The use of intellectually dishonest tactics is not uncommon in political debate.
Our ability to recognise such tactics is usually proportionate to the degree of cynicism with which we generally regard the politicians in question.
As far as the issue of Scottish independence is concerned, we would do well to treat most of the arguments thrown at us, from either side, with a measure of cynicism and suspicion.
Of course this doesn’t prevent us from being emotionally committed to one side or the other throughout the process; we can’t help how we feel about our country and its place in the world.
It just means that we should treat any given argument with caution until we know exactly what political agenda lies behind it and exactly who has been driving it forward.
Whether it is to avoid the economic upheaval of breaking up the United Kingdom; or whether it is to secure a better deal for those whom remain, there have been some indications that the Unionist campaign could have been driven less by belief in the Union, and more by self-interest and political power.
The argument that Scotland would always be stronger within the United Kingdom, given its negative revenue and expenditure profile, will be submitted by the Unionist campaign to play a central role in the decision making process of those eligible to vote.
Whether it is correct or not, it will have a powerful effect. After all, who would want to find themselves worse off as a result of change?
The argument, that Scotland returns a surplus more often than not, and would continue to develop and grow with greater fiscal autonomy, will be submitted by the Independence campaign – whether it is correct or not.
And that argument will also have a powerful effect. After all, who wouldn’t want to live in a prosperous country with better employment opportunities and greater individual wealth?
But to return to the point about intellectually dishonest tactics, it is difficult not to feel that the Unionist campaign has been seriously undermined by a conversation that Peter Cruddas is said to have had with David Cameron recently, outlining why the UK Government ought to be seen to be defending the Union:
To appear to support Scotland’s right to self-determination would be to encourage an expectation that the separation would be clean, straight forward and economically beneficial for everyone concerned.
It would set the tone that there would be an amicable split of assets, which is not a desirable outcome for the UK Government.
But to appear to defend the Union would be to put down the marker that independence would be contrary to the ethos, ambitions and wishes of the UK Government. It would put the latter in a good position to negotiate a stronger deal for the remaining countries.
It would set the tone that the UK Government would expect a significant portion of the shared assets by way of compensation, when the inevitable happens.
Naturally, David Cameron would deny that this reflects his position, whereas Alex Salmond would claim it is a perfect reflection of it. Untangling the various knots on both sides of this debate will never be easy.
It is difficult enough trying to weigh up economic facts and figures that purport to predict the future performance of a possible state of affairs.
It is even more difficult finding facts and figures that haven’t been spun in so many different directions by politicians employing intellectually dishonest tactics to suit their own selfish agenda.