As the first day of the SNP Conference dawns in Aberdeen, an atmosphere of anticipation is building. This weekend presents Nicola Sturgeon with a serious challenge. After the marches in Glasgow and Dumfries, it is evident that momentum is building within the Yes movement. The Gathering in Stirling, meanwhile, demonstrates the extent to which the Yes movement has matured. Four years ago, it was a bairn; full of youthful enthusiasm and endowed with the impertinence to do stuff just because nobody told them they couldn’t.
Now, the Yes movement has grown into formidable political and social force. Now, it knows exactly what it can do. The Yes movement has the power to shake and shape nations. Nicola Sturgeon will be well aware of this. And she will know that she has to treat this power with respect.
The Yes movement is hungry for action. Being older and wiser it is not reckless enough to demand action for its own sake. It is well aware of the political realities and the demands on the SNP leader’s political judgement. But the Yes movement needs to be fed. Nicola Sturgeon has to give them something this weekend.
Some in the Yes movement will not be satisfied with anything less than a firm date for the new referendum. They will almost certainly have to go unsatisfied. But there must, at the very least, be some acknowledgement of the fact that the Yes movement is a factor in Nicola Sturgeon’s deliberations.
Too often and too much, perhaps, we hear about the significance of Brexit; and economics; and the antics of the British government; and the polls. There is a danger that the Yes movement may feel sidelined in all of this. There is a real risk that, if its significance is not adequately recognised, the enthusiasm may turn to resentment.
It is difficult to know quite what form of words will allow Nicola Sturgeon to keep the Yes movement on board and positively engaged without closing off valuable options in her dealings with the British government. But she will have to find those words. The energy of the Yes movement is what fuels the independence cause. Nicola Sturgeon has the unenviable task of ensuring that fuel does not burn to fast too soon.
It all makes for great political drama. And I’ll be there watching.
PS – If you’d like to chat about events at the SNP Conference, I’ll be talking about my impressions and listening to yours at The Bridge Street Social Club on Sunday 10 June from 14:00.
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