- But parties that want to stay in the UK fear another vote would hurt post-pandemic recovery.
GLASGOW: Scotland votes on Thursday to elect the national parliament with the ruling party seeking a green light for a fresh referendum on independence from the United Kingdom.
The election for the 129 members of the Scottish parliament (MSPs) to serve for the next five years has reignited the debate on whether the country of 5.5 million would be better off on its own.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon hopes for a majority in the devolved parliament in Edinburgh to back her plan for a second referendum by the end of 2023, or after the pandemic.
That would mean "there will be no democratic, electoral or moral justification" for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to block a referendum, Sturgeon said this week.
But opinion polls suggest the SNP may not achieve an outright majority and could seek a pro-independence coalition.
Fifty-five percent of Scots voted "no" to independence in 2014, which Johnson has described as a "once in a generation" poll.
A Savanta ComRes survey this week indicated 49 percent of Scots would vote "no" in an immediate referendum and 42 percent "yes".
Supporters of "indyref2" argue Brexit has radically changed the situation, with Scotland's fishing and farming sectors hard-hit.
They also cite Sturgeon's strong leadership during the pandemic.
The SNP says independence will create a "fairer, more prosperous nation" and wants independent Scotland to rejoin the European Union.
But parties that want to stay in the UK fear another vote would hurt post-pandemic recovery.
The main opposition Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross told AFP another independence referendum would be a "distraction".
His Scottish Labour counterpart Anas Sarwar said Scotland needs "politicians who want to unite us as a country, not divide us" while some voters questioned the timing.
"I do support independence in principle, but I don't think it's the right time, especially with the pandemic," said David Collin, 42, who works in public relations, in Glasgow.