During the referendum campaign it became a bit of a trope that in a political battle between positive and negative – or hope versus fear – the former would always emerge triumphant.

The Yes Scotland strategist Stephen Noon even pointed to psychological research from the United States which found that “upbeat” presidential candidates usually beat their relatively downbeat opponents. By that reckoning, and assuming the mood music emanating from the Trump and Clinton camps remains unchanged between now and November, then the former First Lady will clearly trump (if you’ll pardon the pun) “the Donald”.

It’s a superficially attractive theory: think of JFK in 1960, Reagan in 1984 (“It’s morning again in America”) and Obama in 2008 (“Yes We Can”), but also partial. Obama, for example, secured a second term following a negative campaign, and indeed the research quoted by Noon – which analysed the “pessimistic rumination” in a single speech from each candidate – cautioned against generalising its findings to other elections.

The other problem with this analytical framework is that it takes little account of whether the “positive” campaign in question was credible, and indeed whether or not it was followed by similarly “positive” action. And while dismissing opponents’ as “negative” or “scaremongering” is par for the course, it deliberately conflates perfectly reasonable counter-arguments with baseless negativity. The two are not the same.

Nevertheless, even a year and a half after the independence referendum, Scottish politics remains trapped within this simplistic narrative. In the First Minister’s recent speech arguing for a “Remain” vote in the EU referendum, for example, she repeated the claim that “one of the undoubted lessons of the Scottish experience is that a miserable, negative, fear-based campaign saw the No campaign in the Scottish referendum lose over the course of the campaign a 20-point lead”.

There was, of course, some truth in this. A few of the No campaign’s claims, such as the impact on mobile phone roaming charges, did justify the “scaremongering” charge, while others, such as George Osborne’s “sermon on the pound”, had a good evidential basis but were poorly presented. At the same time the First Minister’s argument was a curious one, for she appeared to be arguing that if Unionists had been more positive then they’d have ended up winning the referendum by a greater margin, hardly a vindication of her own campaign.

Nicola Sturgeon was also guilty of perpetrating the myth that during the independence referendum the Yes side was uniformly positive while No was unremittingly negative, when in fact both campaigns were a combination of the two.

As Professor James Mitchell observes in a new book on Scotland’s referendum and the media, the “extent to which each side balanced positive and negative campaigning was not the same as the public perception of this balance”.

It’s generally forgotten that in the closing stages of the independence referendum, the SNP and Yes Scotland embarked upon their own “Project Fear”, and pretty effective it was too. One element of this was the spurious argument that if Scotland voted No then by some intangible process the NHS in Scotland would end up being privatised. This was popularised by a then unknown doctor called Philippa Whitford, now a Member of Parliament. With considerable chutzpah, at the SNP conference on Saturday she heaped praise on the Scottish Government for keeping the NHS firmly in the public sector.

Then there was the Barnett Formula. In another contortion of reality, the Yes side argued that this would be abolished if Scotland voted No, as if UK-wide fiscal transfers would somehow have continued after independence. Well, a year and a half on the Barnett Formula (which the SNP, let’s remember, has spent decades deriding) not only remains intact but has actually been bolstered by the “fiscal framework” agreement, following the Scottish Government’s vigorous defence of a system of pooling and sharing they ultimately want to get rid off.

Another aspect of the Yes campaign’s Project Fear was the prediction – made time and again during 2014 – that the three Unionist parties’ promises of more powers would come to naught, that it was 1979 all over again and the “Vow” was little more than a cynical attempt to trick Scots into rejecting independence. The UK’s “ability to re-invent itself”, said Ms Sturgeon in a well-covered speech, was “spent”. Scotland, she added, would be put back in its box and forgotten about by Westminster. (Predictably, a similar argument is made by Brexiters about the EU should the UK vote to Remain.)

This week, however, the Scottish Parliament will pass a legislative consent motion to enact the Scotland Bill, thereby granting Holyrood almost complete control over income tax as well as additional welfare powers. Now obviously some will quibble about the detail, but the point remains that Westminster and the Conservatives (with initial help from the Liberal Democrats) have delivered on that pre-referendum pledge. Indeed, in a refreshingly grievance-free article in yesterday’s Sunday Herald, the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee convener Bruce Crawford said it would create “a whole new political dynamic” at Holyrood.

But by far the biggest element of the Yes campaign’s “scaremongering” charge related, of course, to economics. Better Together pointed out ad nauseam that North Sea oil revenues (even when high) were not, as Alex Salmond argued, a “bonus”, but in fact central to the pro-independence side’s hopelessly over-optimistic forecasts for Scottish prosperity in the event of a Yes vote. They warned – also correctly – that oil was a “volatile” resource, and that the persistent gap between public spending in Scotland and the amount raised in tax would lead to significant challenges in the event of independence.

Naturally, all of this was dismissed as an attempt to “talk Scotland down”, a puerile, intellectually vacuous line Ms Sturgeon resurrected at last Thursday’s First Minister’s Question Time after her own Government’s GERS data essentially vindicated everything Better Together had said. Interviewed yesterday by the BBC’s Andrew Neil, meanwhile, the SNP leader effectively conceded another piece of Unionist “scaremongering” by saying (twice) she’d have dealt with a hypothetical Scottish deficit “in the same way” as the UK. Austerity, in other words, would’ve been layered upon austerity.

It makes an interesting contrast: while Yes Scotland’s Project Fear was wrong on almost every front, Better Together’s was more or less bang on, yet at the SNP conference delegates comforted themselves by arguing that black is white while falling back on tired old tropes about Scotland sending oil revenue to the Treasury but receiving “nothing” in return (except about the same amount in Barnett consequentials). Speaker after speaker reiterated the usual sanctimonious hype about being “positive” when in fact modern Scottish nationalism relies on deeply negative arguments and sentiments.

And after announcing yet another “initiative” about the constitution, Nicola Sturgeon paraphrased Eleanor Roosevelt in referring to independence as a “beautiful dream”. Dreaming, of course, is much more straightforward than the inconvenient truths that tend to accompany full consciousness.