IT IS evident that the SNP's rise in the opinion polls and the prospect of real power at Holyrood have provoked the emasculation of what was once the most virile party conference in Scotland.
The agenda speaks for itself: Alex Salmond opens the proceedings this morning with a speech outlining the party's strategy in the run-up to the Scottish parliamentary elections; on Friday, Alex Salmond gives his keynote speech; and on Saturday the conference will be brought to a close with some inspirational words from yes, you've guessed, Alex Salmond.
In between, the crucial constitutional and economic sessions will be chaired by safe pairs of hands.
Anybody looking for anti establishment fireworks or republican rants from the likes of Roseanna Cunningham is likely to be disappointed. This is a safe conference, on the Blairite model.
It is ironic that Alex Salmond, who so readily derides Blairism, feels compelled to adopt its tactics. So this conference will tell the Scottish people nothing about the SNP's true plans for the monarchy; for the economy; for every vital service that sustains the life of our nation.
The Nationalists cannot complain if the public put the worst interpretation on this obscurantism. The glimpses of policy that are permitted often arouse misgivings, as with the united condemnation of SNP housing plans by the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations. Such awkward realities are what lurk behind the choreographed adulation of the leader and the orchestrated ovations at conference set-piece debates.
Failing the test
THE test case being brought by three Ayrshire primary headteachers for pay parity with secondary heads, at a time when the teaching profession needs all the public support it can muster, does no service to colleagues seeking a better all-round pay deal. …