Serious times need serious people. But sometimes you have to take what you can get. For weeks now Tavish Scott, Jeremy Purvis and Mike Rumbles have been the hard men of Scottish politics, inviting the SNP to talk to the hand.
The issue was that the Nats were too sensible to go for their last idea, an £800m cut in public services (unspecified) to fund a 2p tax cut, a wheeze so right-wing and impractical that even the Tories mocked them, which must have hurt.
However, David Maddox has their number (if the Steamie could link to pages, I'd link to it). Q: When is a principle a non-principle? A: When it's a Lib Dem principle.
In the latest example of this absolute rule of politics, their 2p tax cut has now been dropped. In its place the Liberals now simply want Alex Salmond to restate his long-standing policy commitment to borrowing powers for the Scottish Parliament, in writing, both to Gordon Brown and to Sir Kenneth Calman. I wonder if Alex Salmond managed to keep a straight face when this was suggested. I wonder if he tried to haggle, or if he said he'd let them know later. I wonder, above all, what on earth they were thinking.
If he does send these two letters, the Liberals will apparently vote for the Budget without other preconditions. Only the Telegraph seems to have the story at this stage, but others in the pack have been confirming it to me. Simon Johnson describes it as "a humiliating u-turn" to now be asking for a single second-class stamp. I make that two stamps, for a total cost of 48p.
If his dire performance on Newsnight is a guide, where he refused to answer any questions about his "proposals", Tavish Scott may be having second thoughts. I can see why: he's now about to commit himself to voting for a Budget which could be entirely unchanged from one his finance spokesman described just yesterday as "woefully inadequate".
If he does show signs of losing his nerve, the First Minister should consider offering him a book of twelve stamps instead and see if that seals the deal.