TAKE a look at the following statement and have a think about it.

"The White Paper will set out the Scottish Government's definitive position on a wide range of policies, including currency, and will be published as planned on November 26.

When it comes to the currency, the position of this Government is absolutely clear. We will keep the pound in a shared currency with the rest of the UK in a sterling area which former UK Chancellor Alistair Darling has described as both logical and desirable , and which will be in the overwhelming interests of the rest of the UK.

Now, if you think that means an independent Scotland may or may not join a currency union with the UK, on terms as yet unknown, depending on the outcome of post-referendum negotiations, then I'm barking up the wrong tree.

If, however, you think there is even the remotest chance a casual reader could come away with the impression the currency union would definitely happen if Scotland became independent, perhaps we have a problem.

The statement was made by the Scottish Government on Thursday morning, after The Herald revealed a senior civil servant's observations on the White Paper at an academic conference. Colin McKay, the head of the Scottish Government's strategy unit, told a gathering organised by the Scottish Constitutional Futures Forum there would be no guarantee of a currency union in the eagerly-awaited blueprint. The Government, he said, "cannot assert as an a priori fact we can achieve a currency union with the UK, but we can set out why we think it is the best option".

He went on to explain that "different levels of conditionality" would apply to the various plans outlined in the White Paper. Four levels, to be precise: things that would definitely happen; things, such as the proposed currency union, that would be subject to negotiation; things that would be "political promises", such as a pledge to abolish the bedroom tax; and things the Government would "indicate support" for, such as the contents of a written constitution, drawn up not by ministers, but by an independent commission.

It seemed clear enough. But Alex Salmond used First Minister's Questions to declare The Herald story "wrong". An odd choice of word, you might think, given that his justification for the claim - he told MSPs: "The White Paper will be definitive on the Scottish National Party Government's policy positions" - actually confirmed the story.

His objection, it transpired, was to our reporting that there would be no "cast-iron pledge" to keep the pound in a currency union in the White Paper. A pledge there most certainly would be, the First Minister's chief political spokesman said at the post-FMQs briefing for Holyrood journalists.

The "one-fifteen," as it's known (that's when it starts each Thursday), is no stranger to the kind of circular semantic arguments that remind me of nothing so much as dim, distant undergraduate days spent studying the political theory of Thomas Aquinas. This time, in a spirit of true epistemological inquiry, the official was pressed to describe the precise nature of the "pledge". He didn't have much to say.

In fact, he didn't need to. The First Minister's comments during clashes with Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont were sufficient. "I assure Johann Lamont," he said, "that when the White Paper is published it will be definitive about the policy choices of the Scottish National Party on the currency and other matters." Making the same point later, he told her: "Let us put it this way: the report is wrong and the White Paper will be definitive on the SNP policy positions."

This brings us neatly back to the official statement quoted at the top of the page. The White Paper will discuss "positions". If the Scottish Government would like something to happen, its position is that it will happen.

I don't think this is the most straightforward use of language, I have to say, but if we are all clear about it, that's the main thing. Bear it mind when you come to read the White Paper when it's published a week on Tuesday. Who knows? It might say an independent Scotland will be the first country to put a man on Mars. If that's the Scottish Government's position.