The recent gloom about the future of the United Kingdom is vastly overdone.
We are not heading for a break-up of the Union. Nor will Alex Salmond become Scottish First Minister after the May elections. The recent alarmism reflects a misreading of the polls and the nature of multiparty politics.
So that's Mr Salmond told. No qualifications, no equivocation. But why can Mr Salmond not become FM?
Even if it did win 45 seats (which is far from certain) the SNP would be 20 seats short of a majority in the Parliament so Mr Salmond would be looking for coalition partners. Labour or the Tories can be ruled out of a tartan-red or tartan-blue deal.
Well, yes, Peter. That's the way the system was designed. Mr Salmond would need to form a coalition and, yes, nobody expects the Tories or the Labour to help him. But what about the LibDems?
The Lib Dems, projected at 14 seats (down from their current 17), would not provide sufficient members on their own, even if the party wanted to go into coalition with the SNP. The signs are, however, that Lib Dem leaders have no interest in such a deal, which could prove to be a poisonous embrace, and the party would prefer to go into opposition. The other options, a deal with the Greens or smaller left-wing groups, are more plausible, but would not produce a majority.
Oh I see. The LibDems have no interest in a deal and would prefer to go into opposition. According to 'the signs'. Do you suppose that this is what Peter learned from Sir Menzies Campbell? On the other hand, some of us believe that Messrs Stephen, Finnie, Scott et al would sign a pact with Auld Nick himself, if it allowed them to retain their ministerial salaries and their seats in the ministerial limos. Especially if the LibDems were not required to sign up to an early referendum on independence, as now appears to be the case.
But if the SNP cannot do it, then Labour is the only alternative. So tell us, Peter, how Labour - with its projected 42 seats - will form a coalition. The opposition-loving LibDems would require a lot of persuading to join the nuclear-obsessed Labour, particularly as the latter (unlike the SNP) refuse to contemplate a local income tax. And there would be no help from the smaller parties.
Peter? Why have you not finished your article? Peter? Where have you gone?