WHAT THE CONFERENCE SEASON TAUGHT US

There are many people in the commentariat who are given to intone that the SNP government, far from being a radical left of centre force in the land, is an over cautious vehicle clinging to the middle of the road and veering slightly to the right or left  depending on where in Scotland it happens to be heading at the time.  Having listened with care to the First Minister's speech I have to say that analysis is wrong headed.  For one thing the unswerving hostility to Trident is something that many Labour voters would love to hear but whose party is too in thrall to vested interests ever to  articulate. 

Similarly the language deployed on inward migration could hardly have struck more different note to the rabid, sub racist tone of the Home Office and the Prime Minister.  Ditto the often repeated message to our citizens of EU origin that they are entirely welcome as new and contributing Scots. And the full throated support for the need to accommodate more Syrian and other refugees. The commitments to more social housing - already a feature of the current house building programme - and the expansion of non marketised elective treatment centres are not somthing you are likely to hear from the Conservative front bench any time soon.

The Tory conference, predictably, was principally concerned with stopping the bar room brawl over Brexit making it to centre stage.  Instead a Trumpian fringe rally was given over to a Boris Johnson tribute act.  Unfortunately, since nobody seemed too anxious to pay tribute to the blustermeister, he was forced to turn up in person to indicate what a splendid contrast he was to the Prime Minister  whom he had so recently "served" as a catastophic Foreign Secretary. I'm rather glad he did; he proved yet again that this is a naked and nakedly ambitious emperor, long on rhetoric, short on detail. I suspect this may be one of his last hurrahs, but that may yet be overly wishful thinking.  The First Minister suggested yesterday that a party which seriously considers either Johnson or Rees Mogg as leadership material has got it badly wrong. Indeed.

For those of us backing a People's Vote on Brexit, the decision to support that was welcome.  I know that many people in the senior ranks of the SNP fear that a re-run of the 2016 poll would make it more possible to have a re-run of any successful  bid for independence.  I would offer two thoughts on this; the first is that as we all now know the vote in June 2016 was held without there being sufficient lead in time to consider the consequences, and with the Leave campaign using nefarious means to spread false information.  Secondly if we say yes to Independence and then reneged on that, we would be the first indpendent nation ever to do so.  I can imagine no scenario in which this prize, once won, would ever be rejected.

We might note, in passing, the breathtaking arrogance of Ruth Davidson pronouncing that the Scots would not be "allowed" another vote before 2027.  I think Ms Davidson may find she will not be the sole arbiter of this timeline. She might be more productively employed trying to prise some of her Westminster troops from hero worship of their Brexstremist southern colleagues.

On another front, the  conventional wisdom is that the haemorrhage of Labour votes to the SNP was motivated principally by the independence factor.  And self evidentally that's partially true as witness movements like Labour For Indy - people who did not want to shift their vote, but did want to shift their party's position. They got a pretty dusty response from their Scottish Leader, Richard Leonard, who gave an interview to BBC from Labour's national conference.  In it he stated categorically that not only was Labour opposed to an Independent Scotland, but a commitment to that stance would be in the next manifesto. He was a little more vague as to whether the sainted Jeremy had OK'd this decree from the branch office, but time will tell.  

Regardless of the final manifesto wording, it was a strange hostage to fortune to be given by a party leader whose troops had seen a fairly massive defection in recent elections. Much shrewder, surely, to widen the Labour tent rather than  narrow the entrance to it. The subsequent sacking of two front bench spokespeople with considerable profile and experience in favour of a previous deputy whose reputation is, shall we say, rather mixed, does not seem to me to smack of firm leadership so much as demonstrate that ideo logical purity, and loyalty to JC, now trump any other consideration.

So what have we learned these last few torrid weeks?  That Mrs May has not improved her dancing skills, but has probably secured another stay of execution given the paucity of serious rivals, and the intensity of the negotiations with the EU. That the national polls stubbornly show this shambles of a UK government still leading the Labour Party (and that the don't knows are currently beating both May and Corbyn in the public's view of their Prime Ministerial talents)! That the Scottish polls suggest a hard or bad Brexit might improve the pro Independence figures.  

The Scottish commentariat have concluded that there will be no second poll unless and until there is clear evidence of a sustained majority for it. It certainly makes sense to review that chronology once the result of the  Brexit bourach is fleshed out. For my own part, I remember the sheer energy generated by a 2014 campaign which started with the Yes pledges being less than 30% and the final tally being 45%. And that was without Brexit, and with insufficient homework on economic issues.

The AUOB marches have more than demonstrated the energy out there. And yes, the preaching that matters is to the uncoverted. I get that.  But patience is a virtue more easily adopted by those who have most of their lives left to wake up in an indpendent nation.  I haven't. Bring it on.