Scotland vote to decide fate of referendum
Scotland is set to vote in an election that could trigger a showdown with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson over a new independence referendum just five years since the Brexit vote strained the United Kingdom to breaking point.
Scotland is home to one of the world's most prominent independence movements and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has described Thursday's election as the most important in the country's history.
Sturgeon, who leads the pro-independence Scottish National Party, or SNP, has vowed to demand legal powers for another referendum by the end of 2023 if her party wins a majority in the 129-seat devolved parliament in Edinburgh.
All the opinion polls suggest the SNP will win a fourth term in office, but they also indicate a recent dip in support for her party, suggesting her chances of winning a crucial outright majority are too close to accurately call.
The only time the SNP has won a majority before was in 2011. Britain's then-prime minister David Cameron bowed to pressure and agreed to a referendum in 2014. Scots then voted by 55 per cent to 45 per cent to remain in the more than 300-year-old union.
Although the last independence referendum was meant to settle the matter, Britain's departure from the European Union, a perception that Scotland's government handled the COVID-19 crisis well, and antipathy to the Conservative government in London have bolstered support for going it alone.
On Thursday, Scotland will elect all the members of its semi-autonomous parliament, known as Holyrood, which has control over areas such as healthcare, education and some taxation.
The British government says the law means that Scotland would require the permission of the British parliament to hold another referendum legally.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he will turn down any request because the issue was settled seven years ago.
The SNP have said they plan pass legislation to hold a new referendum by the end of 2023. They will then dare the British government to challenge the decision in the courts.
Usually, Scotland's election results are announced overnight with counting started soon after voting close. But the coronavirus pandemic means the votes will not be counted until the following morning.
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