THE SNP’s fundamental objective is Scottish independence and the party’s membership soared after the 2014 referendum defeat with an army of activists committed and determined to bring that goal about.

Many of the 100,000 or so new members who joined four years ago did not expect a new vote on the issue in the short or perhaps even the medium term.

However, their hopes of a fresh plebiscite intensified after the SNP made a manifesto commitment at the Holyrood 2016 elections to call a new vote if Scotland voted to Remain in the EU and the UK as a whole voted to Leave.

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That event did happen, and now the country is six months away from ‘being pulled out of Europe against its will’, while so far anyway, there is little sign of a new independence referendum.

Against this constitutional shift, and with tens of thousands of people turning out over the past couple of months for pro-independence marches up and down the country, it will seem odd to many SNP members and supporters that the party of independence appears to be discussing anything but independence at its last annual conference before Scotland exits with the rest of the UK from the European Union.

According to the provisional agenda for the conference in October, debates on the floor of the conference are expected to take place on a range of important issues.

Subjects such as tourism, migration, the gender pay gap, sexual consent and mental health provision in schools have been put forward for debate, but will these satisfy the many party members who are desperate to talk about how to secure independence and the timing of a new plebiscite at such a key juncture in Scotland’s history?

One party member The National spoke to said she would be “devastated” if Nicola Sturgeon does not announce the timing for a second referendum either at or before the conference – or at the very least reveal some very concrete plans about how she intends to achieve the big goal.

She also expressed a feeling of “being let down” should the First Minister not make some fundamental progress on the key objective, while a second member said he would probably leave the SNP if indyref2 was not called. Members holding these views are unlikely to be alone, but others are content to go with Sturgeon’s more ‘wait and see approach’ when it comes to having more clarity on Brexit and are acutely aware that a referendum if called must be won.

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“I am hoping – and to be honest expecting – Nicola to fire the starting pistol on indyref2 as the grassroots are all up and ready to start campaigning,” a third party member told us. “I would be concerned if that doesn’t happen. The Brexit apocalypse is coming and once that happens I’m not sure how good a position we will be in, if Westminster turns round and says we don’t need a Scottish Parliament – what happens then?

"However, I trust Nicola’s judgement to reveal the plan when the time is right. The decision on when needs to be made by properly informed political leaders. What I would like to see happen, isn’t necessarily the best plan in terms of reaching our goal.”