Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond is a consummate politician. It is what he does from first rising in the morning until retiring at night. He is skilled at homing in on emotional issues and raising mischief at the expense of others.
So far he has played a very strong and skilled hand on the question of Scottish devolution, appearing to be all things to all men be they Scottish or English or indeed from any other part of the UK. He told a London audience that he was an Anglophile and that England would be better off without Scotland. And of course he tells Scottish audiences that Scotland would be much better off independent.
It is all political theatre and his comments have to be taken with a rather large pinch of salt. But it would also be unwise to dismiss him or the impact he can have on the issue.
In his battle of words with David Cameron on
independence he is like a nimble flyweight picking off a lumbering heavyweight who can hardly land a blow. No one is going to get knocked out, but Salmond will score more political points and build up strong momentum for his case.
This newspaper of course is not persuaded even by Mr Salmond's honeyed words of any need to break up the UK. It is our view - one shared partially by the Scottish First Minister - that what would be most beneficial would be greater devolution of powers to the regional capitals. Allowing Scotland and Northern Ireland to vary corporation tax rates, for example, could invigorate a stagnant economy.
Independence for Scotland has brought mixed reaction from our politicians with the DUP concerned of any fractures in the union and Sinn Fein saying we should stay well out of the debate. Scottish independence is a serious issue and one which needs to be debated, but on the facts and not on whether one sides with Alex Salmond, the clever politician, or David Cameron, the unpopular Tory leader and PM. Their jousting is just a side show.