They know what they’re against: independence for Scotland. But is there any sign yet that they know what they’re for?
I’m talking about Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats whose Scottish leaders met (again) today to offer an alternative to the National Conversation offered by SNP ministers.
I must confess I’m still slightly sceptical about this initiative by the Unionist parties. Not because there is any proscription on them seeking common cause. There isn’t.
But because I question what that common cause might prove to be other than sustaining the existing structure - which they could do without holding a meeting at Scotland Office HQ in Edinburgh.
To be fair, there was progress today. The participants agreed to set up a review process which would examine the devolution settlement, presumably with a view to strengthening devolved powers, although that is not explicit at this stage.
The details of that review process have yet to emerge but we are assured it will be both “cross-party and cross-border”.
But what might the further agenda comprise? Full tax powers for Scotland? Lib Dems say yes, Tories offer a pretty reluctant maybe, Labour Ministers say no.
Devolve other powers? Could be - and certainly, if there is to be a substantive rather than ad hoc revision of the Scotland Act, then it would take place at Westminster, where Labour has a comfortable majority.
But does Labour really want to draw attention to its lack of power at Holyrood, to the Scottish credentials of its prime minister and chancellor, to the alleged anomalies which persist in devolution such as the West Lothian question?
Does Labour really want a debate on the nature of devolved power when the PM is out to stress the British dimension?
Perhaps I am missing something - and I remain decidedly open to persuasion in the light of events. Perhaps it is indeed sufficient that the three parties know they’re against independence - and will commit joinly to preventing such a development.
And today’s meeting was a move ahead in that it involved MPs (Browne, Mundell and Carmichael) whereas the earlier talks had been confined to MSPs (Alexander, Goldie and Stephen).
But, drawing upon historic comparisons, right now this looks to me more like Taking Stock (Copyright, J. Major) than the Constitutional Convention.