The next person who tells you what a clever chap Alex Salmond is should be packed off to study Overreaching for Beginners. This minority government lark could well end in tears for the SNP. If Murphy's Law kicks in, with Labour doing the kicking, they could be worse off than before.

Still, clever chap, that Salmond.

What do you do when you are slated to announce a raft of new laws but have no laws capable of independent, as it were, life? You congratulate your opponents for coming up with some fine and ingenious wheezes.

What do you do when you must act like a government without the power to govern? You lavish praise on anyone - Green and Liberal in particular - who might yet be flattered into inhabiting your Potemkin village.

Sans tiara (give it time) Salmond's opening Holyrood statement was a bit like a Queen's speech. Like HM, he cannot personally do anything much. He can recommend virtue; speak highly of consensus; and invoke the people. Then pray.

Beyond that, Salmond is playing poker. "I'm for consensus!" he cries. "Who's against me?" He wants to work with everyone, all the time, over everything. It leaves his own slate clean - why bother with manifesto commitments in the face of parliamentary arithmetic?

- and leaves the rest with a problem.

Yesterday, Salmond's policy was to have no policies. Brilliant! He even went as far as to say that sometimes, you know, parliaments are better off if they don't bother to pass laws. Legislation just annoys people. Better to have "themes" instead.

Salmond had a pair, and he played them like a straight flush. Grow the economy, save the planet: all against, say "Nay". That was what he meant, presumably, by respecting "the diversity of opinion across this chamber".

It couldn't possibly have been "the mushy ground of fake consensus", could it?

Listening to Eck - a name hereinafter to be banned from the realm - Scotland is as green as a Hibs back four. He even managed to make it sound as though renewable resources are our next North Sea oil bonanza. Be still, my "beating heart of a successful, confident nation".

Salmond reckons we can do without nuclear, reduce "our impact on the planet", match UK economic growth within the lifetime of this parliament, and become "the green energy capital of Europe". Everything else is up for discussion. Postcards to Bute House, Edinburgh.

Jack McConnell, in a businesslike and not at all bitter response, invoked a dread word: fourthly. It came fourth, strangely, on a list of consensus-building complaints about all the issues Salmond had failed to mention while "grandstanding on the international stage".

Comradely Wendy Alexander seemed to be busy finishing her homework while all this was going on.

The political point, for this observer, is that Salmond World has room still for thoughts of coalition.

Nicol Stephen - now here's a surprise - seemed to enjoy being flattered for his interest in the welfare of youngsters. He quibbled coquettishly over Salmond's green credentials, but that was all.

Patrick Harvie, 50% of parliamentary greenery, meanwhile thundered that the new council of economic gurus must surely include one of his own. That's telling them, one thought. Both men are inching up the gangway of HMS Consensus.

Hanging from the rigging to greet them were Roseanna Cunningham and Alex Neil. Here were two Nationalists falling over themselves in their "absolute delight" (Cunningham) "to welcome everything the First Minister has had to say". No more of this, please.

But did he say something? Is minority government the art of not governing? Or are we, like our First Minister, still waiting to see how the cards might fall?