HOW do you keep a Government fresh after 10 years in power? How do you ensure your more radical supporters stay on-side while practising realpolitik? And how do you achieve all this while dealing with the biggest political earthquake of our age, in the shape of Brexit?

All of these are problems SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is grappling with at the moment, and all were clearly on her mind as she made her keynote speech at the party’s conference in Glasgow.

It’s been a rather bruising few months for the First Minister, what with her party losing almost third of its seats in June’s snap General Election, a result that led to her calling off the plan to hold a second independence referendum by spring 2019.

Many interpreted the election result as voters saying they didn’t fancy another referendum any time soon, and certainly not before the Brexit negotiations are complete. And in many ways this speech was about Ms Sturgeon showing this constituency she was not only listening, but getting on with the day job.

It was certainly a confident and polished performance from the First Minister – she even felt self-assured enough to crack a joke at Prime Minister Theresa May’s expense, by waving a box of cough sweets before she spoke. And there were sweeteners on offer as she spoke, in the form of the sort of progressive policies aimed at attracting Labour and Green voters as well as the party faithful.

The doubling of childcare spending to £840m by 2020 may well appeal to young families of all political colours, since it will sure-up the previously announced doubling of free nursery provision to 30 hours a week for three, four and some two-year-olds.

The increased investment in affordable homes is also likely to be popular, with a pledge to build 50,000 more over the course of this parliament, at a cost of £8bn. Elsewhere, there was the announcement of a new state-owned energy company aimed at giving cheaper power to consumers, a new low emissions zone for Glasgow and a new £6m rural tourism fund.

There was, however, no accompanying announcement on how these policies are to be paid for, although there were hints that the next budget could contain higher taxes for some. Ministers are, after all, understood to looking at the income levels at which people start to pay higher tax as part of a review already announced by Ms Sturgeon.

As to the thorny topic of independence, the SNP leader largely left it to others to bang the drum; she was broad in her support, talking of “putting ourselves in the driving seat of our own destiny” but careful not to be specific over dates. Mhairi Black MP had earlier urged her party in her speech not to put its raison d’etre “on the back burner”, but Ms Sturgeon’s reticence is unlikely to have inspired activists seeking an early vote on the matter.

This, however, was a speech aimed firmly at a nervous and uncertain wider electorate. Whether it offers the required reassurance remains to be seen.