The National:

NOBODY was expecting fireworks from Nicola Sturgeon’s conference address today.

The SNP’s decision to host a virtual conference was the right thing to do, given the recent rise in coronavirus cases and the huge number of delegates that its conference usually attracts.

But that decision also meant that the usual pre-speech hype and excitement was missing.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon's full keynote speech to the SNP conference

Nicola Sturgeon’s speech followed two broad themes: What Scotland has been through over the last 18 months and what (she hopes) will come next.

The pandemic, as you would expect, featured heavily. The First Minister once again thanked the Scottish people for all the sacrifices they had made and warned of the "difficult days" that lie ahead of us in our fight against the virus.

She sought to make a distinction between herself and Boris Johnson when she asserted: "My job in steering us through is not to do just what is popular. It is to do what is right to keep us as safe as possible. No responsible leader should give false assurances."

It was during those parts of her speech where she was speaking more as First Minister than party leader that Nicola Sturgeon looked most comfortable.

The National:

Everybody knows that it is what she says about the current stalemate on the constitution that will be the most ferociously picked over by journalists and commentators. For better or worse, indyref2 is always the headline.

If she sounds too gung-ho, some will accuse her of neglecting her duties as First Minister to steer us through the pandemic. If she is too cautious or uses too many caveats to pursing indyref2, then she risks further restlessness within her party.

She began by taking aim at opposition parties for their refusal to accept the "unarguable mandate" that the SNP won in May to implement its manifesto.

"During the election we said that tackling the pandemic would come first – and it will. We said we would pursue the most ambitious programme for government ever put before the people of Scotland – we are doing exactly that. And we said that when the covid crisis has passed, we would give the people of Scotland the choice of independence – and we will."

Returning to a familiar refrain, she posed the question: Who is best placed to make decisions about Scotland’s future? People here in Scotland? Or "governments we don’t vote for at Westminster?"

Asked and answered, she then got to the line that everybody – both her allies and opponents – had been waiting for.

"That is the choice we intend to offer the Scottish people in a legal referendum within this term of parliament - Covid permitting, by the end of 2023."

She stressed that her approach would involve "co-operation, not confrontation" with the UK Government to reach an agreement on holding indyref2.

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Before she’d even finished her speech, a UK Government spokesperson dismissed the idea saying: "Our view, as set out, is that now is simply not the time to be dealing with this."

Even the most committed optimist knows that "now is not the time" is not a position that is likely to change before the end of 2023. It will never be the right time for Boris Johnson to give permission for indyref2, because he has absolutely nothing to gain from doing so.

Nicola Sturgeon ended her speech by saying that people in Scotland have the right to make the choice about whether Scotland should be independent.

"Trust me," she said, "the time for that choice is approaching".

In asking for trust, Nicola Sturgeon has started the clock. She has given her party – and the country – the end of 2023 as a provisional date to hold indyref2.

What happens when Boris Johnson says no? The time to address that stumbling block is also fast approaching.