It seems that the Yes Scotland campaign had asked, and were denied, permission to hire a stall at the Libdem conference. On hearing about this some members wrote to the Herald, in protest.
My instinct in a situation like that would have been, 'least said, soonest mended', but Willie wrote back to them in terms more suited to President Putin than the leader of a Scotland's 4th party. "It is a matter of deep regret for me", he wrote, "that you have chosen to show me such disrespect in (sic) sharing your views with the media without speaking to me first."
Now, while protocol suggests that speaking to Rennie might have been the right thing to do, these members presumably have their reasons for ignoring it. It could be that they know from experience, personal or vicarious, that there is no point, or it might be that they don't respect his leadership and wished to embarrass him. They certainly have done that.
And because of his reply, they have embarrassed him further by questioning "When did the Scottish Liberal Democrats become authoritarian?" and "Since when does a member of a liberal party have to run things through central office? Every single one of us signed it to stick up for liberal, open, pluralistic, democratic principles."
But there's more. Willie's letter also included these lines: "It could have detracted from our messages for the conference. Even without some kind of stunt on the day, their presence would have been a focus for the media. As we don't get many opportunities to promote our own message the last point is important. It is the clear wish of members that we promote our vision of a federal UK."
I don't understand that. It's not, as some have suggested, like the Better Together campaign asking for a stall at the SNP conference. Clearly every person at an SNP conference is pro independence (although I hope that if BT asked to rent a stall the SNP would agree.) No, there are Liberals who are pro independence and this might have been an opportunity for them to find out more about the Yes campaign. In short it might have served a purpose.
If he worries that the focus of the conference would be a stall in the foyer, I'd suggest that he doesn't have much confidence in his conference content.
As for not getting much chance to get his message across, I have to disagree. He gets far more time at FMQs than the size of his party suggests they are entitled to, and he is very skilled, more so than Lamont or Davidson, at getting comments, almost always carping at the SNP, into the newspapers.
But what I don't understand most of all is his statement that it is the clear wish of members that they promote federalism.
If there was ever a time to be promoting a federal UK, it is in the build up to the 2014 referendum. But can anyone remember Nick Clegg or Willie Rennie calling for a second referendum question on a federal set up, or making any other serious demands that federalism be included in discussions?
If this is a serious demand, perhaps he'd like to explain his involvement in the Better Together campaign.