THE SNP are spoiling us. In September, you may recall, they held a National Conference, an online medley of rictus-filled video clips and desolate chat rooms.

This weekend, to recapture the high, they’re holding another get together with a slightly different name.

The Annual National Conference will again be largely pre-recorded, with delegates charged vigorously for the privilege of enduring a four-day glorified Teams meeting.

Why on earth are you holding two conferences, I asked one of Nicola Sturgeon’s entourage recently.

Deleting the expletive, the reply was a bracingly honest, ‘I have no idea’.

So here’s an idea. The First Minister can use her big speech to discuss this.

“I do not think that we can continue to give the go-ahead to new oilfields, so I do not think that Cambo should get the green light. I am not the one taking that decision, so I have set out a proposal for a climate assessment, and I think that the presumption would be that Cambo could not and should not pass any rigorous climate assessment.”

With those words last week in Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon performed one of the biggest gear changes in her party’s history - without asking it.

It is hard to overestimate the significance of that statement.

By coming out against the development of the Cambo oil field off Shetland in order to help tackle climate change, and on that logic also opposing the development of all other oil and gas fields off Scotland, the normally cautious Ms Sturgeon took a very large political gamble.

She may be on the side of the angels on the issue - tackling humanity’s greatest threat needs a screeching shift away from oil and gas - but it is freighted with risk nevertheless.

Jobs are the obvious stumbling block, and the one seized on by her main opponents at Holyrood.

With around 100,000 jobs supported by North Sea oil and gas extraction, mostly in the Tory-curious North East, some of Ms Sturgeon’s own MPs and MSPs were left quaking after the Cambo declaration.

In rare public rumblings of dissent with their leader, many complained that snubbing Scottish oil would only lead to greater imports from Norway.

Fergus Mutch, the former SNP head of press and research under Ms Sturgeon, and a recent Holyrood candidate, said it risked a “Thatcherite decimation” of the industry, with “jobs flung on the scrapheap”.

Alex Salmond raised the same dread spectre at the weekend, saying that for the SNP to campaign in the North East while opposing its key industry would be “akin to Margaret Thatcher, having closed the pits, then campaigning for votes” in the mining villages of Fife.

Ms Sturgeon may not currently have the power to block new oil fields or hasten the end of existing ones, but she wants those powers, and the mood music is now clear. Oil and gas extraction is unwelcome here.

The leader of the party that once proclaimed “It’s Scotland’s oil” says it ought to be naebody’s oil, and a resource that used to be imbued with pride and hope is now the cause of shoe-shuffling carbon guilt.

Of course, the First Minister also insists there can be a “just transition” to jobs in the new green economy to offset the decline of the old ways.

But as Brian Wilson pointed out in these pages yesterday, the vast capacity for renewable energy in Scotland has not been matched by the creation of jobs in the sector, particularly on the manufacturing side, which has been a travesty. The public knows this.

Talk of a just transition is well and good, but delivery is far, far harder.

Jobs today are tangible, jobs tomorrow nebulous. Nor is there any guarantee that new jobs, even if they are created, would be massed in the same places where oil jobs are lost.

There is also the manner in which the Cambo statement was made.

Ms Sturgeon already has a reputation in her party for cutting it out of her big decisions.

Making such a momentous call the week before her party’s conference, hot on the heels of COP26 and in response to a Labour MSP’s question, rather than running it past the SNP this week, adds to the impression of high-handed and isolated leadership.

Then there is the psychological impact on the cause of independence, which although tough to measure may be critically important.

As Mr Salmond said, oil is not just about money and jobs, it is a symbol of Scottish strength and economic clout.

If Wales had oil and gas to match Scotland, imagine how different the independence cause there might be.

Now imagine the cause of Scottish independence without oil.

It has been a very useful fuel indeed to national confidence, if not Scottish exceptionalism; an economic bulwark if the going gets hard; an undersea vault of black gold; a last resort.

It has also been a reliable engine for driving the independence movement for decades - an act of robbery by Westminster that requires justice as well as the source of a better future.

“For the leader of the independence campaign to casually cast aside that card represents a stunning backwards step,” said Mr Salmond.

He is exaggerating, perhaps, but he is only exaggerating an essential truth.

The shift away from oil may inspire a younger generation who relish Scotland taking a lead on the climate.

But to other voters, oil has helped Scotland swagger, and its farewell will change the country for the worse.

Oil also put a tiger in the SNP’s tank.

Ms Sturgeon’s statement on Cambo is therefore a huge deal for her party and its ambitions. When the SNP faithful log on this weekend, she owes them a full explanation.