Tom Peterkin: Lib Dems claim that being candid is a good thing. But it may not be enough to save the day

Among the Liberal Democrats at Holyrood yesterday there was a reluctance to answer questions about Vince Cable, even after they had been reassured that the questioner was not disguised as one of their constituents.

An invitation to have a quiet chat about Cable and his colleagues Michael Moore, Ed Davey and Steve Webb led to one senior Lib Dem MSP scurrying off to Mike Rumbles, the chief whip.

It was left to the Scottish leader, Tavish Scott, to face the music on the upheaval caused by his London-based colleagues after their true views on coalition government policy came to light.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, Scott attempted to put an entirely positive gloss on the varying views that exist across the coalition. His argument was that the unguarded remarks made by his colleagues were proof that they were fighting the Lib Dem corner in government.

Did he think that the behaviour of the coalition ministers would harm the Liberals' chances at the Scottish election? "No, no" was Scott's response, adding that the electorate would be impressed that the Lib Dems were standing up for themselves. His Westminster-based colleagues, he argued, were merely being candid with people who they wrongly assumed were constituents.

"That's what all of us do," he said. "If you can't give a straight assessment to the people (constituents] that come to you, I think that's a sorry old world.

"Spinning journalists is one thing, but you can't spin constituents," said Scott as his spin doctor tried to drag him away from the journalists.

There may be ethical questions about the way that Lib Dem ministers' views were catapulted into the public arena. But the problem that the Lib Dems now face is that highly embarrassing information has become common knowledge, regardless of the means of its exposure.

It follows that the humiliating removal of Cable's responsibilities for overseeing media companies after he "declared war" on Rupert Murdoch does not reflect well on the party.

The remarks of Michael Moore are also worth examination. Moore described his own decision to back the increase in tuition fees in England as the "worst crime a politician can commit, the reason most folk distrust us as a breed".

Defending his colleague, Scott said: "It was an honest assessment of what they did in relation to fees. Thankfully, we don't have that problem. The debate is different." In Scotland, there are no tuition fees – the Lib Dems abolished them.

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But most members of the public – not to mention journalists – are unlikely to buy that spin. To them, the new Scottish Secretary has admitted committing the "worst crime a politician can commit" after only six months in office. How likely it is that the Scottish electorate will support that particular breed of politician in the May election is a moot point.