Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has labelled the Union "outdated and over-centralised" in an article written for today's Sunday Herald.
Rennie used the opportunity to advance a liberal Scotland, which he feels can be best achieved through localisation of decision making. He criticises the Union, while stressing that it's the government structure he's opposed to, not a continuing relationship with people from other parts of the UK. They weren't the strongest words ever penned by a Lib Dem leader, but in the current circumstances it's a useful start. He also touches on the Liberals' history of promoting Scottish Home Rule and points towards a Scotland of tomorrow which is fiscally independent while remaining within the "UK family".
In short this wasn't a particularly detailed piece and raises a number of questions, but it was promising and far more positive than what we have heard from other key Liberal Democrats in recent days. I don't accept, for example, that the Lib Dems' "track record of delivery" is strong; having achieved the creation of the Scottish parliament we haven't delivered very much since to further Scottish devolution or our vision of a federalist UK. And while Rennie wisely avoided criticising nationalism or independence, he didn't say a great deal about how his vision of a more autonomous Scotland can be achieved or - more tellingly - whether he will commit the party to campaigning for a "no" vote in a referendum.
All the same, this was a useful contribution. The party now needs to put some meat on this skeleton of broadly constructive ideas - starting with the Home Rule Commission. I also hope that Scottish Conference will have a full and proper discussion on the matter before our leadership commits us to supporting an option many liberals are fully opposed to.
Willie Rennie has, in his short piece, demonstrated three things: a) he's not Nick Clegg, b) he understands that the Union is an outdated concept and c) that to defend such a Union in a referendum campaign would amount to intellectual doublethink.
So thank you Willie Rennie for your carefully chosen words. I look forward eagerly to what you have to say next!