The Alex Salmond case has revealed deep-seated issues with Scotland’s ruling party, which could have serious ramifications for his successor as first minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

On Monday afternoon, Salmond, the former leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), was cleared in an Edinburgh courtroom of a series of alleged sexual offences against nine women.

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It’s a proxy battle that could mean the difference between Scotland hitting the gas for independence or the Edinburgh government continuing its current cautious approach.

Last week it emerged that two heavyweight SNP politicians — Angus Robertson and Joanna Cherry — will fight it out to become the party’s representative for the crucial Edinburgh Central seat at the next election for Scotland’s devolved parliament in May 2021.

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Boris Johnson hailed “the dawn of a new era” and Nigel Farage congratulated himself for having “transformed the landscape of our country.” 

But at 11 pm on Friday, 31 January, as Britain finally and officially exited the EU, the mood among the 1500 or so people who had gathered outside Holyrood to mark the passing of their European citizenship was funereal rather than festive, the rhetoric sombre rather than celebratory. 

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Glasgow, Scotland—In the British general election on Dec. 12, 2019, the Scottish National Party (SNP) won a resounding mandate from its constituents, taking 48 of Scotland’s 59 seats in the U.K. House of Commons and 45 percent of all ballots cast by Scottish voters. A week later, on Dec. 19, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon sent a letter to Britain’s newly reelected Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson requesting the power to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence. (The first referendum, which took place in September 2014, resulted in a 10-point victory for the Anglo-Scottish union.)

On Jan. 14, the prime minister delivered his answer. “I cannot agree to any request … that would lead to further independence referendums,” he wrote in a formal memorandum to Sturgeon. “The people of Scotland voted decisively on that promise to keep our United Kingdom together … The U.K. government will continue to uphold the democratic decision [made in 2014].”

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STIRLING, Scotland—The constituency of Stirling sprawls across central Scotland, stretching from the Trossachs National Park in the west to the village of Fallin, at the tip of the Firth of Forth, in the east. An old adage dating back to the 14th century and the Anglo-Scottish Wars, states: “He who holds Stirling, holds Scotland.”

In 2019, that may still be the case.

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