The third and fifth largest parties in the Scottish Parliament are a source of neverending bafflement to me. Labour and the Lib Dems have been constantly telling the SNP they need to pull their fingers out in support of the Remain campaign in the EU referendum. So what happens? Alex Salmond makes up 50% of the entire Remain side of the panel in the first big UK-wide TV referendum debate, and puts forward a relentlessly positive case for membership of the European Union. Kezia Dugdale and Willie Rennie then denounce him for being there, and Rennie in particular urges him to quit the Remain campaign before he does any more damage. Er, what?! Get the story straight, guys.
Rennie's main complaint seems to be that, by answering an audience member's question on whether a Leave vote would trigger a second independence referendum, Salmond may have indirectly encouraged independence supporters in Scotland to vote Leave. Let me just gently try to point out the bleedin' obvious here...
1) Rennie and his colleagues are forever telling us that the settled will of Scotland is to oppose independence. If he really believes that, it surely follows that more people in Scotland will be scared into voting Remain by the prospect of a second indyref than will be encouraged to vote in the opposite direction.
2) This was a UK-wide debate in a UK-wide referendum. More than 80% of the population of the UK live in England. As we know from polling during the indyref, there is only limited sympathy for Scottish independence south of the border. It therefore doesn't take a genius to work out which side will benefit from the prospect of a Leave vote bringing about independence. That's probably why David Cameron has gone out of his way on a number of occasions to warn English voters about the SNP's plans for a second indyref in the event of Brexit.
3) What Salmond said in no way contradicts his genuine support for the Remain campaign and desire for a Remain victory. It's perfectly reasonable to say "I hope you take my points on board, but if you don't, you at least need make the decision with your eyes wide open and in full awareness of the consequences. Because we're determined to make sure Scotland's interests are protected whatever happens."
4) If a political leader is worried about "damage" being done, surely the NUMBER ONE thing you DON'T want to do is castigate one of the two representatives of YOUR OWN CAMPAIGN in the first big TV debate? Just a thought, Willie.