SO conference season is drawing to a close and last up is Nicola Sturgeon. She must be delighted to be following Theresa May. Anything short of tripping over Angus Robertson, landing on her iPad and accidentally blasting Land of Hope and Glory round the conference hall, has to count as a win.

The drama in British politics is currently elsewhere, with all eyes turned on the medieval court that is the Tory Party and the born-again socialism of Labour. The SNP, until recently the fulcrum of political disruption on these islands, look as controversial right now as a parish sub-committee on litter picking.

There was that awkward business in the summer when the much-trailed second referendum was suddenly bundled off the political stage before it caused any more embarrassment. But since then, a new strategy has been rolled out by the SNP leadership, one that is less dependent on future political events following a foreseeable course. It involves Ms Sturgeon “getting on with the day job” (copyright K. Dugdale, R. Davidson, W. Rennie) by bringing forward a legislative programme focused on education, improving public sector pay and cutting air pollution, all designed to remind voters what it was they liked about the SNP in the first place, back when the independence referendum was just a twinkle in Alex Salmond’s eye.

It’s a sensible way forward. After all, the General Election suggested that most voters want another referendum about as much as they want Jacob Rees Mogg as the next James Bond. That probably means that there won’t be one until after the next Scottish election, due in 2020. A referendum hot on the heels of that election would take place against the wretched backdrop of Brexit, but will only happen if the SNP and Greens win a pro-independence majority. Voters will be much more inclined to get with the project if they reckon the SNP has made a positive difference to their lives in the intervening years.

So far, so reasonable, except for one problem: Jeremy Corbyn.

For the last year, it has been received wisdom that, what with Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will, and given the damage Brexit could do to the UK economy, the Yes campaign just had to time its second independence referendum right and it would be rewarded with a historic win. Natural demographic changes – deaths, in other words – would tend to make a Yes victory more likely over time, since younger people tend to favour independence more than the elderly.

But received wisdom has taken a serious kicking since the General Election and the assumption that securing a win is all in the timing now looks increasingly wide of the mark.

No: the real challenge facing the SNP is how to make its independence prospectus a desirable alternative to Mr Corbyn’s Britain. If Mr Corbyn is in Downing Street, espousing and trying to enact a more radical version of the equitable society promised by the SNP in an independent Scotland, where does that leave the Yes campaign?

Where it once seemed far-fetched to talk of Labour’s most rebellious outsider in Number 10, the question now is, what’s the realistic alternative? The Tories? The Prime Minister’s days look numbered and the spectacle of Boris Johnson hunting Mrs May like a wounded fox these last few weeks tells us all we need to know about her possible successor, a man of grossly over-reaching ambition and no obvious leadership qualities or ideas, aside from a faintly jingoistic belief in Britain’s supposed greatness. He’d be nowhere up against a man with his own adoring football chant. Since electoral upsets are the order of the day, there are always the Liberal Democrats, buoyed by new members, but it would take an electoral earthquake far outstripping that of 2017 to put them anywhere near the PM’s office.

So SNP delegates do need to ponder over their late-night whiskies how best to handle Prime Minister Corbyn. Do they try to outflank Labour on the left and risk looking like phonies next to the real thing? Or do they stay where they are, anchored to the centre ground which has proved so electorally fertile in the past, and, next to a strident, rejuvenated Labour Party, risk looking like part of the tired old establishment that Scottish independence was supposed to free us from? Ach, it’s a toughie. It’s so much easier to make a case against a pantomime villain than a living saint.

Delegates to the SNP conference might be forgiven for feeling a little deflated, after the heady excitement of the last three years. But only the very rash would write off the SNP and its independence dream just yet.

The party is more united than either the Tories or Labour, the latter currently exposing its divisions in the Scottish leadership campaign. While support for independence has not risen since 2014, it has not fallen much either. And perhaps above all, the halo that currently bathes Mr Corbyn in a beatific glow will eventually flicker and die – not because he is wrong to diagnose inequality as the greatest ill facing British society (by no means); not because he wants to give old ideas a fresh makeover for these challenging times, but because the expectations of him are now simply too great. That, and the fact that he is still a divisive figure whose own talents as a leader both of his party and of the nation, are very much in question.

Ms Sturgeon’s programme for government only hints at tax rises and a citizen’s income without committing to either. It is a glaring paradox about the SNP that the radical change it pursues under independence has never been matched by its policies in government. But if the First Minister can follow through, delivering grown-up policies that actually make a difference to inequality, then she will have a good tale to tell come any future showdown with an unproven Mr Corbyn.

Not much work in the inbox, then.