"WILL our coal mines go gaily on? Will Ravenscraig and Linwood thrive? Will Bathgate flourish and Dounreay prosper?’’ These were the questions the Daily Express posed to its devo-sceptic readership in March 1979 as the campaign for the first devolution referendum heated up.

“How much of Scotland’s economy,” it thundered rhetorically, “will be left intact if a Scottish Assembly gets to go ahead?’’

Well of course that Assembly didn’t in the end “get the go-ahead” although a majority of those voting backed it.

But the damage – economic, social, individual and national – happened anyway. The car factories at Linwood and Bathgate were closed in less than a decade. Ravenscraig stopped producing steel in 1992 and Dounreay ceased generating electricity two years later.

Scotland’s economy tanked but not because it had a democratically elected assembly. It was destroyed by Thatcher and her Tories because it didn’t have that democratically elected Parliament in place, willing and able to stand up to the ruthless destruction of our country and its prospects.

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The second campaign for the devolved Parliament in 1997 was not free of scaremongering either, though the fact it had the backing of the newly elected Labour government and the support of the SNP meant the “No” forces were on the fringe.

However, the horror stories came back with a vengeance in the first elections for the Parliament and reached a crescendo during the independence referendum in 2014 when the self-styled Project Fear took charge, asserting that independence would mean leaving the EU, being shunned by the international community, being cut off by impermeable borders, and Scotland living for ever in penury while being hammered by massive rises in taxation.

Once again the scares worked, as many Scots were frightened out of independence by such bare-faced lies, told by Tory, Labour and LibDem politicians north and south of the border and echoed by their cheerleaders in the media.

So we did leave the EU, dragged out by the very people who had said that membership was essential for Scotland’s future. It is that Brexit process which has, in the greatest part, led to Scotland being cut off from the benefits of freedom of movement and hit by increasing labour shortages, an ever-worsening rise in the cost of living and the highest taxes in modern times.

Now of course, the scaremongering is starting again. One of the most egregious early examples came from the former Ukip deputy leader, Craig Mackinlay – now the Tory MP for South Thanet in Kent – who was on television on Wednesday spouting outrageous lies about both the current situation and Scotland’s prospects.

Scotland is not influential at Westminster – it is routinely ignored and constantly outvoted. Scotland would not be refused membership of the EU nor would it, as a member state, have “less power” but rather substantially more, with a right of veto in certain circumstances and with the type of support and solidarity that has been shown to Ireland, about which we can only dream. Scotland would not owe £60 billion or whatever sum he dredged out of his fevered and frightened subconscious, nor is it failing to use its present powers.

Some may think politicians are entitled to a little licence in how they present arguments but they are not entitled to make it all up and if they do they should be rigorously challenged by journalists and broadcasters, not encouraged.

Yet there was no attempt by the BBC presenter to expose the lies, still less a retraction or correction insisted upon.

There will be much, much more of this so-called “balanced” broadcasting and from the even-less-balanced written press. What we have to do is constantly remind the wider voting public that we have been here before and that the predictions and “facts” used to attack constitutional change have always turned out to be not just wrong, but deliberately and consciously manufactured to distort and destroy the debate.

The National: Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launches a paper designed to inform the debate on Scotland's future at a press conference at Bute House in Edinburgh tuesday alongside Scottish Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie. STY.POOLPic Gordon

That is why the new Scottish Government independence publications are so important. As they become available, they need to be distributed (and read) as far and wide as possible as the factual antidote to the fictional defamations. Their principal points must be woven into a confident narrative about the existential – and essential – choice we now face.

The First Minister (above) is absolutely right to say that it is no longer a question of whether we can afford to be independent. We cannot afford not to choose it.

We must with clarity and honesty present the facts about the relative decline of the UK and the inevitability of Scotland being dragged further into impoverishment if the Union continues. It is essential we explode the myth of “Great Britain” and look past our nearest neighbour to the normality that exists outside this island. It is imperative that we recognise that the choice is clear and stark – either join in the modern world as an internationally focused EU member or fade away as a powerless adjunct of an isolationist but stridently nationalist England.

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The revolting spectacle of naked racism as the basis for a migration policy, the arrogance of a unilateral repudiation of a binding international treaty, the contempt for standards in public life, the sly campaign to abandon all guaranteed protection for our basic rights and the ceaseless bare-faced ministerial lying about actions, intentions and motivations have all conspired to make this a horrible week in UK politics.

I cannot remember a more loathsome series of events but alas I fear there may be even worse weeks and months to come.

There is, however, a shaft of light shining in from Scotland, illuminating our potential to do better and to rejoin a world worth living in.

The UK political and media establishment, dripping with privilege and disdainful of democracy, will try to stop us making that choice, using all their malign tricks and lies.

They have done that successfully before but we cannot – absolutely cannot – let them do so again.