NICOLA Sturgeon’s closing address to the SNP conference yesterday rounded off a three-day event which saw the party in a buoyant mood.

It was boosted by the latest opinion poll on Sunday which found support for independence at 50% and – in what could be a game changer – that a majority of Scots believe the country would be better off as an independent EU state rather than part of Brexit Britain.

But there is some restlessness too in the SNP and wider Yes movement about the First Minister’s steady strategy for achieving independence.

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She has repeatedly insisted she plans to hold a new plebiscite on independence in the second half of next year and reiterated that commitment in her speech yesterday.

“My call is that the referendum must happen next year,” she told a jubilant hall. “By the new year, we will have completed our legislative preparations. And I can confirm today that before the end of this year, I will demand the transfer of power that puts the legality of a referendum beyond any doubt.”

But the crucial stumbling block is that she needs the agreement of her biggest opponent Boris Johnson – and he has said he won’t give it.

There was much talk ahead of conference of Councillor Chris McEleny’s and MP Angus MacNeil’s so-called Plan B which would allow the Scottish Government to start independence negotiations if the SNP won a majority of Scottish seats in a General Election.

Their proposal was shot down by the First Minister in newspaper articles on Sunday when she described it as a “Unionist trap”. SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford also used his conference opening speech to dismiss the plan with McEleny’s plea minutes afterwards to have a debate largely falling on deaf ears. Such was the hostility to his proposal that McEleny found himself booed by some in the hall.

The First Minister raised the problem she faces during her speech yesterday, arguing that “the question should not be to the SNP – what will we do if Westminster refuses? The question should be demanded of the Westminster parties – what gives you any right to deny people in Scotland our ability to choose our own future?”

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And she once again underlined her position that “the Westminster refusal is not sustainable”.

But despite the FM’s attempt to move the debate on to Westminster’s refusal – questions will persist about what she will do. How will she respond to Johnson’s rejection of a Section 30 order request? And does she have an alternative route to achieve independence?

While McEleny’s Plan B has most definitely been sent to outer space, one possible route that seems to have the First Minister’s ear is a legal challenge to the UK Government. The idea emerged yesterday when Brexit Secretary Mike Russell refused to rule out a court fight should Johnson reject the Section 30 order request. Indeed, the move could be an effective one and follows a series of recent legal successes on constitutional law led by SNP politicians including over the prorogation of Parliament and the UK’s unilateral right to revoke Article 50 to stop Brexit.

As well as the legal path, Blackford hinted at the political path ahead during his speech on Sunday. He suggested the Section 30 order request would be made ahead of a General Election and if Johnson turned it down the SNP would present the Tories as “dictators” blocking Scots’ right to decide their own future.

“If the Tories are so scared of putting Scotland’s future into the hands of Scotland’s people, if they are determined to play the part of dictators preventing the democratic will of the people of Scotland – then the right to decide Scotland’s future will be at the heart of the next election campaign. I say this to Boris Johnson ... Bring it on.”

The message is likely to be a sobering one for the Tories with polls suggesting the party could lose eight of their 13 MPs – including possibly Scottish Secretary Alister Jack – with the SNP likely to make substantial Westminster gains.

So for now the First Minister’s strategy is to plan for the long game; to demand patience from her party, build support for independence and seize any unexpected opportunities which may come in the current turbulent political times.