So after the launch of the Calman Report on Monday, the FM has made his response by suggesting that the Calman suggestion could be included in the proposed independence referendum.
Hardly a shock, but a tactical masterstroke for Salmond nonetheless, which the opposition parties have only themselves to blame for. I don't believe that there is any real desire for constitutional wrangling in Scotland, however the public have a tendency to feel rather riled if they believe they are being denied their opportunity to have a say - look at public response to the lack of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, even though nobody actually understands the point of it. This response is further heightened by the current disgust with how politicians have been behaving - "not only do they sponge off the system, they don't let us have a say either!"
It's hard to see how the opposition deal with Calman other than by ignoring its recommendations. To push for the changes without a referendum would be very difficult (not impossible though); to hold a referendum on constitutional change without inclusion of the independence question unthinkable in the current political climate and suicide for the Union should it ever be attempted.
The FM will be delighted with the situation so far - many of the recommendations are his anyway and the others all march down the path that he would like Scotland to take. I still believe that he would rather not have the referendum next year - a loss would seriously damage the SNP's standing and identity and still seems the more likely outcome. He had been looking forward to passing the blame onto the opposition parties - the Calman outcome will also give him the opportunity to introduce some gradual change which will please members of his own party who might other be chafing at the bit slightly. He will go into the next election with the constitution front and centre and will then challenge his opponents to justify their refusal to grant the people a say (regardless of whether this is a actually a fair assessment).
In reality the opposition parties, particularly Labour, need to move beyond the constitutional issues and start outlining plans for government, primarily around the economy and job creation. However now that Calman has (as Wardog said in reply to my previous post) let the cat out of the bag, it will be impossible to ignore the issues. However, changes that are introduced will be claimed by the SNP Government as their success, leaving the Calman process with potentially very little to show for its efforts.
The real challenge now would be for the opposition parties to take Salmond up on his offer and introduce a referendum which included the Calman options alongside the question on independence. It would be a very high risk situation, however it may end up being the only way to shift the focus away from constitutional arguments and to remove the sting from the SNP - it would kill the question for at least a decade unless the SNP wanted to look ridiculous.
It's one I need to mull over for myself, will post again when cogent thoughts form (if indeed that ever happens).