'Take Your Pick'

Patrick Harvie and Alex Salmond Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Green move is not the end of the party's involvement with the campaign

In the year I was born, there burst upon our TV screens the programme Take your Pick with "your quiz inquisitor Michael Miles." (Don't bother looking it up - it was 1955.)

A key element of that show - which I watched, sporadically, at a rather later date - was the "Yes / No interlude".

As I recall, sundry stressed contestants had to answer rapid-fire questions from Mr Miles without ever uttering the word Yes - or, indeed, No.

We have a version of that currently underway in Scotland, with subtle changes.

The embryonic No campaign - comprising those who oppose independence - will launch without using the negative word which would have landed them in trouble with the Quiz Inquisitor.

To be fair, they say they are positive - about the Union.

The pro-independence Yes Scotland campaign boldly use the word - but seem, like their opponents, to dislike the consequences of such an upfront approach.

Perhaps fearing a looming inquisitor, they want a Maybe option in there for back-up: in the shape of Devo Max or Plus.

Risking ringing studio bells and audience derision, I now intend to use both words in a single segment.

Is it a setback for the Yes Scotland campaign that the Greens have stepped back from full formal involvement at this stage? Yes.

Is this the end of the road for the Scottish Greens' involvement in the campaign? No.

To retrace. In advance of the launch of Yes Scotland, I informed an astonished nation via Reporting Scotland that Patrick Harvie, who heads the Scottish Greens, was less than enchanted with the arrangements.

Yes (that word again), he was a supporter of independence as were most, although by no means all, Scottish Green members.

But no (careful, Brian), his endorsement of the new campaign was not without caveat.

Said caveat was that he hoped to join a cross-party organisation - not merely to act as a cheerleader for Alex Salmond and the SNP.

Mr Harvie duly repeated this point when he attended the launch at an Edinburgh cinema complex.

His concerns remain. At this stage, he has been unable to recommend to his party that they join the organisation, formally, en masse. (Individuals can of course sign up.) That position will be reviewed at the Greens' conference in October.

One Yes Scotland insider mused that Mr Harvie might be concerned that he has been overlooked in top-level strategic political discussions.

If so, he should be comforted. "He hasn't missed much", I was told.

Much, that is, which is of a strategic nature. Rather, the past couple of weeks since the launch have apparently been taken up with spreading the Yes network around Scotland. Among, that is, those who will vote.

So that's OK then? Well, of course not. Not in the longer term.

Strategic discussions

It is a substantial potential setback - I stress, potential - for the Yes Scotland campaign that one of its launch speakers is disquieted.

Mr Harvie is adamant that he wants in, not out. He wants to affiliate his party to Yes Scotland. But not on any terms. He wants, in short, a say in strategic discussions before information is disseminated.

Not an equivalent say, matching that of the SNP.

Such a demand would be preposterous, given the relative size of the parties: their membership, their funding contribution. But a say, a real say.

Another Yes Scotland insider tends to sigh when this issue is raised. Said insider noted to me on a previous occasion that there had been more discussions with Mr Harvie than with Mr Salmond with regard to the campaign.

Maybe so. If strictly true, that could be because Mr Salmond is contented with the direction of the Yes campaign (which his party heads) - while Mr Harvie is not.

There is another element here. Even if so inclined - which he is not - Mr Harvie is in no position to direct his party to join Yes Scotland.

Remember the occasion when a budget deal with John Swinney was scuppered because of trouble in the Green Party ranks?

Further on that point, there are members of the Scottish Greens who are sceptical about independence, perhaps even actively hostile.

They entered politics to fret about the environment and effect change in that area. Not to pursue Scottish independence.

That means that Mr Harvie - if he is to reverse his current position and sign up formally, as a group - must be able to offer his party something.

He must be able to prove that he and the Greens have a real strategic role within the Yes Campaign.

Otherwise, Patrick Harvie will say No to Yes. And the quiz inquisitor will pounce.