Sturgeon’s opening address to the largest gathering of SNP supporters in history, was short and to the point. She was quick to muffle Alex Salmond around a second Scottish Referendum and made clear that there would be no commitment on a second independence vote in the manifesto for the Scottish Election in May 2016.
However, the warning shots have been fired at their Westminster opponent and lines drawn in the sand; should there be “strong and consistent evidence” that a second vote would be in the benefit of Scotland; should the UK leave the EU, a new referendum would be “unstoppable”.
As for the rest of the conference agenda, there are a number of predicable topics that will be at the centre of the discussions. Trident, the Scottish Elections in 2016, Tory austerity measures and education will all feature heavily. Among the announcements this morning was the strong commitment of the Scottish Government to build 50,000 new homes worth £3bn to the economy in their next term. Other areas of debate this morning included the upcoming COP21 Paris Climate Summit. This is likely to be a continued topic of discussion among delegates as fracking and sustainable development goals are discussed by delegates tomorrow. At present, a moratorium on fracking in Scotland is in place, with proposals to extend to all underground gas extraction, widening the gap between Westminster and Holyrood energy policies.
Inevitably, the topic of devolution will be on the agenda throughout the conference, with a motion already passed at conference that the Scotland Bill does not meet the terms set out in Smith Commission. Time is not being wasted, nor are they mixing their words. Commentators have already noted that failure of the Tories to live up to the Smith Commission will be chaotic. It is likely that lack of progress on devolution may bring the strong evidence that Sturgeon needs to invoke a second referendum. At which point, David Cameron had best survey his position. Initiating an independence referendum per term as PM is not going to sit well with any Scottish ally.
It is hoped that over the course of next few days we will see a few more substantial points discussed. Sturgeon’s speech writers will be putting pen to paper to ensure that the content of her speech on Saturday lives up to expectations. A key point that the SNP are keen to address is the ongoing negotiations of the TTIP and the threat to the NHS. It emerged this afternoon that Sturgeon has already written to David Cameron to request that the NHS is exempt from the controversial trade agreement.
The SNP needn’t feel threatened by their closest opposition party; Scottish Labour is floundering after the election of Keiza Dugedale in the wake of Jim Murphy’s unceremonious ousting, with little resurgence following Corbyn’s election last month if the latest polls are to be believed.
The SNP shows no sign of disappearing any time soon. Their left-leaning policies, charismatic leadership and rousing nationalist undertones remain attractive premises for many Scottish voters. Whilst the Labour Party appears to splitting down the middle, the SNP will be aiming to paint themselves as the only strong and united opposition to the Tories in Scotland. As well as stipulating their demands for devolution across the UK and the future of Scotland.