By Stephen Noon
Gordon Brown is not a stupid man. He knows that what he is saying today on pensions is nonsense and he has specifically selected his statistics to present a picture that is wildly far from reality. That is a clear and deliberate choice.
It is the cheapest sort of negative campaigning, twisting the truth with the sole aim of frightening people.
Mr Brown knows that pensions and benefits are paid out of general taxation and that national insurance contributions are just part of that mix and, yet, according to the New Statesman he will say today that Scotland "will increasingly benefit from a system under which it pays 8 per cent of national insurance contributions but receives 8.8 per cent of the benefits".
However, what Mr Brown knows is that Scotland's actual contribution, the total of all tax revenues, has been 9.5 per cent, on average, over the past 5 years. So, rather than receiving 8.8 per cent of the benefits and contributing just 8 per cent, as Mr Brown appears to be claiming, we actually contribute 9.5 per cent. He is trying to pretend that Scotland is dependent when the opposite, by far, is the case.
According to the reports in the media today, later in the speech he makes a similar point, this time suggesting that we can't afford our pensions and benefits payments because they equal 3 times oil revenues. But again, he knows that these payments are made out of total revenues, otherwise the UK wouldn’t be able to afford its welfare system given that the costs for the UK as a whole are 25 times oil revenues.
It takes a particular mindset to try and pull this sort of political trick, especially as Mr Brown will know that the cost of welfare provision in Scotland takes up a smaller percentage of total tax revenues than in the rest of the UK. The actual numbers show that 42% of Scotland's tax revenues were required to fund social protection (pensions and welfare spending) compared with 43% for the UK. That means we are better able to afford to support the most vulnerable in society.
I can't help wondering, if the Union is so good, why do its supporters have to resort to such twisted claims based on a deliberate misrepresentation of the reality? Mr Brown is trying to take advantage of the fact that some people may not know how the welfare and pensions systems are paid for.
But, he does. His misrepresentation, therefore, is jaw-dropping and ill-serves him.
At its root, Mr Brown wants us to believe two things. First, that Scotland is not capable of affording to look after our pensioners and, second, that we should, instead, trust the Westminster Tories (at least half the time) with our pension. He is absolutely wrong with the first, as demonstrated above, and spectacularly out of touch on the latter.
I believe most people in Scotland will trust our parliament - which introduced free personal care and the free bus pass - to do more to look out for and look after older Scots than Westminster. We wouldn't waste billions on nuclear bombs while thousands of older Scots struggle to heat their homes. Those are the priorities of a Westminster system that is badly and dangerously on the wrong track.
And yet, tonight Mr Brown won't have much to say (if anything) on the growing state of inequality. Instead, he will base his case on a truly warped presentation of the numbers and a glib description of the status quo of George Osborne’s austerity agenda and welfare plundering as the 'best of both worlds'.
If this is the best the No campaign can do, they really are in trouble.
Courtesy of Stephen Noon
Stephen Noon is a member of Yes Scotland