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Scotland’s feuding nationalists seek election majority to keep independence dream alive

For candidate Angus Robertson, helping his Scottish National Party win a majority in May 6 elections would be a dream come true. Beyond that lies a far bigger prize – another referendum and the prospect of breaking from the United Kingdom.

He only needs to look up for inspiration in his push for independence that would end the 314-year union between Scotland and England and profoundly change the course of British history.

Around the lofty room that serves as his campaign headquarters in Edinburgh, a rallying cry to Scottish noblemen 700 years ago is written in cursive script. It is “not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting,” it reads, “but for freedom.”

The prospect of independence is again in play.

Opinion polls point to a persistent, though narrowing majority in favour of leaving the UK, with Brexit in 2016 – which Scotland opposed – forefront in many voters’ minds.

The SNP is also close to controlling the devolved parliament outright, and the last time that happened in 2011, Britain’s then-Prime Minister David Cameron bowed to pressure and allowed a referendum in 2014 that ultimately rejected going it alone.

Robertson hopes that a majority would force Boris Johnson to do the same, and few races will be watched more closely than his own to gauge the SNP’s chances and, with them, the possibility of another referendum.

The Scottish Conservatives hold the seat by just 610 votes, and the SNP needs four more seats to win a majority of 65 in the 129-seat parliament and claim the moral and political right to vote on independence.

“Edinburgh Central is a hugely important seat for the SNP to secure a majority,” said Robertson of his symbolic constituency at the heart of Scotland’s capital.

He grew up in the area that includes the Scottish parliament, an imposing castle perched on an extinct volcano and the richest parts of a city that voted emphatically against independence in 2014.

The 51-year-old, who talks about independence with the quiet intensity of someone who thinks it’s a question of when, not if, recalled a time when nationalists like himself weren’t even elected as local councillors.

“The fact that the SNP is in the running to win this seat is hugely symbolic of how strong the pro-independence movement has become.”

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