The SNP have many reasons to be cheerful this weekend

In her policies and style, Nicola Sturgeon is a social democrat in the true sense of the word.

In her policies and style, Nicola Sturgeon is a social democrat in the true sense of the word

To say that the SNP faithful, in Perth this weekend for the party’s annual conference, meet in buoyant mood would be an understatement.

The irony will not be lost on them that since losing the referendum on independence they are seeing increasing support, while Labour north of the border are in turmoil.

SNP membership has soared, so much so that it now outstrips the UK-wide Liberal Democrats, and has way more than the estimated number of Labour activists in Scotland.

Meanwhile, recent polls have pointed to a potential Labour meltdown next year in what was once thought of as its heartland area, which is likely to deny Ed Miliband the keys to Downing Street.  And to add to the SNP’s mood of glee, some polls suggest that a majority of Scots would vote for independence should a referendum be held anytime soon.

Simply put, Nicola Sturgeon could not have hoped for a better climate in which to take forward the baton of independence. She will take the SNP leadership from Alex Salmond later today.

As Salmond makes his final speech to the conference, he will declare that the independence debate is not over. Nicola Sturgeon meanwhile has told Sky News that Scotland will, she believes, become an independent country sooner than we might think.

Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems will no doubt cry foul and attack the SNP for stoking the flames of independence after a resounding ‘no’ vote just a few months ago.

The reality however, is that for all the bluster, the sound of Westminster politicians telling Scotland what it can and cannot have only serves to boost support for the SNP. Furthermore, given the extraordinary surge in support for the nationalists, politicians in London would do well to stop interfering.

The last hope for Scotland remaining in the Union is for Scottish Labour to regain its sense of purpose, to change in the same way that the mood of Scotland has changed, and ultimately to return to Government at Holyrood.

This requires first of all a leader who can take on Nicola Sturgeon and win. Such a task will be enormous.

As Labour in Scotland continue a period of internal navel gazing which has seen the General Secretary of Unite, Len McLuskey, accuse Jim Murphy on Labour List of being “the candidate of the past and the candidate of division”, Ms Sturgeon has parked her tanks on Labour’s lawn.

In her policies and style, Sturgeon has the makings of a social democrat in the true sense of the word, fighting against the scourge of poverty and inequality, and her efforts are already paying off. Glasgow’s decision to support independence in the referendum was in no small part due to the efforts Sturgeon has made to woo Glasgow to the SNP cause.

The SNP are on a roll. The flame of independence burns brightly and only Scottish Labour can save the Union – but the omens are not good. The SNP have multiple reasons to be cheerful this weekend.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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