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The Night Before the Elections: A Visit from Nic

05 May 2021

By Beth Park

Twas the night before the elections, and all through the UK, politicians are stirring, ahead of E-Day…

With less than 24 hours to go until voters up and down the country take to the polls, the atmosphere though tense is notably more muted than normal. Coronavirus restrictions mean the usual handshakes, hugs and high-fives are no longer the order of the day, but that doesn’t mean the stakes are any lower. Especially in Scotland.  

Whilst we’re not in the game of predictions, it seems inevitable that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are on course to win a fourth consecutive term in power at the Scottish parliamentary elections. What isn’t inevitable is an overall majority for the SNP – something which pro-UK parties suggest is needed for a second referendum on independence to go ahead.

The results of this election will inevitably be looked upon as a mandate, or not, for IndyRef2. And although the Brexit result undoubtedly left more Scots disillusioned with the Union, it’s not entirely clear that independence is what the majority of the country are looking for… at least not yet.

At last night’s final televised leaders’ debate, whilst ruling out a ‘wildcat’ referendum in the absence of consent from the PM, the principle of Scotland’s “right to choose” remained the key focus for Ms Sturgeon. Scottish Conservatives’ Leader Douglas Ross, on the other hand, was clear with viewers that a majority for the SNP would lead to divisiveness and, ultimately, distraction from more urgent issues facing the country. Namely, Scotland’s recovery in the wake of COVID-19.  

Results of a poll published today by Opinium are also reflective of independence jitters. The survey found that only 42% of people now think IndyRef2 should be held during the next Scottish Parliament – a decline of seven points in the space of a month. And while the poll also found that Scots are split down the middle on the issue of independence itself, it points to a wider feeling that a vote within the next few years may just be too quick.

So out on the last day of the campaign trail they go… Nicola Sturgeon’s last call to voters is that the result is on a knife edge, with IPSOS Mori predicting that the SNP will secure a majority of 3. Douglas Ross, speaking from East Lothian, promises he’ll put the focus onto protecting jobs and rebuilding the economy. Meanwhile Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar – a surprise hit amongst the public – simply pledges “Empathy. Unity. Hope”.

And whilst the final result is as yet unclear, what is certain is that today marks the eve of a very important decision for Scotland. A decision that could be a gift for one half of Scots, and a lump of coal for the other. A decision that will, undoubtedly, change the course of history for the UK as we know it.