NICOLA Sturgeon has announced a series of US-style political rallies in the coming weeks.

The SNP leader in waiting wisely wants to meet new members after thousands joined following the independence referendum defeat.

Her tour will take her across Scotland, with a date in Glasgow expected to be a highlight for the city MSP. If she fills the 12,000-seat SSE Hydro, it will be one of the biggest political rallies the country has seen in modern times.

According to the SNP, more than 80,000 people are fully paid up members, making it the UK's third largest political party. Glasgow alone had a near five-fold rise.

Ms Sturgeon will know the rank and file will now be a mixed bunch with a wide variety of views.

It could make for an interesting question and answer session at the Hydro when she opens the floor to new members. It may not be an easy ride for Ms Sturgeon but she is making the right political move.

Of course, there has been discontented murmuring from the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour about the tour. One Tory MSP called it a vanity trip and the Scottish Labour leader said speaking to your own supporters will only do so much.

They would do well to consider organising similar events for their dwindling membership.

The referendum result was quite clearly a Pyrrhic victory for pro-union parties.

When asked yesterday, a spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said the policy is not to discuss membership numbers, suggesting they are embarrassed by the total.

Similarly, Scottish Labour stopped reporting their figures when the number fell from almost 31,000 in 1998 to 17,000 a decade later.

Sources in the party suggest it could be as low as 8000 now, meaning their numbers are comparable to the Scottish Green Party, which saw a surge in membership to more than 6000 after backing independence.

Many who joined the SNP after Scotland rejected independence were previously Labour members.

Some senior activists who stayed with Scottish Labour have since formed a splinter group which will meet at Strathclyde University tomorrow afternoon.

They want the party to back sweeping new powers for the Scottish Parliament, commit to a policy of non-cooperation with the Conservatives and even change its name to the Independent Labour Party - a final uncoupling from the UK leadership.

Nicola Sturgeon will want to avoid similar factions springing up in the SNP. She will be keen to unite the growing party behind her.

This tour of Scotland will be a big step towards this.