AN SNP convention on independence along with a summer of independence campaigning may have boosted the party's nervous grassroots.

The Dundee gathering on June 24 replaces the special conference that was due to take place in March on the de facto referendum but which was cancelled, along it seemed at the time, with the plan itself, following Nicola Sturgeon's resignation as SNP leader and First Minister.

Activists at the weekend were no doubt glad to learn of new efforts by Ms Sturgeon's successor Humza Yousaf to update the independence strategy, advance the party's central cause on the doorsteps and to make good some of the commitments – such as the promise to become 'first activist' as well as FM – which he made during the leadership contest.

The upbeat message on the summer campaign may have helped rekindle members' enthusiasm at a time when their party is going through its biggest crisis in 50 years, in the words of party president Michael Russell.

But there are pitfalls too for the SNP in putting independence too much at the forefront of its activities.

A series of polls have suggested it is not a priority for most voters currently and that the most urgent matters they are contending with are the cost of living crisis and the NHS.

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To be pressing the case for independence when many are worrying about how to pay the next gas and electricity bill, what to cut back on in a supermarket trip, and how long mum will have to wait for a hip replacement, risks looking out of kilter with public opinion and even a rather self-indulgent exercise in party management.

The SNP of course will make the case that independence is itself part of its solution to the cost of living crisis and tackling NHS woes, blaming Brexit for some of the problems such as higher prices and staff shortages in the social care sector.

But the big challenge for the party is that while they may have a diagnosis which many Scots find credible – especially among the 62 per cent who voted to remain – it has yet to come up with a solution that seems achievable when the prospect of independence and rejoining the EU seems to be receding into a very distant future.

Mr Yousaf and his party will have to address how to respond to soft yes voters thinking of switching to Labour on the grounds of 'why vote for you when you can't deliver what you want, when I can vote for somebody else who may help ease some of my immediate problems and prevent a new Conservative Government'.

It's an issue the SNP are going to have to tackle soon and one which is already being picked up with concern by some party members.

The dismissal yesterday of former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier's appeal against her suspension from the Commons for 30 days has brought a by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West one step closer with a possible timetable for the vote in the autumn.

"No one is talking about independence currently, apart from the SNP. The focus should be on good governance and the cost of living crisis," one SNP activist told me.

"I’ve been on the doors a few times in Rutherglen and Hamilton West and it’s energy bills and the NHS that come up time after time, so that’s what our campaign should be focused on, emphasising what we are doing at a Scottish Government level such as the Scottish child payment."

Another activist was more blunt: "The summer of indy campaign the FM was talking about is a total waste of time. There is no point campaigning until we have the answers to [what's seen as the] obstacles, and some sort of vision for what indy means to the person in the street. The 'obstacles' are the currency, pensions, border, EU questions."

It was no coincidence that Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar was on the campaign trail in Ms Ferrier's constituency yesterday with a message to voters on...

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