Might the 2024 election be shaping up to be the most dishonest in recent history? Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean people wilfully telling lies about things, although some undoubtedly are. I mean the mendacity of omission. The real issues, and the real facts, at best obscured and at worst withheld from the UK electorate.

Let’s start with the economy. The two main Westminster parties have concocted this new reality where no aspiration or objective can possibly be legitimate unless it is “fully costed” and you can say how it will be paid for. In a two trillion-pound economy with a myriad of moving parts this is pretty puerile stuff. Thatcher started it with the couthy “you can’t spend more than you earn” mantra. It was bollocks then. It’s bollocks now.

This is why the economic debate between the two main parties is dominated by allegations that each side has got its sums wrong and is hiding the necessity for cuts or higher taxes. So, if the Tories say they would like to phase out national insurance, Labour say they are going to cut the value of it from public spending. Likewise, if Labour promise to do something, not that there’s much of that, the Tories immediately claim they’ll be borrowing billions to do it.

This is a phoney war. And it is distracting, perhaps deliberately so, people’s attention from the main problem with UK economic policy. We know the effect of tax and spending plans over the next three years. It’s not a secret. The government published the figures alongside their last budget. And the independent Institute of Fiscal Studies says that if these financial plans don’t change then a gap emerges in the amount of money available, to fund public spending. The IFS would be the first to admits this is not an exact science, but they estimate that gap at around £18-20 billion.

So, the backdrop for this UK election is treasury plans which means cuts, in some cases severe cuts, in public budgets which pretty much everyone admits are already under too much pressure. But the most astonishing thing is that this is not a topic of argument or disagreement between Labour and the Conservatives. Labour says that they will not change Tory spending plans. And that’s before we even think about additional demands that may arise from groups of public sector workers who have seen their living standards fall and (not unreasonably) might expect an incoming Labour government do something about it.

This is a deceit upon the public. It will reap a bitter harvest. Elections ought to be times when serious questions are asked about big economic matters. Does the national debt really need to be paid down on the Tory timescale? No, it doesn’t. Should we be borrowing to fund a rapid expansion in health spending? Yes, we should. Could Britain’s three million millionaires be paying a bit more into the common good? Of course they could. Instead, we have this faux argument about whether the latest tweak has been fully costed.

It’s no better with other stuff. Take Brexit. A deliberate policy of the Westminster government delivered on the flimsiest of mandates, and against the express wishes of people in Scotland. More economic damage than Covid. Truly, the worst case of collective self-harm in history.

But people aren’t stupid. They know they were fooled once, and they want to change their minds. And yet, no Westminster party, not even the allegedly pro-European Lib-Dems will talk about it. This conspiracy of silence is really quite remarkable. Only the SNP is arguing for a European future, and we know that can only happen by having the political agency that comes with independence to make these decisions.

It’s clear this week that we can now add defence to the list of areas where a cosy Westminster consensus closes down real public debate. Labour is back in love with the bomb big style. Keir Starmer seems determined to pump up his macho image by relishing the prospect of pushing the nuclear button. This will bring further disillusion to Labour supporters who yearn for their party to advocate for peace and disarmament. Meanwhile it is left to the SNP to point out the madness of basing a defence strategy on the need for the annihilation of our species, which is why most NATO members don’t do it.

More than stupid, the fetish with trident also means Britain’s (and Scotland’s) conventional defences are drained of money for the stuff that actually matters; kit, munitions and tech. This is not an unpopular argument, even with the English public where 37% oppose nuclear weapons, and yet it will not get a mention in the UK wide campaign.

Next up, constitutional reform. I’m not talking Scotland here but other proposals to overhaul the archaic UK constitution. Abolition of the House of Lords, for instance. A clear majority of the public think it is wrong to have an unelected second chamber. The Tories say tough, they’re keeping it. Labour have hinted at change but the chances of it making the cut in their manifesto are slim.

Or take proportional voting, favoured by twice as many people as support the corrupt first past the post system. The leaders of the two big Westminster parties have set themselves against reform, determined to protect a status quo which gives them an advantage over smaller parties and stifles minority viewpoints. And so, the system that turns people off democracy and breeds alienation and apathy will continue.

And finally, on a tour round the big policy debates where you’ll struggle to get a cigarette paper between Labour and Tory, we arrive at immigration. You sort of hope that Labour’s got to be a bit more humane than the Tories hostile environment. But the basic premises are the same. Both big parties act as if immigration is a major existential threat to the UK.

Neither will make a positive case for people coming to these shores whether it be for work, or seeking sanctuary whilst fleeing persecution from dangerous parts of the world. Neither will tell you that the idea that immigrants are a drain of the economy is an unfounded prejudice and that in fact history tells us that immigration is both a cause and consequence of an economy doing well.

And the biggest truth that they will not tell is that without immigration the population of the UK would already be in decline, more so in Scotland. The UK fertility rate has now dropped below 1.5 per woman which means that the number of people born here is plummeting. That empirical fact won’t matter to Farage who will run a campaign of bombast and bigotry designed to use immigration to set communities against each other and build support for the far right. But Farage is what you get when you fail to promote an alternative.

So, as I’ve said before, the choices at this election for most people are limited within narrow parameters. People in England will grudgingly change their rulers, but without ambition or enthusiasm, and probably with fewer taking part than ever.

Thankfully we have other options in Scotland. Here we can tell the biggest truth of all; that if we had the power to make our own decisions we could, and would, make different ones. That is the notion central to this election. It’s time to be true to ourselves.