IF Jeremy Corbyn’s conference speech was him parking Labour’s tank on the SNP’s lawn, Nicola Sturgeon’s was her coming out to clamp and stick a penalty notice on it.

After losing a third of her MPs during the June General Election, Nicola Sturgeon presented a more conciliatory and humbled figure in the months that followed. When she reflected and took the decision to not set out any timetable for a second independence referendum until the outcome of the Brexit negotiations were known, the move was seized upon by her critics as a sign that the shine on the SNP’s star had dulled. That they were feart. But that pause has helped the SNP, as Nicola Sturgeon’s punchy and confident conference speech showed. The biggest cheers came not from talk of independence, but from exciting policy announcements around the setting up of a not-for-profit energy company, expansion of early-years care, and the scrapping of council tax for young care leavers.

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Without the indyref2 timetable hanging over the head of the First Minister, she has managed to reframe the debate back to her own terms. So rather than making the case for a second referendum, and battling against the crows of “get on with the day job”, she’s making the case for independence itself by doing precisely that. In her speech she reiterated that the SNP already have a mandate for a second referendum, supported by the vote taken in the Scottish Parliament. For now, she is happy to talk up the benefits of independence, and wait for the true chaos of the Brexit negotiations to come to the fore.

This puts the Scottish Tories in a bit of a tricky situation. Without opposition to a second referendum to fall back on as their main policy, they’re forced to come up with others. So far that seems to amount to little more than a crackdown on travellers, as per Douglas Ross’s comments, and “give racists a chance to change”, as demonstrated by Ruth Davidson. The UK Tories, too, are doing their bit to make independence look a bit less scary than the alternative. Our diminished and weakened Prime Minister makes the case for Yes every time she takes to the stage and coughs her way through her government’s half-arsed plans to leave the EU – plans which she didn’t want to have to make, and doesn’t seems capable of delivering competently.

Those who say the case for independence is dead, based on the SNP losing seats at the General Election, are misguided. The fact that the polls on support for independence have remained largely unchanged is irrelevant.

For all the accusations that the SNP have spent the years since 2014 “banging on about independence”, in reality they haven’t. While grassroots Yes groups have certainly continued to organise and make the case, the SNP have been responding to criticism of – and, for that brief while, fighting for – the timetable around a second referendum.

The actual case for breaking away from the Union hasn’t been made nearly as consistently or forcefully. With a sufficient period now passed since the General Election, and some radical policy ideas to show what can be done, Sturgeon is now emboldened and free to make it.

With the Game of Thrones antics going on within the Conservatives, a Prime Minister who has lost her grip on the party and Boris Johnson beating his chest, how different things could be as an independent country has never been easier to demonstrate.

The First Minister is canny, and she knows she’s fighting a battle on all fronts. Events that are outwith her control could help or hinder her in the year ahead.

Unlike Labour and the Tories, she has the benefit of a united party and, crucially, a position on the single market and EU nationals that can be explained in a few sentences.

There will be those who wanted her to go further in her speech, to fast-forward to the point where she is able to say when exactly an independence referendum will take place. But this period of breathing space is working in her favour. She is looking like a stateswoman, while Theresa May appears more like that poor soul who’s invited people round for a house party that is still in full flow at five in the morning. They’ve trashed her living room and she’s coming down off a coke binge.

There’s that saying, “never interrupt your enemy while they’re making a mistake”. They might not be enemies, but there is certainly no warm friendship between May and Sturgeon.

And with all the chaos that is unfolding, I’d be surprised if Nicola Sturgeon felt the need to interrupt May any time soon. Unless, of course, it was to perhaps offer her a wee pack of Strepsils.