Letter in Herald – heavily cut.

This is what the Herald published:

I NOTE the letter from your correspondent Keith McLeod (August 28); he is wrong on several counts. Not only does he believe that St Pancras Station serves the west of England (in fact it is the international gateway station for the Eurostar), but he repeats the full roster of misapprehensions about infrastructure projects purportedly paid for by Scots.

It might be tedious to deal with them all, so I will stick with just one: Mr McLeod claims Scots are contributing to the new London sewerage system – which is not public expenditure at all, and is being paid for in its entirety by Thames Water customers. I have no doubt there are other correspondents who will blow the rest of his examples out of the water. Mr McLeod also has no idea of how the Barnett Formula works. To take the case of HS2, we contribute two per cent of the spend – based on the economic benefit to Scotland assigned by the Scottish Government – but receive in return Barnett consequentials based on 100 per cent of the cost. So we get far more back than we put in.

These widespread mistaken beliefs are another example of the crisis of information which we face in the internet age. People believe things they want to, because someone told them it on Twitter or Facebook – the tavern and street corner de nos jours.

Peter A. Russell

This is what I sent them (major deletions in italics): 

We can all be very grateful for the letter from your correspondent Keith McLeod for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, he demonstrates the sheer ignorance of the case of many Scottish Nationalists. Not only does he believe that St Pancras Station serves the west of England (in fact it is the international gateway station for the Eurostar), but he repeats the full roster of misapprehensions about infrastructure projects purportedly paid for by Scots.
It might be tedious to deal with them all, so I will stick with just one: Mr McLeod claims Scots are contributing to the new London sewerage system – which is not public expenditure at all, and is being paid for in its entirety by Thames Water customers.I have no doubt there are other correspondents who will blow the rest of his examples out of the water. Mr McLeod  and his fellow Nationalist dupes also have no idea of how the Barnett Formula works. To take the case of HS2, we contribute 2% of the spend – based on the economic benefit to Scotland assigned by the Scottish Government – but receive in return Barnett consequentials based on 100% of the cost. So we get far more back than we put in.
Above all, these widespread mistaken beliefs are another example of the crisis of information which we face in the internet age. People believe things they want to, because someone told them it on Twitter or Facebook – the tavern and street corner de nos jours. Perhaps one day, when Scotland’s education system is restored to its former excellence, we will teach our children not to be like Mr Mcleod, but how to identify and avoid misinformation. When we do so, Scottish Nationalist propaganda will provide some very pertinent examples for the classroom.
Yours
Peter A. Russell
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Letter in the Herald: the information crisis.

YOUR correspondent Alan M Morris (Letters, August 2) is of course correct to point out the dangers of the Fake News phenomenon. However, in doing so, he presents an incomplete picture, in that in 2014 the Yes campaign made a number of assertions which have proven to be at best optimistic and at worst untruths. For example, the SNP told Scots that an independent Scotland could have a currency union with rUK when this was not the case. Likewise, the Scottish Government White Paper made assertions about the future of Scottish retirement pensions at the same time as John Swinney was telling his colleagues in private that they could not be afforded.

These various claims and counter-claims have been argued to death, as has the validity of the Scottish Government’s GERS figures (although it remains a mystery why the SNP would continue to publish figures which are detrimental to its own case). What is more important is to acknowledge that we now live in post-Gutenburg information climate, in which our information is gleaned not from authoritative academic and journalistic sources, but from the internet and social media such as Twitter and Facebook– the digital equivalents of the tavern and the street corner. The result was again seen in the Scottish referendum, where people chose to believe what they wanted to believe (for example, the laughable Business For Scotland) over that which they did not wish to (for example, the CBI or the Institute for Fiscal Studies). There are certainly other good examples in the Brexit debate.

There are two conclusions that may be drawn from this situation.

The first is that people are not so stupid as to be taken in by Fake News and propaganda, and voted according to their views based on a critical appraisal of the information that is available. The second is that people are indeed stupid, and were taken in and their view should not be trusted. I prefer the first of these, as much as I regret the Brexit result. Others, including Mr Morris appear to favour the second conclusion – although the implication is that if people are gullible fools and will be “hoodwinked”, they should never be allowed a vote ever again.

Peter A Russell