Taking a risk
Herewith the chat from Holyrood today. The topic? Wendy Alexander's support for a referendum on independence, of course.
Labour backbench MSPs veer between apprehension and satisfaction, with the latter emotion probably ultimately uppermost.
Firstly, those concerns. Labour MSPs ask themselves: is this the right agenda?
Shouldn't we stay focused on issues like poverty and skills? They ask, further: Is this the right move? What if we lose the referendum?
Then the satisfaction kicks in. It's visceral. For once, after a miserable year, they think they're in a position to dish it out to the SNP, to put Alex Salmond on the back foot.
It is, potentially, tricky for the SNP. Yes, they say, we want a referendum on independence. Just not now, thanks.
They'd like to wait until 2010. Why? Because they'd have more chance of winning the argument then after a prolonged period in government - and after the next UK general election.
In other words, it is a calculation based on their own advantage. Nationalists also argue, however, that it is right to delay the referendum until the National Conversation has been exhausted and the Calman Commission has had a chance to pronounce with its plan for Devolution Max.
That, in essence, will be the case they advance in response to Labour. It would also be the argument they deploy if - when? - Labour tables its own Bill proposing a referendum.
Other goss. Tories are angry. They say Wendy Alexander is seeking a way out of her own and her party's woes - and is prepared to risk the Union in the by-going.
In practice, however, they now have to find a way of living with the prospect of a referendum, given that the two biggest parties at Holyrood are (for very different reasons.)
Annabel Goldie also says that the prospect of a referendum campaign which pitted the currently popular Alex Salmond against Wendy Alexander and Gordon Brown is a "nightmare".
Like the Tories, the Lib Dems are exasperated Ms Alexander has pursued a freelance route while simultaneously joining them in the Calman commission.
However, they also now have to decide their practical strategy in the light of the fact that the referendum is now "out there" as an issue.
And there's more. The Prime Minister's official spokesman has repeatedly refused to endorse the Alexander strategy.
Insiders insist, however, that reflects tactics. The PM does not propose to call a Westminster referendum, therefore the Government has no formal position on the Scottish Parliament discussions.
Further, Wendy Alexander has, of course, discussed the topic with Gordon Brown - and he is said to be "relaxed".
Thirdly, given that this is tactical, it is important for Ms Alexander to be seen taking the lead against Alex Salmond.
What next? Labour MPs meet tonight to consider their views. Labour MSPs are meeting right now.
Expect a new line from Labour this afternoon - quite possibly outline plans for their own Bill in the light of the Scottish Government's refusal to advance their own plans.
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More on the referendum. As forecast earlier, Wendy Alexander is now saying she will consider bringing forward a member's bill to legislate for a plebiscite - if the SNP declines to speed up their plans.
And there's more chat offstage re Gordon Brown's position.
Within a confusing set of circumstances, it seems clear that the PM didn't give his explicit sanction to this initiative by Wendy Alexander.
At that point, interpretations vary. Aides to Ms Alexander insist the PM was consulted - and is "relaxed" about developments.
They stress further that it was her call. Asked at her news conference, Ms Alexander declined to add to speculation.
'Anger and disappointment'
She would only confirm that the decision was one for the party at Holyrood to make.
Here's the alternative version. One Westminster source told me the issue of a referendum had been discussed, sporadically, over a prolonged period.
Further, the same source suggested Ms Alexander had been losing the case for holding a referendum.
By this view, she then opted to "freelance" by confirming her views on BBC Scotland's Politics Show after a report in the Sunday Mail suggesting that Labour was ready to sanction a ballot.
My source said there was both "anger and disappointment" at Wendy Alexander's initiative.