Settling in for the long haul on the road towards a poll

YESTERDAY’S Scotsman conference was just the first in a series set to take place over the coming months as the country builds up towards the independence referendum.

As Scotsman editor John McLellan noted at the beginning of the event, there remains little clarity as yet as to how long that run-in will last, given the dispute over timing between the Scottish and UK Governments.

No matter – it was clear from yesterday’s well-attended event that interest in the country’s future is growing, within and outside the country’s borders.

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Among those attending were the Consul General of France, Pierre-Alain Coffinier, who made it clear his own country would be remaining neutral on the subject of Scottish independence over the coming weeks.

Also in attendance was Steven Reyyuan Chu, from the UK’s Taipei Representative Office and Ian Morisette, from the Quebec Government Office, in Canada.

With business figures also in attendance, SNP minister Bruce Crawford faced detailed questioning over the uncertainty caused by the referendum, and faced claims that the relentless focus on the constitution was leading to “paralysis” within the Scottish Government.

Meanwhile, despite the legal questions over exactly which government holds control over the referendum, the conference left delegates with the clear impression that it would be hard-dealing negotiations between Alex Salmond and Michael Moore which will decide the ground-rules of the poll in reality.

Neither side, as Brodies’ legal expert Christine O’Neill pointed out, has an interest in the matter heading to the courts, as it would entail both parties losing control.

A deal will be done to ensure the poll takes place, was the settled view. But given the stakes, it just might take a bit more time to do so.