The Sketch: Wily Salmond just loves to pick a good fight

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The Independent Online

Scots' separateness is obvious. Scottish MPs sit in a purpose-built building at blonde pine deskettes. They call each other by their first names. They clap to show approval. Horrible but it's the logical end of modernisation. Odd for a country which thrills to the memory of Bannockburn 700 years ago (the last time they won at home to the hated English).

"I enjoy a bit of 'bandyage'," the First Minister said. The First Conservative in her turn pronounced it "bandinage". In England we take that to mean humorous to and fro. In Scotland it's the ancestral practice of cutting off your enemies' legs and sewing them on backwards. When the trumpets sound "charge!" they run back to England. Wily, you can see where Alex Salmond gets it from.

And what unites us? Politics is the same wherever you go. The Scottish Conservative denounced personal abuse in politics with the words "ignorant, grudge, grievance, petty, demeaning, insult".

Humza Yousaf described the pro-Union amendment as "apocalyptic fear-mongering written in Castle Greyskull". Someone else suggested legal challenges to a faulty referendum would "plunge the result into a pit of humiliation". They have a wilder turn of phrase up there but the discourse is similar enough.

Alex Salmond is known to be a wily operator – he's so wily I can't understand what he's saying. Why he's saying these things is clear enough, it's to pick a fight. But what the what is, that's something else.

The referendum must happen within 18 months Cameron said, and Salmond denounced the imperialist, diktat-issuing, feudal-mongering neo-Thatcherite Westminster Tories. Only when the number-crunchers were sent in did it transpire he had decided to have the referendum in 18 months. All right, 20, what's the difference?

He also has a row going about the wording of the question. From the debate yesterday, MSPs seemed to say their government policy is to have a single question. But now that's been dictated to them by their evil feudal overlords, they might have one or as many as three.

A referendum with three results? That might be a wiliness too far.