In the Book of Deuteronomy, God commands Moses to climb up and view the Promised Land from Mount Nebo.

Once he reaches the top of Pisgah - across from Jericho - the Lord says to him: "I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it."

Watching Alex Salmond introduce Nicola Sturgeon at the Glasgow Hydro on Saturday afternoon I couldn't help but cast the former First Minister in the guise of a latter-day Moses; one who glimpsed the Promised Land of independence but didn't quite make it.

This was apposite, for that extraordinary SNP rally resembled, at points, a revivalist meeting. In his warm-up speech Mr Salmond even likened the party faithful to the "walls of Sparta", the culmination of a rigorous training regime known as "agoge".

The aim of this system was to produce physically and morally strong males to serve in the Spartan army and defend the wall-less city. Out of necessity, "agoge" also encouraged conformity and loyalty to the Spartan state over one's personal interest.

Although Mr Salmond didn't mention that bit, it seemed appropriate given the nature of the event, much of which made me uncomfortable, not least the continuing cult of personality around the Moses of modern Nationalism. Giant letters, each bigger than the man himself, spelled out ALEX SALMOND, while many in the audience gyrated at the very mention of his name.

True to form, he had yet another pop at the BBC, provoking applause with his call for a "true public service broadcaster", which was ironic given that a few days earlier the much-maligned "state broadcaster" had transmitted a generally flattering televisual portrait entitled A Rebel's Journey. A newspaper editor then implored the crowd to purchase The National (launched today), making little attempt to pitch it as an impartial publication.

More broadly, there must come a point when the lack of dissenting voices within the SNP and broader pro-indy movement becomes a problem rather than discipline to be admired.

In a typically thoughtful speech in Stirling on Friday evening, the Labour MP Douglas Alexander recalled his and Philip Gould's "empty stadium" concept, in which politics was played like a game, but while the players kept playing the stadium was slowly emptying. The point, of course, was that politics risked becoming a minority sport.

But a decade after that analysis was developed, the issue has become anger rather than apathy. As Mr Alexander put it: "The issue is not that the stadium is emptying, but that other teams are winning support by playing a different type of game." The SNP are doing precisely that, playing a very different - and evidently popular - type of game.

More than 10,000 people were at the Hydro on Saturday (I rather doubt it was the official figure of 12,000 - there were hundreds of empty seats on the upper level), an impressive figure by any measurement and surely the largest for a political event in Scotland since Winston Churchill packed out the old Ibrox Park stadium (capacity 40,000) in the early 1950s.

In a short but effective speech Nicola Sturgeon more or less abandoned the ecumenical tone of her Parliamentary performances last week and went for the jugular. If this was a new politics then it was also pretty tribal: the Tories (the new First Minister almost spits the word out), Liberal Democrats and Labour were all traduced while the ever-growing SNP was lauded as a truly national party, which of course diminishes the need for tiresome things like opposition.

Strikingly, the new tribalism also extends to the winning (or rather losing) side: on Saturday there was no mention of the movement's evangelical wing, the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), meeting just next door at the SECC. One was left with the impression that although useful foot soldiers during the referendum campaign, RIC is now regarded as both a nuisance and, worse, potential competition.

What then of Labour? As Mr Alexander pondered on Friday evening his party, "like any team determined to win", can't "carry on as before" but has "to adapt and change". Looking ahead to next year's general election, which is shaping up to be one of the most important of the modern political era, he said Labour had to "tell a deeper national story about our country, our common life and our shared future, a story not just of pride and patriotism, but of possibility and optimism".

The only Labour figure who's come close to doing this in recent years has been Gordon Brown, who often resembled an Old Testament prophet not only during the referendum but the 2010 general election, at which he achieved the impressive feat of increasing his party's share of the Scottish vote by three per cent, a reminder that even a prophet not "accepted in his own country" (Luke 4:24) had a rare ability to get out the Labour vote.

Within days, we are told, Mr Brown will announce his intention to quit the House of Commons, a career move as inevitable as Mr Salmond's intention to rejoin it. Although his three-year premiership was troubled, Mr Brown's career cannot be dismissed lightly: joint architect of the once formidable New Labour era, chancellor for a decade (with a solid record of tackling poverty) and, latterly, spiritual saviour of the campaign to save the Union. Even Mr Salmond rates his political qualities.

Mr Brown's failures were largely presentational, a reminder that in modern politics style (sadly) matters a lot more than substance. As Saturday's gathering at the Hydro demonstrated, the SNP remain very good at political presentation while the Labour Party (north and south of the Border) remain painfully bad. It is that reality, rather than ideology, that presents the next leader of the Scottish Labour Party with his or her biggest challenge.

Almost since its foundation there have been those who accuse the Labour movement of abandoning a mythically authentic core: from the "Great Betrayal" of the early 1930s through to the Bevanites, Militant in the 1980s and now an external force, the SNP. But the truth is that all parties change and adapt, often beyond recognition. The SNP, for example, began life on the right, yet no-one accuses Nicola Sturgeon of selling out.

As Mr Alexander argued on Friday, the new politics claims authenticity by "amplifying voters grievances, too often at the expense of any pretence that they will actually be resolved". This clearly wor ks, up to a point; Ukip will win by-elections and the SNP devolved power, but crossing to the Promised Land requires rather more than often unquestioning faith in political prophets.