SNP conference doesn't feel like the lead-up to another referendum

There is plenty of socialising in Aberdeen but party members know this gathering won't take Scotland any closer to their goal.

SNP conference doesn’t feel like the lead-up to another independence referendum Jeff J Mitchell / Staff via Getty Images

Last Monday, Nicola Sturgeon was being booed in Dunfermline; today she will be cheered to the rafters in Aberdeen.

It’s nothing to do with the old cliche that a week is a long time in politics – it says more about the polarisation of Scottish politics.

The First Minister was always going to get the warmest of receptions at the SNPs 88th annual conference. She has probably spoken at around a third of those conferences, and for members who turn up to an SNP conference, she is the star turn and seldom lets them down in a conference speech.

The SNP has gathered in Aberdeen for their first real conference in three years, since the outbreak of Covid. They seem to be in good spirits, they are generally happy to see each other.

There is plenty of drinking in bars late into the night. There are plenty of fringe meetings but there’s no big rows playing out at this conference.

It doesn’t feel like a party conference leading up to another independence referendum.

I think that is because the members and delegates here know this gathering won’t take Scotland any closer to their goal.  

This time next year, Nicola Sturgeon wants Scotland to be just over a week away from another referendum, but whether or not that happens depends not on an SNP conference but on the Supreme Court. 

And that hearing to determine whether the Scottish Parliament has the power to hold a referendum starts on Tuesday, with a determination from the judges due in November at the earliest. 

So, while the SNP enjoy their leader’s speech at their conference today, the most important speech to them could come not from Nicola Sturgeon – but from the Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain, at the Supreme Court tomorrow.

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