My instinct is that the SNP would never be able to win such a referendum. But if there is a majority for independence in Scotland, is it moral or realistic to think it can be permanently stymied simply by refusing to allow people a vote?
People who believe in the Union have to make a positive case. In the past they told the Scots they could not possibly survive as an independent nation. These scare tactics have been discredited by the success of the Nordic and Baltic states in recent years. Refusing to have a debate at all is unlikely to be a more successful tactic.
I understand that Alex Salmond is not the uncomplicated cheerful chappy he appears on television, but there are reasons why I would welcome a breaking of the alliance between the Liberal Democrats and Labour in Scotland.
It is hard to argue that the Holyrood administration has been more liberal than Blair's government in London. It anything it has pursued the more nannyish aspects of the New Labour agenda with greater enthusiasm.
So much so, that the only policy Liberal Democrat policy I could name from last week's Scottish elections is the demand for more PE in schools.
A chance to think about what differentiates us from Labour would be no bad thing.
Later. Neal Ascherson, a sometime Lib Dem candidate, writes on Comment is Free:
Like it or not, the Lib-Dems (who more or less held their own in this election) still guard the gate to power. They are thinking hard about their options. For all their pro-Union distrust of the Nats, they recognise that this election confirmed a powerful new impatience for more (if not yet full) independence in Scotland. Their own programme is for a radical expansion of the Scottish parliament's powers. But the stonily Unionist rhetoric of Gordon Brown during this campaign shows what an uphill struggle this will be, a struggle in which the SNP is their only conceivable ally. The negotiations with a triumphant, cunning Alex Salmond will be hard. But if the Lib-Dems are to stay credible - and avoid public disgrace - they have to live dangerously and start talking.