This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

It’s only a week since the SNP conference left town, but it already feels like an age.

Humza Yousaf’s big announcement about a council tax freeze has been replaced by his big headache over it. 

Local government is enraged and in the mood to put him over a barrel. 

The First Minister was very unwise to stake his reputation on a policy that had yet to be nailed down and gave councils the whip hand in funding talks.

If he fails to deliver the freeze, he’ll get the blame as its author. Voters won’t take it out on a faceless acronym like Cosla, they’ll get angry and disillusioned with him. 

But before Storm Babet and the crisis in the Middle East hastened the conference’s disappearance into the past, that wasn’t the only problem created in Aberdeen.

The other big moment was an agreement on the SNP’s independence strategy.

Students of the event will know a lot of the discussion revolved around whether the SNP planned to claim a mandate for independence talks based on whether it won “most” or “a majority” of the 57 Scottish seats up for grabs in the coming general election.

Mr Yousaf and his Westminster leader Stephen Flynn had proposed merely winning most seats, but the conference changed this to majority, meaning at least 29 of the 57 MPs.

There was a lot of justifiable scepticism among commentators and eye-rolling delegates.

Besides the question of whether a weakened SNP can win 29 seats, there was little belief that an incoming Labour government would engage with its demands.

Sir Keir Starmer wants to run the country, not a referendum campaign. 

If Mr Yousaf misses that 29 target, he can’t claim a mandate and may be out of a job too.

But assuming he makes it and is then politely and firmly rebuffed by the new lot at No10.

Is that the end of it? Does he simply tut and move on, all eyes on Holyrood 2026 instead?

Alas for Mr Yousaf, the answer is no. Not according to the strategy agreed at conference.

It says lots of other things should happen if the SNP wins a majority next year.

Read more:

Unspun | Why did Humza Yousaf backtrack on commitment to local councils?

As well as demanding independence negotiations and a second referendum, there is a commitment to setting up a Constitutional Convention “constituted by the MPs elected to Westminster, MSPs and representatives of civic Scotland”. 

Nicola Sturgeon announced a similar gathering in early 2020 before the pandemic struck.

Unionist parties at the time gave a derisive snort. There was no way they were going to participate in something aimed at delivering independence.

Yet the new conference strategy reaffirms the party’s commitment to it. You can imagine the odds on it taking off if the SNP stumbles at the polls.

The Herald: 'If Mr Yousaf misses that 29 seat target, he can’t claim a mandate and may be out of a job too''If Mr Yousaf misses that 29 seat target, he can’t claim a mandate and may be out of a job too' (Image: Newsquest)
History is against it too. The 1989 Constitutional Convention which laid the groundwork for devolution and the Scottish Parliament was held after a decade of Thatcherism. 

The participants, including most Scottish MPs, churches and business, were channelling the mood of an unhappy, devolution-minded nation when they said things had to change.

But after the general election, we will probably have a fresh Labour government, not be 10 years into a brutal Tory one; independence is also not the settled will of the people.  

Mr Yousaf, if he follows his party strategy and tries to whip up a convention, will find few takers besides the Greens, Alba and a few indy micro-parties. 

The Unionist parties, reminding him the SNP boycotted the 1989 convention on the grounds it was “rigged” against independence, will have no qualms about giving it a miss.

Churches and business would be more circumspect this time about such a divisive plan.

Yet in the absence of actual progress on independence, Mr Yousaf will be under pressure from his party to try holding one, if only so that he can cry foul when it’s blanked.

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Voters, however, are unlikely to be impressed by such performative shenanigans.

It’s not just the convention, either. The conference strategy also demands:

Publication of “Withdrawal from Westminster”, the “detailed terms” for exiting the UK

A nation wide consultation on a draft interim constitution

Establishing envoy positions to help an independent rejoin the EU

All in the strategy, all costing money, and all exposing Mr Yousaf to ridicule if he does them and internal complaints if he doesn’t. 

The SNP conference might seem over, but in ways thoroughly unhelpful to the First Minister, it’s set to run and run.