A bill, not the bill
And so we have a Bill for an independence referendum. Not THE Bill. Not legislation to go before Parliament. But a Bill.
Opposition parties are tentatively beginning to advance the notion that the delays and discussions surrounding the Bill add up to "another broken promise from the SNP."
They might be wise to pursue an alternative path. As Alex Salmond pointed out at First Minister's Questions, if his rivals would withdraw their opposition, he would introduce a full-blooded Referendum Bill tomorrow.
Still and all, is Alex Salmond playing tactical politics with this issue? Yes of course he is.
The consultation over the new Draft Bill is due to end on April 30.
That is conveniently timed to ensure that the process is coterminous with the campaign for the General Election which is expected on May 6.
Mr Salmond is hoping that the issue of independence will thereby form a significant part of that election campaign. His opponents seem reluctant to play.
That was evident at FMQs. Not one of the Opposition party leaders chose to major on the just-published Referendum Bill.
They were intent on signalling that they regard it as an irrelevant distraction. They chose instead to question the FM about knife crime, the number of civil servants and bonuses at Scottish Enterprise.
The referendum finally featured in rather lively exchanges towards the close.
So where are we now? We have the draft Bill. It proposes two questions, one on independence, one on extended devolution.
On the latter, there will be consultation as to whether that means Devolution Max or the Calman package.
This draft Bill will be, potentially, a standing sub-text for the next stage of political debate in Scotland.
That sub-text will remain in place - just as the fundamental substructure of Scottish debate is the range of opinions about Scotland's constitutional future. That is and remains the core fault line in Scottish politics.
I suspect, however, that Mr Salmond will be relatively content, having published his Bill, to engage on issues which will be germane at the UK General Election, not least the economy.
He will do so in the context of his perspective about independence.
His rivals will engage in those debates on their own terms, disdaining to accept Mr Salmond's parameters.
Among the many questions posed by the media, self included, today, herewith a few of the more entertaining.
1) How can Labour be so set against a referendum in Scotland - when they back one on Alternative Voting for Westminster and are apparently content to endorse one on enhanced devolution in Wales? Labour's answer - the circumstances are different and the responses tailored to those differing circumstances.
2) Say, following consultation, the "extended powers" option on the ballot paper is Calman. How could Alex Salmond campaign for a Yes/Yes vote, as he promises, when he has described Calman's tax powers as inimical to Scotland's interests?
The SNP's answer - they expect that the option would be Devo Max, not least because the Calman proponents appear averse to submitting their plan to a referendum.
3) The independence proposal on the ballot paper includes Scottish membership of the European Union. How can the SNP guarantee that would be the case when it would be an EU decision? The SNP's answer - they are entitled to describe their vision of independence in a consultative referendum. Scotland would inherit EU membership from its current status within the UK.
For now, though, this is not about the precise referendum questions. That is because this is, presently, about political strategy, not legislation. This is A Bill, not THE Bill.