ITV Border's Political Editor Peter MacMahon looks back at the SNP Conference

Alex Salmond
The SNP Conference is drawing to a close Photo: PA

Party conferences, of any party, are not the real world. Activists rub shoulders with fellow activists. Believers speak unto fellow believers.

So there is always a danger - for journalists and politicians - in getting too carried away at a party gathering.

There is, however, a real sense of anticipation in Perth as SNP politicians and ordinary party members contemplate the forthcoming referendum.

Privately many would admit that although they dreamed of this moment, they were not sure they would ever see it.

Now the referendum which the unexpected election of a majority Nationalist government in the Scottish Parliament gave rise to is upon them.

It is a once in a lifetime opportunity they do not want to pass up.

As the conference winds up we now have a better picture of the kind of independent Scotland the SNP is offering.

They are putting forward an intentionally left-of-centre platform with, for example, promises on a minimum wage, no privatisation of public services, and a reiteration of their long-standing anti-nuclear weapons policy.

Now, the SNP's opponents in the other political parties, not to mention the Better Together umbrella unionist campaign, challenge these promises.

They claim they are uncosted and unrealistic. They demand that the SNP should put a price tag on these, and other promises.

The parties which want Scotland to remain part of the UK believe that if they are costed, the electorate will take fright at the prospect of higher spending and, they say, higher taxes.

If the SNP does not produce costs, the Unionist parties will say this shows they have not done the work, or are afraid to do so.

We can expect much more of this kind of argument between now and next September.

Meanwhile, we will at least get more details of the SNP's plans when they publish their long-awaited White Paper - their blueprint for an independent Scotland - on 26 November.

SNP sources I have been speaking to in Perth say the White Paper will be a substantial document, going into great detail - on everything from defence, through social security to the currency - and the Scottish civil service is working overtime to finish it.

With this publication, both sides in the debate will then have a substantial document to work with - the SNP to say it explains in full their plans, their opponents to try to spot what they will say are the flaws.

For the SNP, the task is to use this information, and boil it down into key messages for the campaign.

SNP sources concede that they need opinion to shift further their way and they believe this may not happen until next Spring.

From now until then, however, the party leadership and their activists have only one goal to work towards.

With a revitalised Alex Salmond at their head - you can see that from my interview with him here - the SNP are fired up and optimistic.

Wise heads in the Better Together camp know this and are making it clear they will not underestimate Mr Salmond and the SNP.