EVEN by the enthusiastic standards of SNP conferences, the applause which met Alex Salmond's speech yesterday was incredible - a thunderous, rapturous roar from a party which believes its leader has brought it to the cusp of realising a lifelong dream.
There was no room for doubt in the packed auditorium, no toehold for ambiguity. To those in the audience, a Yes vote was an article of faith, a deliverance at hand.
Such a gathering is no measure by which to judge the mood of the nation, of course, and the polls tell a different story.
But given the delegates in Perth are at the sharp end of the independence referendum, knocking doors and talking to voters daily, their buoyant mood suggests they may be on to something.
It was not a party putting on a brave face. Salmond's speech was equally self-confident. Direct, polished, occasionally lyrical, it contained news that the White Paper on independence will be published in five weeks, and a plan for an improved minimum wage under independence. It also laid out some of his vision for Scotland.
The theme of the conference has been that next September will be a choice between two futures.
But the First Minister suggested Scotland may have already passed the fork in the road.
Since devolution gave an expression to the people's desire for change, Holyrood has taken a different path from Westminster on a number of policies, such as protecting the NHS and maintaining free student tuition.
Salmond argued independence would preserve those differences, while allowing for more measures designed to make Scotland a more equal society, a society which put conscience before expedience or profit. There was much to welcome in his remarks, though detail, at least until the White Paper, remains thinner than we would like. But the direction of his speech was significant.
Also telling was that it came just after delegates voted to explore the Common Weal concept of adapting progressive economic and social policies from the Nordic countries to Scotland.
It shows the SNP is now in hot pursuit of the Labour supporters whose votes will determine the referendum. It also suggests the SNP is positioning itself to replace Labour as Scotland's main party of the centre left in the event of a Yes vote, when independence would no longer be a guiding cause.
Given Labour's right-ward drift and willingness to shed principles such as the protection of universal services, this too is welcome.
There were occasional grumbles on the fringes in Perth but overall the SNP can count its conference a success. Outside the main hall, however, a cloud was gathering.
Salmond argues the SNP's competence running devolved services means it can be trusted with the powers and responsibilities of independence. But his speech contained a reminder that he now faces a more severe test in government than any he has faced to date. Its outcome could affect his standing.
More importantly, it could have a fundamental and lasting impact on Scotland and the UK.
The dispute between Ineos, the operators of the Grangemouth refinery and petrochemical works, and the Unite union started as a spat over one man, the local convener Stephen Deans.
But in recent days it has mushroomed into a confrontation that, as Salmond said, poses a "mortal danger" to the plant which supplies 30% of the UK's fuel, and 80% of Scotland's.
Grangemouth is integral to the operation of the Forties pipeline which brings ashore the oil and gas from more than 50 North Sea fields.
Given the stakes, the belligerent postures adopted by both the management and Unite seem extraordinary.
But the behaviour of Ineos seems most troubling.
Their demand that staff sign up to diminished pay and pension deals at barely 24 hours' notice seems almost designed to provoke a worsening of the situation, as does their exit from arbitration talks.
The workers of Grangemouth clearly want to keep their jobs.
But do Ineos want to keep the plant? To regain credibility and goodwill, they must restart their operation and re-enter talks with practical, not impossible, demands.
It is not only Salmond who wants to see Grangemouth reopen, the country requires common sense to prevail.
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