Nicola Sturgeon holds back the lozengers – and referendum threat – for another day

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Sky’s Jon Craig says the First Minister gave a carefully crafted speech to appeal to her core base and broader Scottish voters.

Scottish National Party leader and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon receives a standing ovation after speaking on the final day of the Scottish National Party (SNP) annual conference in Glasgow on October 10, 2017. The Scottish National Party on Monday urged the Spanish government to 'respect the overwhelming 'si' vote' in the Catalan independence referendum in a resolution at its annual conference. / AFP PHOTO / ANDY BUCHANAN

Nicola Sturgeon was taking no chances.

She arrived on stage for her speech at the SNP conference armed with a packet of throat lozenges and a gag about Theresa May’s troubles last week.

“I’ve come prepared!” she quipped. And so she had.

She took no chances with the content of her speech, either.

It was carefully crafted to give her adoring faithful the opportunity to cheer for independence and, at the same time, reassure Scotland’s voters that she is tackling their concerns on the day-to-day issues of government.

There was a detailed defence of the SNP’s record during 10 years in government and an optimistic look ahead to the next 10 years. “Breathtaking arrogance,” the Scottish Conservatives claimed.

:: As it happened – Sturgeon mocks PM’s cough in speech

Angus Robertson, Deputy leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) speaks on the final day of the Scottish National Party (SNP) annual conference in Glasgow on October 10, 2017. The Scottish National Party on Monday urged the Spanish government to 'respect the overwhelming 'si' vote' in the Catalan independence referendum in a resolution at its annual conference. / AFP PHOTO / Andy Buchanan (Photo credit should read ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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The SNP’s former deputy leader Angus Robertson was among those to lose their seat in June

Ms Sturgeon unleashed a blizzard of announcements on domestic policy issues: education, childcare, the environment, scrapping the public sector pay cap, banning fracking and creating a new public sector energy company, which brought her audience to their feet.

There was a pretty strong hint, though, that Scots are going to have to pay more in tax to pay for all these new initiatives.

“Our taxes pay for the support that our businesses need to thrive, just as they do for our health service and our schools,” she said.

It wasn’t until near the end of her speech that the First Minister mentioned Brexit and independence. A second referendum would have to wait until “the terms of Brexit are clear”, she said.

:: Sturgeon focuses on childcare to avoid Brexit row


David Torrance, a columnist for Glasgow broadsheet newspaper The Herald, told me Scottish voters are not as concerned about Brexit as Nicola Sturgeon is.

“The SNP makes mistakes when they think all of Scotland think the way the party does,” he told me. “The initial response to Brexit last year, where they thought it would provide a huge boost of support to independence, proved ill-founded and the push for indyref two this year in March fell flat.

“Brexit is not an as salient as much as the SNP think in Scotland and if they’re banking on Brexit going wrong and pushing Scots behind that they might be disappointed.”

After Ms Sturgeon’s speech, Maurice Golden, the Conservative chief whip in the Scottish Parliament, said: “The one word missing from this speech was sorry.

“For the last year, Nicola Sturgeon put her reckless plan for a second referendum before her day job.

“But instead of apologising, the First Minister once again showed that the SNP simply doesn’t do humility.”

In fact, she did say early in her speech that the SNP had “lost good colleagues from the House of Commons” in the June election and thanked them for their service.

It was nothing like the “May-a-culpa” by the Prime Minister in her Manchester address last week, when she told activists: “I’m sorry.”

But then Nicola Sturgeon’s speech had none of the calamities of the PM’s, either. No coughing, no P45 stunt and no collapsing set behind her.

So the throat lozenges are being saved for another day. Just like a second Scottish independence referendum.

Angus Robertson, Deputy leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) speaks on the final day of the Scottish National Party (SNP) annual conference in Glasgow on October 10, 2017. The Scottish National Party on Monday urged the Spanish government to 'respect the overwhelming 'si' vote' in the Catalan independence referendum in a resolution at its annual conference. / AFP PHOTO / Andy Buchanan (Photo credit should read ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)

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