'We're not alone', Nick Clegg tells his Lib Dem colleagues

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Media captionNick Clegg: "We hold our own fate much more in our hands than people sometimes allow."

It must have been a good lunch. Certainly, Nick Clegg mentioned it more than once. He had, apparently, been indulging in soup, fish and perhaps a little chèvre with sundry Liberal Prime Ministers. In Brussels.

His point - other than to trumpet the culinary splendour of Belgium - was to remind delegates at the Scottish Lib Dem conference in Perth that they are not alone.

Ok, they may not get invitations to enjoy Bruxellois nosh. But they should rest assured that their cause is not entirely moribund, swept aside by a tide of raw populism.

No, Liberalism was alive - if not entirely well. "Courage mes braves!", was the tone from Mr Clegg. (Told you he enjoyed that lunch.)

It was rather a thoughtful contribution by Mr Clegg. Discursive, analytical, anecdotal. Dare I say it (oh, go on, dare, dare), it had a touch of the elder statesman about it.

One thinks of his predecessors - such as Ming Campbell and Paddy Ashdown - who are similarly inclined to perorate solemnly (and intelligently) about global affairs. Or perhaps Lord Steel of whom it was once said that he had moved from the Boy David to Elder Statesman with no intervening period.

Ach, enough cheek, Brian. I asked Mr Clegg in an interview about Lib Dem plans for a further EU referendum on the Brexit terms. (You can see the entire interview in live coverage of the conference tomorrow, 1500, BBC Scotland on Two. C'mon, I'm allowed one plug.)

Where was Tim Farron?

This plan was not, said Mr Clegg, an attempt to persuade folk to keep voting until they got it right. Had the Brexiteers set out a clear prospectus (2014, anyone?) with all the details of what leaving the EU entailed, then he would "not have a leg to stand on".

But they didn't and so he does. It was reasonable to put the outcome to the popular test too, the detailed terms which will emerge from negotiation.

Incidentally, why was it Nick Clegg rather than Tim Farron, his successor? Apparently, Mr Farron was attending a "big birthday" celebration for a close family member.

Back to those who were there. Alistair Carmichael MP excoriated Nationalism. He first equated the pitch offered by the SNP with the hard Brexit approach adopted, he said, by the UK Conservatives. Both were illiberal.

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Media captionAlistair Carmichael says nationalism is "divisive and exclusive and we should have none of it"

But he wasn't finished. It was all tantamount to Nigel Farage. And Donald Trump. Both sought to ascribe values to a particular nation, rather than thinking globally.

Now, I have previously lampooned those who seek to equate certain values with one particular nation. Britishness/Scottishness equals fairness or whatever.

However, is it logical to appear to suggest, as a mirror image, that liberal, rational thought cannot co-exist with independent Scottish self-government, that the two are somehow contradictory?

Upbeat mood

To be fair, Mr Carmichael was intent upon arguing, fundamentally, against nationalism as a precept. He was seeking to exhort liberal values. I expect that, by now, his SNP opponents are inured to such remarks.

Of late, the Lib Dems have had a hard time. But, you know, they are curiously upbeat here in Perth. They think they have a distinct stance - and one that, according to referendum findings, appears to chime with the views of the people of Scotland.

Onwards, they chuckle, to the May elections. We shall see.

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