It was an old piece of hokum. On its last outing in 2014 it was demolished comprehensively by the author and land rights reformer Andy Wightman. Last week, Wightman was obliged to assemble the relevant facts again.

Thus: the Scottish Government has no responsibility to provide royal funding. Funds are voted through by Westminster using Crown Estate revenues only - a crucial detail - as a reference point. Legally, the revenues themselves cannot be used to maintain the royals. Scottish taxpayers contribute to the sovereign grant as they do where all reserved expenditure is concerned. End of story.

You could Google "Sovereign Grant Act 2011" and find all this explained, with none of Wightman's eloquence. What you will also find, however, is something predicted by several of us when George Osborne was botching his replacement for the old Civil List: the royals are making a mint. So generous has the Chancellor's formula proved, the pay-out will hit £43 million next year, a 6.7% increase.

In other words, the Queen is taking in so much money the Treasury is looking for ways to claw £5 million back. A review is planned. While real people have struggled, royal revenues from the state reached £40 million in the last financial year, 29% above what was thought decent as recently as 2012/13. Like any dancer around a privy purse, Sir Alan was trying to head off the real story with a piece of misdirection for which, let's remember, he has since been forced to backtrack on his comments.

So what do we say of the Times, Telegraph and the rest? Didn't know, or didn't care? Believed they could curry favour with the royals while blackening the name of - their word, not mine - "Scotland"? The truly sensational story involved the sums pouring into royal coffers. Instead, we got a tale so fanciful it would have caused a French ambassador to blush. More interesting, as pathology, was the sheer paranoia on which the fiction depended.

The Times even hauled out its ancestral editorial siege engine, Ye Olde Thunderer, to hurl gobbets of fiery hysteria northwards. "The SNP," one read, "intends to foster a quiet republican insurrection." Here was, in someone's imagination, a "bold, provocative and unwarranted step". To that claptrap there could be only one response: if only.

Still, after a referendum campaign in which an overwhelmingly Unionist media debased themselves daily, on cue and command, the nature and origins of claptrap are worth attention. Did they learn nothing from the plebiscite and the General Election? Does no-one within the once great organs of the London press still consider reputations and the intelligence of readers before nonsense is launched on the world?

Those who produce these farragos resemble nothing so much as hamsters on a wheel. They know they are going nowhere. They know, they surely know, that it really doesn't work. North and south of the Border, their juvenile grievance towards Scots who will not vote as they are bid is palpable. Yet still they press on. All that remains is a mud-sticks version of journalism. They forget, if they care, that the stinking mixture gets everywhere.

It's very stupid. It is almost as dim-witted as the attempt to vilify a handful of people, to pretend that a few speak for all, that all submit to a single idea, and that the idea is anything you say it is. Traduce one, traduce all, and parse the definition of "vile" endlessly. Just make sure the ghost of Ralph Miliband doesn't come back to disturb your self-satisfaction and your dreams.

Like an old dog with one bad trick, the Daily Mail never learns. It's Scottish branch office edition would make Holy Willie seem honest and open-minded. Given just one trick, it returned last week to the tale of cybernats and the need - decreed by the Mail - to "clean up Scottish politics". I have one suggestion, but I doubt that Rothermere or Dacre would go for it.

Even basic journalism, the kind that requires a word from "both" sides, does better than sanctimonious editorials masquerading as news. Bad words and worse get shouted through social media megaphones. So shall we compare threats of physical harm? The Mail prefers what the latest pop theorists call "a narrative". So a handful of Tweets must represent every possible version of nationalism and, of course, Where It All Leads.

If journalism depends on versions of truth and evidence, it's tripe, a self-serving fiction. The real problem for the perpetrators, however, is that it doesn't serve. As the Mail should have spotted by now, all of its efforts have been counter-productive. Each hectoring intervention makes matters worse. It has a general election to show for its best efforts in Scotland.

Cajoling some SNP spin genius to persuade Nicola Sturgeon into contributing words on offensive language made the First Minister and her government look foolish last week. It did not "neutralise the issue". Instead, it handed the Mail what the Mail will regard as a coup. Never mind. Back in reality, that was a lollipop. For the consolation of poor losers.