Sometimes I just despair.
Gordon Brown scored an own goal yesterday when he denied at PMQs that Wendy Alexander, the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, had called for an early referendum on independence.
She clearly supports the idea, even going so far as to urge the SNP to 'bring it on.' Her argument is that there should be a vote before 2010.
Firstly, Brown is on the wrong side of the argument about this. Labour in Scotland doesn't want to be seen to be denying Scottish voters a chance to have a say. This would appear inherently undemocratic. It is a clear vote loser.
Secondly, his shiftiness on the issue makes him look like he cannot control his own party and doesn't have a grasp of the issue.
Finally, the whole point of devolution is that the Parties in Wales or Scotland are free to exercise their own power and pursue their own policies. It won't work if London tries to dictate policy from the centre. Tony Blair found this out pretty early on.
Essentially, Wendy Alexander's political judgement is sound.
All the polls show that an early referendum (before 2010) would result in a pro-Union victory. It challenges the SNP and gives Labour the initiative. It also removes any doubt about the Party not wanting to hold a referendum. It allows Labour to campaign on the issue of independence rather than the issue of whether or not to hold a vote.
I understand that for pro-unionists Alexander's comments may seem like a real risk.
But I don't understand what we have to be afraid of.
If Scots choose independence they choose independence. The issue needs settling and having a referendum would do exactly that, so why not now?
Independence could be the best thing for Scotland.
It would force the government at Holyrood to make serious choices, instead of dining out on huge block grants from London. The fact that it receives so much money, under the Barnett formula, means it can afford to pursue policies like free university education, which are just not possible in the rest of the UK.
The SNP often cites Ireland as an example of a small country that has enjoyed economic success. It argues an independent Scotland could emulate this. The truth is that Ireland has done well because it is a low tax, economically liberal state, whereas the SNP advocates some some sort of return to a state controlled, Socialist utopia (as if one ever existed anyway)!
It is just wrong and a fight over independence, even independence itself, would expose the bankruptcy of the SNP's current policies.
I know an independent Scotland would change the Labour Party but I'm not sure this would necessarily be a bad thing either. We have to wake up to the fact that the battle over independence is already here.
Wendy Alexander seems to get that. She's also up for the fight.
Why isn't the Prime Minister?