FLAT on the outside, flat on the inside.

That was the impression of many delegates rattling around the vast Event Complex in Aberdeen, where the view of helicopters from the nearby airport was more diverting than the SNP's overstretched three day conference.

Senior figures in the party leadership spent much of their time on stage attacking the opposition, getting easy applause from Tory-bashing and betraying jitters over Labour's revival.

The party also trumpeted a new "broadcasting platform" to sell independence that turned out to be yet another podcast. Gasp.

But as for meaty policies to change people's lives, delegates searched in vain.

One old hand told the Herald it was "the most boring" conference they had ever been to.

In part this reflects the nature of the new Scottish Government.

This was the first in-person conference since the SNP formed a joint administration with the Scottish Greens and agreed a fiveyear programme of work.

The deal also included a "no surprises" commitment by both sides not to do anything that would come as an unwelcome shock to the other partner.

That means the SNP has been far more restrained than it has been in the past, unable to devise eye-catching policies to capture the moment.

The party also has to share the Government's policy ration with the Greens, who have their conference next weekend, and need a few rabbits of their own to pull from the hat.

But even taking that into consideration, it has felt like a remarkably threadbare event, a big venue filled with big talk about

Labour and the Tories, but little in the way of homegrown substance.

Even Sunday's session on independence from Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson and SNP President Mike Russell was striking for its padding and lack of detail about the way ahead.

Delegates are anxious about the black hole in Nicola Sturgeon's independence strategy.

What happens if the Supreme Court says Holyrood can't hold Indyref2 next October?

The First Minister has said that in that scenario she would fight the next generation as a 'de facto referendum' on the single question of independence.

But what that does that means in practice? A one line manifesto? Ignoring the cost of living crisis? Going against the public mood at the time? It remains a mystery.

Mr Russell's contribution illustrated the situation by being both muddled and vague.

First he contradicted Ms Sturgeon by saying the Court would "fail the people of Scotland" if it said Holyrood couldn't stage the vote, whereas the FM insisted it would not be at fault.

She slapped him down yesterday by saying: "First, and obviously, we will respect that judgment. We believe in the rule of law."

As for Plan B, Mr Russell said: "We will rise to that challenge too, and put our case at the next general election whenever that is." And, er, that was about it.

Ms Sturgeon did little to fill in the blanks in her speech yesterday.

She said that if there was a Supreme Court defeat, "as a party - and a movement - we will, of course, reflect".

However her party would undoubtedly prefer a clear course of action to a period of reflection.

There is widespread scepticism across the Yes movement that Indyref2 will be on Ms Sturgeon's preferred date of October 19, 2023. The First Minister also makes no effort to hide her distaste for the "de facto" route.

It is an option she repeatedly rejected in the past, seeing it as a "Unionist trap" that could hurt the independence cause, and her patent lack of enthusiasm for it could well prove contagious.

All eyes are now on the third instalment of the Building a New Scotland prospectus due out next week, which will cover the economy and currency of an independent Scotland.

If this too is short on direction, and turns out to be little more than a list of options, then the sense of a party in a pickle will deepen.