As he greeted colleagues getting off the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from the mainland, a piper played (Scotland the Brave, inevitably) and the glistening Firth of Clyde was millpond calm. Party officials were quick to liken the scene to the mood of the party. This year has seen the SNP double its number of MPs to six, despite the Labour tide, and a more convincing than expected vote of approval for a Scottish parliament.
But with a possible place in the coalition that will run as Scotland's first home-rule administration, assuming PR elections result in no party having overall control, Mr Salmond is playing a cautious game.
At a press conference yesterday he indicated an interest in collaborating with the Liberal Democrats in a Scottish parliament while also defending Donald Dewar, Secretary of State for Scotland, against suggestions that he should have been aware of the troubles within Glasgow Labour Party.
Mr Salmond announced he was writing to Mr Dewar and other party leaders in Scotland proposing formal talks on how the new parliament should operate. If the parties could agree on procedures such as working hours and scrutiny of proposals rather than point-scoring, then Scotland's first parliament in 300 years need not spend its first six months navel-gazing, Mr Salmond said.
The four-day conference would begin the process of developing what Mr Salmond called a "radical and exciting policy agenda" for the first elections to the Scottish parliament in 1999.Reuse content