Another barnstorming speech from Nicola Sturgeon, only lacking the phrase “I have seen the promised land”, prompted a rapturous standing ovation from the party faithful.
Ms Sturgeon, who enjoys near-Messianic status among her supporters, and buoyed by recent opinion polls, believes independence is within touching distance. She can see the tape and with one last stretch victory will be assured, backed by the biggest ever campaign that will be directed at all 2.4m homes in Scotland. No one will have an excuse for not knowing about the economic case for independence.
There is a clear plan to build on current momentum. The first steps to enable a second referendum to take place will be unveiled next month. The European elections will be fought vigorously on a ticket that the UK and Scotland in particular should remain in the EU and as Brexit talks continue to falter.
Yet amid the pledges to the party’s spring conference and the promise to deliver on the dream of separation, there remain questions about what is not being said and a need to tread warily as the march to independence gathers pace. A party conference may create a mood of togetherness, but it also feeds on momentary hysteria.
Ms Sturgeon’s proclamation on a climate emergency produced another standing ovation and positioned her as a leader on a matter of global importance. But once the fevered mood of conference subsides she has to decide with her ministers how this squares with the party’s plans to cut air passenger duty (APD) to enable more carbon-emitting planes to take to the skies. It is one thing to grandstand before an adoring public, quite another to deliver practical policies. Only two weeks ago the SNP voted down a Green party motion in parliament to declare a climate emergency.
Ms Sturgeon has always put herself on the side of the consumer, the end-user and the victim. This applies as much to the home buyer and the startup business as it does to those suffering domestic abuse or period poverty. But she is not unlike other politicians in dispensing with policies that no longer suit the party’s goals. Will the APD plan be ditched to satisfy her climate commitment?
In the list of its achievements on the economy there was no mention of a previous good idea that had brought conference to its feet: a state-backed energy company, unveiled at the SNP conference in October 2017 as a means to challenge high energy prices. Has this also been dumped?
Ms Sturgeon declared the SNP on the side of business, but there was nothing in her speech that addressed concerns about business rates, the crumbling high street, or an income tax regime that discriminates against Scots compared to other taxpayers in the UK.
Replacing the pound with a new currency is now party policy, and in spite of warnings that it would have a devastating impact on salaries, mortgages and pensions its supporters say it is a vital cog in giving Scotland control over its monetary and economic policies if the country is to be truly independent. Yet we heard nothing about it from Ms Sturgeon who is known to favour a more cautious approach. Does she harbour more serious doubts? Perhaps fearing that Scotland is pressing the independence accelerator just a little too hard?
Ms Sturgeon may have a dream, but it must be rooted in reality and while whipping up conference into heightened expectations she knows her supporters have to take a less feverishly excitable view of the country’s outlook. For the good of Scotland and Scottish politics they need to take a check on whether the policy pledges are achievable or just a sugar-coated promise of a better future.