Anyone who engages in online debate about the case for Scottish independence will have encountered Scottish nationalist fact-deniers and myth-spreaders lurking on social media. They are not interested in engaging in serious debate; their ambition is simply to give their side licence to ignore basic economic facts.
Keen to understand the true scale of this problem, we at These Islands commissioned Survation to poll Scottish voters about their understanding of basic economic facts and their attitudes towards some widely-circulated myths. We were dismayed to learn that economic fact-denial has spread far beyond the swampy backwaters of social media and is now mainstream among Scottish independence supporters.
The reality of Scotland’s deficit position is shown in the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures published by the Scottish Government. These figures qualify as national statistics and are compiled at the behest of the Scottish Government by their own statisticians and economists who sit in St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh. Despite this, our survey found that 57 per cent of Scottish independence supporters agree with the following statement:
‘The figures used to calculate Scotland’s deficit (the GERS figures) are made up by Westminster to hide Scotland’s true wealth.’
We also tested how important survey respondents who agreed with this statement considered it to be to their opinion on Scottish independence and 90 per cent of them rated it as ‘important’ or ‘very important’.
It should be obvious that the statement is not true. The figures are demonstrably not ‘made up by Westminster’ and it is fantastical to believe that the SNP-run Scottish Government would choose to publish figures which ‘hide Scotland’s true wealth’. Yet we have discovered that most independence supporters not only believe it but consider it to be important to their support for separatism.