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The key modern event shaping Edinburgh and Glasgow - indeed all of Scotland - was the devolution settlement and the renewal in 1999 of the Scottish Parliament, which is based in Edinburgh near the Palace of Holyroodhouse. For the Scottish capital, it has meant a return to the forefront of governance in Scotland, rather than having things run from London, the U.K. capital. Even for Glasgow, its effects have been profound as voters in the city and its surroundings send the most Members of the Scottish Parliament - or MSPs - to Edinburgh. The Scottish Parliament, which is led by the party with the largest number of MSPs, can enact laws regarding health, education, transportation, and public housing, and it has limited taxing powers. But it has no authority over matters of defense, immigration, or foreign policy.

Scotland has long been the stronghold of the left-leaning Labour Party, but in the last Parliamentary election in May 2007, the party garnering the most votes - for the first time - was the Scottish National Party (SNP). Along with a few minor parties, and in contrast to the other big parties such as the Labour or Conservative Party, the SNP favors complete independence for Scotland.

It's important to remember that many Scots, even if they don't want independence, think of themselves as Scots first and British second. And yet, the border between England and Scotland is just a line on a map; you're hardly aware when crossing it. But while the two countries have been joined constitutionally since 1707, Scotland still has a strong cultural identity.

Independence on the Cards?

As of 2010, the SNP didn't have the votes in Parliament to make Scotland an independent country. It is trying to get support to hold a referendum, asking Scottish voters if they favor independence - as it stands, the country is divided on the matter and it is not at all clear whether they would favor it.

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

Psychologically speaking, Scotland is a politically conflicted place. In 1999, its Parliament was restored after being dissolved for nearly 300 years following the union between England and Scotland in 1707. Most Scots have a fierce pride in their country, which is every bit as old as its larger and more dominant neighbor to the south. But whether that self-belief will ever translate into complete self-government is open to debate.

The traditional political parties - Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat - remain staunchly in favor of the current union, while the leading independence group, the Scottish National Party, has seen its percentage of the vote drop in 21st-century elections. But SNP members are not the only ones who advocate Scottish independence: New parties with growing electoral success, such as the Greens and Scottish Socialists, also back full autonomy from rule in London.

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