AS Scotland prepares to discover the identity of the next SNP leader and First Minister, I for one feel strangely perky. As a supporter of independence, that may be surprising.

It’s not that I know the answer. It’s doubtless the relief of imminently having a result, so that a perilously-perched stack of dominoes will also start to fall and huge uncertainties about Scotland’s governance will start to be resolved. Not to everyone’s satisfaction. Not even necessarily for the best. But after a period of stasis there will be movement.

Will the Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Greens hold or will the SNP move into minority government for the first time since the Lib Dems rejected Alex Salmond’s offer of joint working in 2007?

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The SNP did successfully “go it alone” for four years before winning an overall majority in 2011 which was meant to be impossible given Holyrood’s proportional voting system. But back then, the Greens did sign an agreement to support SNP ministerial appointments – though not confidence or budget votes – which got Alex Salmond and his slate of ministerial appointments ratified by the Scottish Parliament two weeks after the result.

It's one thing to be ready for minority government – another to pursue it after a rancorous bust-up with the Greens. Indeed, in a minority parliament, negotiation will be even more important for a First Minister and my way or the highway attitudes towards former allies, or indeed rival supporters, just won’t cut it.

Under every scenario, there will not only be a new cabinet but new relationships to be forged and fences mended within the party and beyond. Again, that will take energy and considerable skill, and a Humza Yousaf victory doesn’t avoid it. If elected, he must prove very quickly that continuity doesn’t mean same old, same old. If part of Nicola Sturgeon’s rationale for leaving was to allow a refresh, then Humza will have to deliver it – quickly.

Part of the reason for relief and some guarded optimism is that upset also brings the possibility of reset. And boy does Scotland need it. A weekend conference organised by the Yes group Scotonomics heard a Plaid Cymru politician describe the considerable advances being made in Wales, despite a smaller population and weaker devolved powers than Holyrood. The Labour/Plaid Welsh Government has cancelled major road-building projects, ploughing cash into improved public transport, announced plans to set up a publicly-owned renewable energy development company, a national construction company and a national care service. Wales has also appointed a future generations commissioner – one outcome of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act 2016, which prompted former Labour MP Tom Harris to describe Labour Wales as “the wokest country in Europe”. What – woker than Scotland?

SNP leadership candidates may feel they have cut new ground with talk of a wellbeing economy, but the Commonweal thinktank was there years ago, along with the Welsh Government.

Now of course there's many a slip twixt cup and lip, and the Welsh government may find the progress on a national care service is tricky as the Scottish Government has done.

But, whilst Nicola Sturgeon’s government concluded that it lacked the borrowing powers to make a national energy company possible – the Welsh government is hammering on regardless. It may start small, but in Wales at least the effort to reverse the disastrous effects of energy privatisation has begun. Cardiff is going ahead with a basic income pilot scheme that will see all young care leavers offered the chance to receive £1600 per month for two years. The Scottish Government decided pilot schemes were impossible without whole-hearted backing from the Department of Work and Pensions.

Indeed, a trip across the Sheuch to the ImagineBelfast festival last week revealed massive pent-up political energy to get motoring on the “best of all worlds” deal that lets trade develop between Northern Ireland and the EU plus the wider UK.

Of course, there is a herculean stumbling block in the shape of Jeffrey Donaldson and the Democratic Unionists who voted against the Windsor Framework and still refuse to restart Stormont. But after local elections in May, a reset may be possible, ushering in the unprecedented spectacle of a Sinn Fein First Minister at Stormont and – if polling continues along present lines – a Sinn Fein-led government in Dublin too.

In short, the old Celtic pecking order is changing and Scotland is no longer undisputed queen of the heap. Of course, Scotland has many fundamental economic and social advantages neither Wales nor Northern Ireland can match. But the last Scottish Government has been timid in making the structural changes needed to protect voters from the vagaries of Conservative government at Westminster – and Scottish Labour has failed to be as radical or willing to make common cause with an independence-supporting party as Welsh Labour. Is that because Plaid’s prospects of independence are more distant?

Whatever, Scottish Labour has missed a trick. If it is the party of devolution, then let’s see some exciting extension of the project, as Labour in Wales are doing. Anas Sarwar could demand control of all the levers of taxation to make a real impact on poverty. But he won’t – because that wasn’t in Gordon Brown’s underwhelming constitutional review, the new SNP leader must.

That doesn’t mean taking independence off the table, or jumping to Alister Jack’s demand to make devolution work. Au contraire.

Seeing old boundaries successfully shifted gives Scottish voters the confidence to go one step further. A vigorous, ambitious Scottish Government is an inherently pro-independence one.

Nor does more adventurous government give the new First Minister freedom to put independence on the back burner. For eight years there has been incredible internal discipline about airing dissatisfaction with internal party management and Scottish Government policy.

But “wheesht for indy” only works if indy is somewhere on the horizon – and that’s the real, visible horizon because the previous one shifted far too often. Without that there will be a lot less wheeshting going on. And that's when the inevitable strains and difficulties of governance will meet a tide of disappointment and complaint from the Yes movement and SNP membership. The Yes movement needs a strategy, ideally co-produced with the SNP to deals with an impending General Election that simply cannot be run on business-as-usual lines.

Indeed, this interregnum tells the independence movement it must get organised and provide a continuous, well-funded case for independence that doesn’t rely on the inevitable fluctuations of a party stuck in electoral cycles and personality contests. Behind the scenes, that’s already happening.

Pruning can encourage vigorous new growth – as long as the process is handled skilfully.