Salmond confirmed on Saturday, in his keynote speech to the SNP conference in Inverness, that the referendum, planned for the second half of the five-year Scottish parliament, will consist of two questions.
On Sunday he gave more details. The first question would be "a straight yes-no question [on] independence," the SNP leader said. Alongside this would be "a second question, in the same way as we did in 1997, in which we'd offer a fiscal autonomy option". He added: "I'm not for limiting the choices of the Scottish people, I leave that to Westminster."
Now let us suppose that, on the first question, the Scottish electorate votes 51% to 49% in favour of independence and that, on the second question, votes 70% to 30% in favour of devo-max. What then has been proved? Should independence be abandoned on the basis that it commands less support than devo-max?
And it is no use comparing it with 1997. Then the choice was between devolution or devolution with tax-raising powers - it would have been inconceivable to have failed to obtain a majority in the first question but to have succeeded in obtaining a majority in the second.