MAYBE it comes from being carnaptious. Maybe it’s a learned response to a hostile media pile-on. Maybe I’m going soft. Maybe it was being in the room.

But I thought Humza Yousaf’s speech last weekend was actually pretty good.

Sure, it produced no rabbit from a hat. The speech squared no circle about Scotland’s position – locked as we are inside a “voluntary” union.

It delivered no wizard strategy for forcing the hand of the next Westminster government but committed to a “lawful process”, meaning a vote must happen sometime and that did irritate some people.

But the speech did a few other things too

First, it roused the room. No small feat when such negativity was swirling about beforehand that some SNP MPs and MSPs opted not to attend. Cynicism, detachment and hostility have become normal within the party.

Trust has been lost and it’s hard to restore. But perhaps that process has begun.

Much depends on Mr Yousaf’s next moves and the savviness of the team around him. But the convention started well, with a skilfully made tribute to the late Winnie Ewing narrated by John Swinney and put together faster than anything out of the SNP Media Unit in years. Keep up those high standards.

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Then came the moment Humza Yousaf jumped off the podium to speak to a woman heckling him about disgraced surgeon and former NHS Tayside doctor Professor Sam Eljamel. Whatever the SNP leader said to former party member Theresa Mallett as she quietly left the hall, he must now deliver.

But the effect inside was dramatic.

In one split second, Humza Yousaf had stepped out from behind Nicola Sturgeon’s shadow, resolving a difficult situation in a way she would never have done.

Deciding to handle a very angry person is unusual – but taken within seconds, so decisively, in front of 10 rolling cameras, the move was breathtaking in its confidence.

Watching Yousaf defuse this moment of conflict also created a connection with his track record of avoiding strikes in Scotland. Afterwards, he stressed the importance of listening not shouting down critics. If he really means that, if he can deliver, if he actually does that within his own party, Humza Yousaf could yet transform its fortunes.

Second, Yousaf promised an election where independence will be front and centre

Yes, this has been pledged many times before, most disastrously in 2017, when Nicola finally “took independence off the table” while her opponents did not, prompting the loss of 21 SNP seats and creating the first big rift between the party leadership and grassroots.

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I think Humza understands the scepticism, hence spelling out the actual words of the manifesto in line one – “a vote for the SNP is a vote for an independent Scotland”.

Now, of course, folk know the SNP supports independence. But the SNP also leads a devolved Scottish Government within the current rules of the Union.

Which SNP are people electing when they send MPs to Westminster?

It can be hard to know. In past elections, the benefits of independence have not been highlighted in leaflets, manifestos or TV debates, and change has not sounded imminent.

But if the SNP 2024 manifesto follows Yousaf’s early rhetoric, the indy cat is firmly oot the bag. Not a gigantic step forward, but progress.

Commentators have also mocked the suggestion within Humza’s speech that winning a majority of seats will somehow provoke an outburst of niceness from a new Westminster government, and prompt them to hand over powers for another referendum or open talks on independence.

Aye right. In yer dreams.

But it’s not wrong to highlight how unfair, undemocratic and unsustainable Westminster’s “talk to the hand” stance has become.

Britain’s political culture is all about power, modelled on a voting system where might is right, the winner takes all and the devil takes the hindmost. Democracy matters – but only a wee bit.

The National: Yousaf in Dundee

Power matters much more. And since an ordinary vote at Westminster could dissolve Holyrood at a stroke, a Scottish leader demanding fairness from Westminster may look less like David facing Goliath and more like a six-stone weakling protesting about sand being kicked into his sandwiches.

It’s hard to tackle the media’s lip-curling contempt for anyone seeking to upend the limitless power of the rich, corrupt and well-connected in this country. You can almost feel their exasperation at the sheer naivety of it all. Democracy, fairness, mandates – who cares about any of that?

Actually, all of us. But it takes ingenuity, creativity and speed of response to avoid sounding pious or stale. It also demands common cause with the whole Yes movement. All of it.

It was great to hear Yousaf pledge to speak at the Believe in Scotland rally on September 2 in Edinburgh and urge SNP members to make it the biggest event yet.

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But he must act to defuse the cynicism and bitterness within groups like AUOB over the repeat non-attendance of SNP leaders – including himself.

Sure, it would help if AUOB could haud its hyper-critical wheesht towards the SNP. But someone must be first to close this chasm between the most consistently-active street protest organisers and the main party of independence. It’s not weak to initiate a reset. It’s strong.

So, something did change last Saturday. The total damp squib that was expected did not materialise and that’s a start. I’ll take it.

But will the SNP membership?

We all carry scars from the hurts and snubs of the last 10 years and the weary disappointment of repeat trips up-and-down that mythical hill.

The Yes movement is indeed divided – but that gives us a huge opportunity to show we mean business by doing the most difficult thing – getting over ourselves.

If independence really is the biggest goal of all our lives, we can get to it.

The public needs to see the sacrifice of ego in pursuit of a new Scotland – not business as usual. If Yes campaigners can’t work together now, the public might rightly ask why it should expect anything better after a Yes vote?

That doesn’t mean the Alba plan for a single, jointly selected candidate in each constituency is necessarily the best one. But some accommodation between the Yes parties is vital, precisely because it currently seems impossible.

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Travelling across Scotland, these past three weeks, all I see is common cause between SNP, Alba, Greens, socialists and non-party Yes activists at grassroots level. It’s high time for those further up the food chain to dial it down and bury the hatchet.

The SNP need to be better and they can be, if members focus energy on fixing the party, not aiming fresh pelters at a new leader. That may mean replacing Holyrood and Westminster candidates who are not “first activist” in outlook and it must mean reasserting local control over candidate selection at the October conference. But that requires strategising now.

Yet some SNP branches seem quite immobilised.

Travelling about, I notice the members most angry with Humza Yousaf are also least willing to organise to reintroduce grassroots control at the October conference because “that’s what the leader should do”.

For crying in a bucket. It’s your party.

Sure, Humza’s pledges about internal party reform may be “all gong and no dinner” as my mum used to say. But they might not.

Colour me gullible but I think the new team means business.

So, I’ll feel the fear (of more disappointment) and back Humza Yousaf anyway.