ON Wednesday, the First Minister said she would like a second referendum on independence before 2021; tomorrow she will face a popular vote of a different kind. SNP members attending the party conference will be debating the economic options for an independent Scotland and everyone knows how important the result is. The currency question played a huge part in the outcome of the 2014 vote. Some think it is the issue that lost it for Yes.

The options boil down to two: the leadership-approved choice of keeping the pound initially before transitioning to a new currency longer term, and a grassroots-led alternative of going straight for a new currency. Various amendments to the conference motion are possible, but basically it is a struggle between these two alternatives.

However, the debate over currency is really about something more profound: the division between the radical and cautious wings of Yes. On the one hand, there is the conservative approach to independence, articulated in the Growth Commission report, and on the other the left-wing strategy promoted by the Greens and think-tanks such as Common Weal.

The First Minister’s instincts on the matter have become increasingly conservative and for good reasons. She saw in 2014 that many voters were cautious about the economic consequences of independence and the tactic now is to win support in stages: cautious, careful stages.

There will be some who will see a new poll this week as evidence that the strategy is already paying off. The poll has shown that if there was a general election, the SNP would pick up 51 of Scotland’s 59 seats. For a party that has been in government for so long, that is an impressive and remarkable result.

However, in a complicated political landscape filled with sophisticated voters, the Survation poll may not be showing what we think it is. If a general election did happen in the near future, many voters would use it as an act of protest against Brexit and the obvious beneficiary would be the SNP.

The electorate’s position on independence and another referendum is much less clear. Many voters still support the SNP in government, but would appear to oppose the idea of a second referendum before 2021. This may benefit the SNP anyway – would it really have all its ducks in a row on the currency before 2021? – but even a referendum much later is likely to centre on the pounds – or whatever else – we have in our pockets.

The Government thinks a careful transition from the pound is the way forward on this; others say: let’s be radical. Whoever wins, the divisions and the different approaches to economic risk they represent will be central to the result of any second referendum on independence.