The Liberal Democrats, as I understand it, take considerable pride in their long history (including predecessor parties) of consistent support for meaningful Scottish Home Rule. In the 1950s and early 60s when the SNP were still a fringe party, the Scottish Liberal Party was the leading voice in favour of constitutional change. So strong was that apparent commitment that I believe there was even once serious talk of an electoral pact with the Nationalists. And yet when the moment of truth came in 1977, the Liberals voted down the minority Labour government's guillotine motion on the Scotland and Wales Bill, thereby (as it turned out) effectively delaying devolution for a full two decades. It wasn't that they had turned against Home Rule as such - it was simply that their unionist instincts had kicked in, and 'wider political concerns' seemed more important at that moment.
A similar paradox is at play now. Nobody doubts that the Lib Dems genuinely support considerably stronger and deeper devolution. The question is just how strong and deep is that support? Enough for them to will the means as well as the end? Just a few hours ago, they had a golden opportunity to take matters into their own hands and make their own vision for Scotland's future a reality. But just like in the 1970s, wider concerns - ie. short-term politicking - proved more important to them than taking concrete steps towards achieving their stated goal. By backing a referendum on independence on the condition that a third option ('devolution plus') be added, they would have been guaranteed to get their wish - Alex Salmond has all but conceded that point. When the referendum took place, the chances are the Lib Dems' favoured option would have won the day. Although that vote would not have been binding on the UK government, it's almost inconceivable that a clear-cut result (as opposed, say, to the razor-thin 1979 margin) would not have been acted upon. But presented with a chance to empower both themselves and the Scottish people on this issue, the Liberal Democrats instead voted to empower...the UK government. And whether that's a Labour or a Tory government, it means that absolutely nothing will happen. And, as always, nothing will happen very slowly.
Also slightly baffling to see the suggestion that there had been "genuine anger" among delegates about Alex Salmond's proposed referendum question. That's the kind of response that might have been appropriate had the First Minister said "it's this or nothing". Instead, he's fallen over himself to be accommodating on the format of the referendum (other than insisting that independence must be on the ballot paper, which perhaps gives a clue as to the Lib Dems' true anti-democratic objection to the whole idea). But, as a general rule of thumb, when members of one party talk about feeling 'genuine' anger towards the policies of another party, it's probably best to be sceptical . Members of the public are certainly entitled to talk about 'genuine anger'. With party activists you can usually safely assume it's political somewhere down the line.