Alex Salmond keeps the faith

The opening day of the SNP conference in Inverness - and one or two eyebrows veered fractionally in the direction of the ceiling as the first minister appeared to be calling the almighty to his assistance.

Oil, said Alex Salmond, was "bestowed upon us by the creator of the universe". To date, Alex Salmond had evinced few signs of overt faith.

Had something changed?

I think not. His message, I believe, was founded more upon politics and historical parallels than upon religion.

Not for the first time, Mr Salmond was quoting William Henry Seward, a prominent US Republican and Lincoln's Secretary of State.

Mr Seward was reflecting upon territorial rights and the disputes thereon.

Mr Salmond was attempting to suggest that North Sea oil is fundamentally part of Scotland: not the result of benevolent assistance from the UK government or the energy companies.

It was, by that interpretation, a new version of the old campaign, "It's Scotland's Oil".

But, as ever with Mr Salmond, there are other elements.

Firstly, he appears authentically angry at the failure to proceed with the Longannet carbon capture scheme.

In addition, of course, he is alert to the opportunity thus offered to chide and condemn the UK government.

Further, he adds populist bite to the argument for those who perhaps find oil economics somewhat arcane. He told delegates today that it was totally unacceptable for fuel poverty to persist in energy rich Scotland.

Further still, he argues that Scotland could shape a more productive energy policy with the full powers of independence.

Mr Salmond's opponents say the Scottish government has cut the fuel poverty support budget - and they argue further that Scotland could not found an economic strategy upon a declining energy source.

The first minister rebuts both - and did so in his opening remarks to the Inverness conference.

Control of energy resources, he argued, could provide social and economic benefits to the whole of Scotland - while suggesting that Scotland could look forward to at least forty more years of returns from the North Sea, shared or otherwise.