There's an old saying in American politics - run against things that are unpopular. And it's a lesson the Lib Dems need to learn urgently in Scotland.
As the SNP leave their annual conference to campaign for Scottish independence in a referendum at a time of their choosing and with questions of their own making - the odds are stacked in their favour.
In Alex Salmond the SNP have the most popular politician north of the border - by several furlongs. His administration governs with a sensitive and populist ear to Scots vaguely corporatist, leftist and self pitying desires. And he has the ability to turn any attack on the SNP into an attack on the Scottish nation itself.
So attacking the Salmond government seems to be about as likely to succeed as attacking the first Blair government. So why then are nine out of ten news items on the Scottish party's website attacks on this popular administration? All it does is reinforce the SNP's message that it is them against the unionist parties.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have never been a unionist party - they have always supported the self determination of the Scottish people and if that means separation so be it. It is crass stupidity to be caught on the wrong side of the independence debate when there is no benefit from it and it is not where the party has historically been.
This analysis from the wonderful named (and astute) Scottish BBC political correspondent - Glen Campbell - shows that Lib Dem ministers are actively colluding with George Osborne - one of the least attractive Tories from a Scottish perspective - to examine whether to force the SNP's hand through pre-empting Salmond's referendum. This would be a foolish move - both for the Liberal Democrats and for defenders of the union who would simply bolster Salmond and the SNP by doing so.