Alex Salmond nails his colours to a sinking mast

And the crucial difference between what others did and what he’s doing, is that their grovelling occurred in the past tense; his is in the present and on-going.

There was a long passage of arms on the Murdoch question between the First Minister and Johann Lamont, the Labour leader, in which, in spite of the caterwauling from the Nat backbenches, she proved that she’s more than a match for him and that she has a good line in humorous sarcasm that he can’t handle.

The immediate question must now concern whether Mr Salmond continues to flaunt the Rupert connection or lets things die down a bit in that direction. If I know my First Minister he’s not one to abandon a pal, at least not one with several hundred thousand readers – no matter how unhappy his foot soldiers become.

Meanwhile, those whom some consider to have been the “disappeared ones’ in Scottish Labour’s fight against the Nats will seek to re-assert themselves at the party’s annual conference in Dundee.

In some respects the speech from Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary and former Scottish Secretary, will echo the tone of David Cameron’s effort in Edinburgh in February.

Risking precisely the same sort of sneers from Mr Salmond that greeted the Prime Minister’s speech which touched on some of these subjects, Mr Alexander will say that Scotland’s voice in the world was greater thanks to being part of the United Kingdom.

He will insist that inter-dependence, rather than independence was the order of the day, adding that to advance international co-operation, Britain was a permanent member of the Security Council; something Scotland would not be.

To further international security, Britain has a permanent seat on the council of NATO; Scotland would not.

To engage emerging economies, Britain was a permanent member of the G20 group; Scotland would not be. To tackle disease and poverty, Britain has a permanent seat on the board of the World Bank; Scotland would not.

To regulate world financial markets, said Mr Alexander, Britain has a permanent seat on the executive board of the IMF; Scotland would not.

Meanwhile, in a piece of staggering chutzpah that I would hope the Geordies in her Gateshead audience would have seen through, Fiona Hyslop, who rejoices in the title of the SNP’s external affairs minister, said that the North East of England would benefit from an independent Scotland.

Eh? Perhaps she could explain how her party’s ‘beggar my neighbour’ scheme of imposing corporation tax at half the level that obtains in the rest of the UK could possibly benefit those who live just over the border.

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