SNP conference: What should we expect as Nicola Sturgeon gathers with other key ministers, MPs and MSPs

Such is the SNP’s obsession with media management and positive optics, it comes as no surprise that in terms of controversy, the party’s conference is likely to disappoint.

Gone are many of the traditional internal thorns in the side of the First Minister, having purged themselves by joining the political basket-case that is Alex Salmond’s Alba party.

The resolutions in the agenda are mostly a rehash of several existing Scottish Government commitments and policies, and has been tightly controlled to avoid much in the way of embarrassment or dissent from the floor.

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New paper on economic case for Scottish independence due next week from SNP
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It is worth remembering we should have heard from John Swinney this week about the scale of the cuts required to pay for cost-of-living interventions over the winter.

But helped by the UK Government’s economic implosion, that has been delayed – providentially – until after Holyrood’s recess period.

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Any potential frustration at Government spending cuts hitting favoured areas of delegates can therefore be consigned to Twitter moans, rather than direct opposition in front of the public and the media.

The decision to publish the Government’s most controversial and toughest sell in the form of the refreshed economic case for independence after the conference is also a masterstroke in avoiding the hardest questions over the weekend.

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Nicola Sturgeon's party will hold its annual conference in Aberdeen this weekend.

Instead of being forced to answer difficult questions from the wider UK media, whose attention rarely focuses on the SNP, on pensions, currency, borrowing and cuts to make independence economically viable, Nicola Sturgeon need only say ‘wait a few days’.

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Strategically, it’s clever and avoids any missteps from other, less tightly-briefed ministers or Westminster MPs.

It is also deeply cynical given the attention that will be on the Supreme Court hearings next week, and the fact MSPs will be unable to challenge the paper in the Scottish Parliament given its publication in the middle of Holyrood’s recess.

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Expect a handful of domestic policy announcements in Ms Sturgeon's speech on Monday, but any hope of Conservative-style self-destruction or Labour-esque infighting is highly unlikely.

This conference will be stage-managed to perfection to present the image of a united party, buoyed by a promise of a referendum, the delivery of which is out of the hands of the leadership, to placate the more fundamentalist among the attendees.

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All episodes of the brand new limited series podcast, How to be an independent country: Scotland’s Choices, are out now.

It is available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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