Later today the people of Scotland will be heading to the polls in what could be the biggest test for the country’s broad independence movement since the failed referendum campaign of 2014. If voters decide not to back the Scottish National Party and other pro-sovereignty groups like the Scottish Green Party and Alba in sufficient numbers it’s possible that the present desire among nearly half or more of the electorate for a Scotland outside of the United Kingdom could go the same way as the once popular demand for a Quebec outside of Canada in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Certainly that’s how the UK media will present such an outcome if there is anything less than a significant separatist majority in the Scottish parliament.
So far the polling companies are presenting mixed messages from the electorate, making for no easy predictions in what has been a relatively lackluster campaign. Most observers are expecting that today’s vote will result in a slim SNP majority in Holyrood alongside an increased number of Green MSPs, as well as the presence of Alex Salmond and one or two of his followers if his upstart party can get through on the regional lists. On the other hand the main unionist groupings, Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems, will likely suffer modest losses.
However there remains the possibility that the actual counting of votes may throw up some surprises. Or even shocks. Scotland has gone through the mixed political and cultural emotions of the divisive independence plebiscite in 2014, the resentment at Greater England’s own independence-slash-Brexit vote in 2016, the frustrations with the many long years of SNP government in Edinburgh and Tory government in London, of mediocre local leaders in the pro-union parties, of a retired pro-independence leader returning in controversy from the sidelines, of internecine rancor in the ranks of nationalism, of nationalist bloggers once synonymous with the SNP now encouraging voters to vote against the SNP, and of a prolonged pandemic and staggered lockdowns. Who knows what way Scotland will turn now? Will it finally dare another stepping stone to freedom or will it baulk at the pace of the journey or even its direction and remain rooted to the spot? Or worse, retreat back the way it has come?