Historic Stirling sees battle for Scotland’s future

STIRLING, UNITED KINGDOM (AFP) – Bullet marks in Stirling’s grey-stone walls testify to past battles between Scotland and England, and another momentous fight is now under way in the picturesque university city.

The country votes for a new Scottish Parliament on Thursday, with the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) seeking public backing for another independence referendum.

It is betting that Brexit – Britain’s divisive departure from the European Union (EU) – and the coronavirus pandemic have changed the national mood after a “no” vote in 2014.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP is predicted to become the largest party in the Edinburgh Parliament but may not achieve a majority without forming a coalition.

Her foes are vying for the support of those who dislike the idea of pushing for a split from the United Kingdom (UK) once the virus is under control. But the battle for hearts and minds is taking place largely behind closed doors due to COVID-19 restrictions. Locals have only just begun to venture out again to cafés and shops.

The country votes for a new Scottish Parliament with the ruling Scottish National Party seeking public backing for another independence referendum. PHOTO: AFP

In Stirling, 30 miles from Edinburgh, a “Vote SNP” poster in a flat window near the railway station is one of the few signs related to the upcoming vote.

Young SNP activists shivered on a chilly afternoon as Alyn Smith, who represents the party at the UK Parliament in London, chatted to locals.

“It’s the strangest election I’ve ever fought,” he told AFP, taking a break from campaigning for local councillor Evelyn Tweed who is hoping to become the city’s latest SNP lawmaker.