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Party faithful are in buoyant mood

A political party's health can be detected by the mood at conference and the number of delegates who turn up.

By that measure, the SNP is in fine fettle. The atmosphere at the SECC in Glasgow was upbeat, the number of delegates and visitors estimated at around 2000 and if any of them were not on message, they hid it very effectively. Smiley faces were all around.

Staff had to find four overflow areas for Alex Salmond's speech with queues starting to form two hours before he was due on stage. Nicola Sturgeon was repeatedly asked to have her photograph taken by members of the public visiting the venue for a separate event.

This is a settled and recognised leadership team. Contrast that to what has happened in the Scottish Labour, Tory and LibDem parties, all of which have had a change at the top since in recent months.

Mr Salmond, Ms Sturgeon and colleagues had announcements to make – though opposition parties rightly question how they square with previous unfulfilled pledges – and a visionary zeal.

Independence – a word not overly used at SNP conferences for some years – featured heavily.

With the local authority elections looming, the nationalists' main opposition, Labour, was target for its alleged negativity, though that same trait was just as evident in some of the accusations being levelled by the nationalists themselves. It was central to toughly worded attacks on Glasgow's Labour leadership and is the kind of propaganda which can blow back on the perpetrator.

Last year's conference was the launch pad for the SNP's remarkable performance in the Holyrood elections and activists left the conference believing it can be the same for the local government ballot.

The SNP is standing more candidates than ever before and the mood from this conference is a clear indication that there will be no lack of enthusiasm from the foot soldiers in spreading that message.

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