By 10:30 pm last night, I thought the most shocking thing I was going to hear that evening was that the Blessed Mary Berry uses tinned, yes, that's tinned, peaches and pears in her trifle recipe.
Sadly this was not to be the case. Yesterday was Scotland's the equivalent of the Queen's Speech, when the Government unveils its legislative programme, except we get Alex Salmond instead of the Queen. To mark the occasion, he was interviewed for Scotland Tonight.
More of the interview than necessary was taken up with a discussion on which pro UK politician he would debate against in the run up to next year's referendum. Salmond wants to debate David Cameron, saying that he's the most senior politician for the "no" campaign, regardless of the fact that he doesn't have a vote. I wonder if he'd have been quite as willing to debate Gordon Brown, who, even in his darkest days as PM, was still reasonably popular in Scotland, but that's by the by.
At the very end of the interview, Salmond made this comment:
..let's see if we can get the pressure on to make sure we pull the Prime Minister into the ring and then let's see if he can articulate a case against Scotland because I'll certainly be articulating the case for Scotland.
If you want to be sure I've got that right, you can watch here, at around 11:09.
One of my biggest pet hates is the invocation of patriotism in politics. It's nasty, brutal and poisonous. Whether it's David Cameron saying it's his patriotic duty to beat Gordon Brown, Labour politicians trying to create a divide between nationalists and patriots or Salmond's display last night, I really don't think it has a place in mature, civilised debate. We can all assume that people love Scotland and want the best for it, whatever side of the independence debate they take. Willie Rennie gets this. He said yesterday, before Salmond's interview:
Everyone in this chamber wants the best for Scotland. I am in no doubt about that. We just disagree on how we want to achieve it
I've written about this a lot over the years. You might want to have a look at this post from 2010 where I say:
I don't think that defining your opponents as unpatriotic because their ideas are different from your's has any place in British politics.
It worries me that my First Minister is willing to play that sort of game. Does he think that I and others are anti-Scotland? For the first time, I feel a bit uneasy and uncomfortable about this referendum. What should be an affirming, inspiring debate about our nation's future is turning nasty. Salmond has exposed a toxic underbelly.
By inferring that those who support Scotland remaining in the UK are against Scotland, Salmond is taking a risk, too. One opinion poll at the weekend had the pro UK campaign with a 30 point lead. He may also be giving encouragement to the more excitable supporters of independence. These are people who think that the England is to Scotland what the Soviet Union was to Estonia.
I want to see Liberal Democrats come out and take on such comments. Liberalism is all about pluralism, about respecting other's rights to have a different view, about making sure all voices are heard. So, Willie Rennie, Mike Moore, Danny Alexander, Nick Clegg, get out there and challenge Salmond's rhetoric with passion.