Better Nation is seemingly temporarily turning into a rolling blog on the developments of the referendum’s question of legality but if my *cough* erstwhile esteemed fellow editors won’t pen anything *cough cough*, I shall just keep going. Incidentally, if any readers wish to submit a Guest Post on these potentially historic developments (or anything else), please do so.

Today’s log of the independence debate will no doubt revolve around Michael Moore’s statement to the House of Commons on the legal status of a referendum on Scottish independence as the unionist camp seek to put the troubles of the past 48 hours behind them. The day looks set to basically boil down to a challenge to Alex Salmond to ascertain whether the FM wishes to risk holding a referendum that may be open to legal challenge or whether he will negotiate with Westminster in order to ensure any referendum is as watertight as possible in terms of rebuffing any potential subsequent challenges. It looks set to be a more difficult day for Michael Moore than it will be for the First Minister though, and that is for two reasons.

The first reason is, the Lib Dem camp continues to be the harbingers of gloom. Michael Moore, and Danny Alexander who was uninspiringly bumping his gums on Radio 4 this morning, need to find a way to be, or at least appear to be, excited about taking part in this referendum, about having the opportunity to celebrate Scotland and direct its trajectory. However, instead, they are solemnly trying to hold back a Nationalist surge with trembling tones and careworn expressions. Who in their right minds wants to buy into that? Who is being pulled closer to the Lib Dems as a result of the party’s leadership on this issue?

Well, not (the excellent) Lib Dem blogger Andrew Page for a start:

“there are Liberal Democrats who are independence-leaning. They see a liberal vision for a truly liberal Scotland and recognise that having an open mind on the question is not anathema to liberalism. In a previous conversation with Willie Rennie I argued that independence could yield benefits for both Scotland and our party that should not be lightly dismissed; I also suggested that the Liberal Democrats’ best position could be in supporting whichever option gives Scots most freedoms and being open to the notion of independence even if we remain skeptical about the details. It would certainly be preferable to entrenched, cynical opposition. The Home Rule Commission is welcome, if somewhat overdue, but while it is right to formulate our own preferred option there is no place for political arrogance that refuses to even countenance other perspectives that would help bring about our liberal aims – you know, the kind of arrogance some might view as extreme.”

There is clearly a sense that the Lib Dem position on this, or should that be lack of a position, is not only losing them support outwith their party, but also support from within. People get into Politics to do something or argue for something, they don’t tend to get into Politics to stop other parties pushing their objectives. Michael Moore could well be inadvertently sapping his own party’s morale when he takes to the podium today.

The second reason that today might be a bad day for Moore is simply because there is a good chance that many Scots simply don’t agree that Westminster needs to hold open the legal door for Scotland to hold its referendum and deliver a result that must be abided by on both sides of the border. After all, what part of ‘Yes’ won’t Cameron or the courts understand?

Let’s be honest and realistic, a referendum carrying a Yes vote that is held within Scotland will result in independence whether it is ‘legally binding’, advisory or whatever. The Scottish people advising their two Governments to negotiate a settlement for separation is beyond successful challenge (how can a single legal complaint ever trump the will of an entire nation?). So there is an element of timewasting about today’s discussions and Michael Moore, rightly or wrongly, will be the face and name of that wasting of time. The Scottish Parliament having the legal competence to hold the referendum would be nice, but it is not at all necessary.

The only possible bone of contention from a legal perspective will be the Electoral Commission and to what extent it, or a similar independent body, will be involved. It is perfectly reasonable for Alex Salmond to reject a UK institution’s involvement in a plebiscite that is for Scotland alone to decide and hold, even if that institution is the venerable Electoral Commission, but some sort of independent oversight is certainly required to remove any suggestion of impropriety.

That is arguably the only interesting facet of today’s spectacle, but who in their right minds believes that Alex Salmond and the Scottish Government don’t have something waterproof in mind regarding this that shall be announced in due course? Not me.