Milestones put country on route to decision day

THERE are several milestones along the very long route that has led Scotland to the point where independence is now a possibility.

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Scotland now faces its biggest ever decision
Scotland now faces its biggest ever decision

However, while the SNP has grown in size and influence over the last 80 years, the pivotal point was devolution and the re-convening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

Without devolution, the product of a Labour UK Government, and the subsequent growth of the SNP there would be no referendum.

The Yes campaign may well have support from other smaller parties, civic organisations and individuals with varying party preferences and different political persuasions, but without the SNP there wouldn't be a Yes campaign.

Even when the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, few thought that 15 years later the country would be contemplating whether to break the 300-year-old union, but it has proven to be the catalyst.

Without the Scottish Parliament we would not have the mechanism for the SNP to form a majority government and the mandate to call a referendum.

Since the first parliamentary session in 1999, 11 men and women have been returned as SNP MSPs for Glasgow.

Only two, Nicola Sturgeon and Sandra White have been constants and have witnessed the ups and downs of their party, which before the 2007 election had only two Glasgow MSPs and 27 in Scotland

It now has seven in Glasgow, a majority in Scotland and a growing confidence it can win a majority Yes vote.

Sandra White said in 1999 when she was sworn in to the first Parliament she was one of the few who did foresee a time in her political career when Scotland could be independent.

She said: "I did envisage it and I thought as soon as we were the majority party we should have done it. So I expected it to be sooner. But I am delighted it is coming now."

She admitted that public support for independence in the early years of the ­Parliament was not strong enough.

She added: "On the doorsteps the feedback was not in favour, but we were moving that way.

"It has grown and become more professional. We have reached into communities and organisations and support has grown from the bottom up."

SHE continued: "The more people we got elected the more people saw the SNP as a grown-up political party and confidence in independence grew."

During the 1997 devolution campaign, George, now Lord, Robertson famously said it would "kill nationalism stone dead".

His spectacularly inaccurate prediction may not have been shared by all, but Scotland being on the verge of independence 15 years later was not on the mind of many.

Dr Neil McGarvey, Politics Teaching Fellow at Strathclyde University, said it was an unlikely scenario then. He said: "No-one would've envisaged it.

"The game changer was 2011 election which gave the SNP a majority on the floor of the Scottish Parliament to push it through. Even in the SNP manifestoes of 2007 and 2011 independence was only an aspiration.

"The Scottish Parliament created space for the SNP to grow."

stewart.paterson@eveningtimes.co.uk

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