It was a greeting in two languages, though such is the sense of history that it was nearly lost for words. Jean Urquhart was first on stage to welcome the SNP to Aviemore. The proprietor of the renowned Ceilidh Place in Ullapool, she doubles as deputy convener of Highland Council, where Nationalists are in power.

Older hands observed it is not long since the mention of a councillor being elected would earn a standing ovation.

Now there are 363 of them. They would happily applaud all weekend.

They could be triumphalist, but early signs from day one were of a Nationalist mood veering somewhere between delight, disbelief and outbreaks of smugness. Great was the ostentatious addressing of cabinet secretaries and ministers, which their old pals still think is a bit of a giggle.

John Finnie, the party's group leader on Highland Council, admitted: "I'm like a wee laddie with this new government. I think everything about it is very exciting."

It means the Aviemore conference centre is an alternative Ceilidh Place for three days. One thousand party members are signed up - the most ever - showing little interest in debating the finer points of party policy on a planning gain supplement or the social enterprise sector, and rather more intention of having a hell of a hoolie.

The Cuban and Qatari ambassadors looked on yesterday, part of a posse of visiting diplomats, while a representative of Plaid Cymru brought a message of fraternal smugness from Cardiff, with tales of a strange, far-off land where Labour and nationalists are in coalition, and where the Tories favour a referendum on gaining new powers.

Among his many talents, Alex Salmond scores high on the smug-o-meter. He swaggered to the lecturn with First Ministerial aplomb. No fewer than 19 pictures of him appear in the first three pages of the conference programme, and if that's insufficient, they are repeated at the back.

Whereas he last addressed a party conference at Glasgow Science Centre, in front of a giant digital clock ticking down to election day, he might as well have had the spot price for Brent crude oil as a backdrop this weekend.

Hitting $86 a barrel by yesterday morning, the North Sea black gold is lubricating the Nationalist cause and the independence argument. Running in parallel with the claims of being done down by Treasury allocation of block grant, North Sea oil floats all SNP's boats.

Finance Secretary John Swinney was the main event after Salmond's opening salvo, taking up the oily theme with talk of Scotland's black gold filling the Treasury's black holes.

But his many ministerial responsibilities also require that he addresses the need to tackle climate change. Nationalist ministers seem capable of making the case for getting rich on oil while cutting carbon emissions by 80%, and all with a straight face.

As soon as Mr Swinney had finished, the convener called delegates to remove the four parked cars that risked being damaged by their close proximity to a helicopter that was about to take off.

Stuff the environment. This is power.