I must give credit to Michael Moore where it is due - this afternoon he put in a performance as good as any I've seen from a Lib Dem in recent months. He certainly recovered a bit of credibility for the government following yesterday's attempt to manipulate the date of the referendum and the conditions on which it could be called.
Thankfully, Moore distanced himself from the government's previous position that a referendum must be held within 18 months. Fortunately the "sunset clause" was removed and there was no mention of any date or arbitrary timescale. Which is very welcome and suggestive of Lib Dem influence in government helping to reverse a difficult situation of the Prime Minister's making, even if it is disappointing that no progress has been made on allowing all Scots aged over 16 to vote in the referendum.
Moore announced a UK Government consultation on the referendum, designed to give the Scottish parliament the legal powers it needs, which is open to "people living in Scotland and elsewhere". I'm very pleased - I'll get my Polish relatives to offer their views. But this is surely something of a pointless exercise given that every party in Scotland is calling for a referendum?
However, not to be outdone the SNP regained the initiative in typical style, announcing a date for the independence referendum. Not in parliament of course, but to the press. And not a date exactly - it's more like a season. But they have indicated an intention to hold it in Autumn 2014. As you can imagine this is causing a lot of excitement on twitter, but oddly not in the House of Commons, where no-one seems aware of the announcement! Especially not Moore, who has no appreciation that, yet again and in spite of a positive performance, he's been outmanoeuvred by Salmond!
I'm pleased - OK, relieved - that a "date" of sorts has been set. By-products of this will be some constitutional wrangling, "unionist" parties no longer saying contradictory things such as the need for both quality debate and an immediate referendum, the gradual emergence of a "No" campaign in the coming months and Willie Rennie wondering what to ask at FMQs. More importantly, it gives campaigners on both sides a target to work towards, and allows for a reasonable time in which to have the kind of debate Scotland needs if voters are to be empowered to make an informed decision.
As someone else once famously said, "bring it on"! Now, maybe we can get back to talking about something else?