PARTY conferences are risky affairs at the best of times – and these are not the best of times for the SNP.

Take a largely hostile – and overwhelmingly Unionist – Scottish press corps, salivating over the present difficulties of Scotland’s long-dominant political party, make it travel to the outskirts of Aberdeen at a weekend and mix in the genuine worry of party members about the problems the party is currently facing – not least a live police investigation, a very poor by-election result and a bizarre defection – and you have the recipe for any number of manufactured “SNP bad” stories.

Late nights in the conference hotels will not help – but there is another way that things could turn out.

The SNP could collectively decide to put its best foot forward, to resolve amicably but conclusively the debate about the process of gaining independence and as a result move on swiftly to campaign vigorously with all the rest of the Yes movement on the potential that our country will have when the promise of independence is realised.

We could welcome the overdue changes to our internal party governance that are being recommended by the review group and then focus on demonstrating determination and capability by making sure our hard-won Scottish Government continues to deliver for our fellow citizens in order to overcome the many crises that confront us all.

In that regard, we should of course be brutally honest about the limits of devolution, but we should also follow Winnie Ewing’s advice, which was to accept that ensuring people had even half a loaf was better than allowing them to starve.

Bitter division turns off voters, as we saw 20 years ago when there was an equally fractious period for the SNP.

The SNP are not perfect – no work of human hands ever is – but we recovered then and still remain capable of great things.

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Busting a gut to address in any way we can the cost of living crisis – whilst explaining it is really a cost of Westminster government crisis – must be a priority.

In addition, the horrors of the current unpredictable international situation are frightening but a clear and principled stance in favour of the rights of individuals to live in peace and a complete rejection of violence, murder, hostage taking, and collective punishment are essential.

Our First Minister’s commitment to those principles, honed by the agony of his personal situation, is I am sure shared by the vast majority of Scottish citizens and should guide our response.

But we also need to be realistic about the biggest threat that faces us and our planet, though it is one that seems to be slipping down the priority list for others.

Last Saturday, a record 108.8 mm of rain fell where I live, the highest daily total since I came here 31 years ago.

It wasn’t just the amount of rain that was the problem. Almost a quarter of the total fell in a single hour in the morning.

It took four days of very hard work for Argyll and Bute Council and the Scottish Government to restore access from Cowal to the trunk road network. The only way out of the peninsula all that time was by ferry.

But some problems remain.

The main town for my neighbours and myself is Dunoon, which has, because of a terminally damaged bridge at the top of Loch Striven, suddenly become 20 miles further away.

This road is the school and scheduled bus run, the way the ambulance and police get here as well as the delivery vans and a commuting route for those going to and from Bute and Tighnabruaich.

A round trip on the diversion takes nearly two hours, doubling the previous journey time, increasing fuel consumption and emissions and reducing access to everything from after-school clubs to the Clyde crossings.

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Last weekend’s deluge was undeniably a consequence of climate change.

Our immediate transport problems will be resolved at some stage – though we aren’t holding our collective breath – but as rainfall becomes heavier and more intense, and as sea levels rise, the infrastructure we all rely on will be threatened again and again.

Yet despite the warnings and the evidence, two weeks ago Rishi Sunak decided that being the oil companies’ friend and buying the votes of climate change deniers was more important than trying to save not just the planet, but all that is on it, including little places he has never heard of such as Glendaruel and Colintraive.

Then last week, Keir Starmer watered down his party’s commitments to both a just transition and the funding to support it.

Just as I am an unashamed SNP independence supporter, so I am equally strong in my view that we have to be ruthlessly honest about climate change and environmental destruction and move heaven and earth to mitigate its effects, at the very least. That practical task is more urgent than ever.

You can want to do that and still want to stand with those suffering from the impoverishment brought about by Brexit, 13 years of Tory misrule and three centuries of the Union. You can strive to bring hope in the midst of what seems like an international permacrisis and still believe passionately in the need for Scotland to be in the normal state of independence, playing a constructive role in the world and flourishing, like our neighbour Ireland.

It isn’t either/or. We can and should roll all those concerns and intentions up into a newly energised and newly committed SNP, playing a key part in a Yes movement based on mutual respect.

That – not backstairs briefing, Twitter bile and self-important tantrums – would be the best way to meet the political headwinds, blowing all the harder not because we are irrelevant, but because the SNP’s mission, moving Scotland from dependence to independence, will continue to gain ground if we make the right choices over the next few days in Aberdeen.