The 2021 Scottish Parliament election has been dominated by the constitution, despite taking place during the coronavirus pandemic.

The launch of the new pro-independence Alba Party, led by former first minister Alex Salmond, was one of many major talking points.

Alba is only fielding candidates on the regional list section of the ballot, with the aim to win a supermajority in Holyrood and secure independence.

But Salmond’s return to frontline politics was fraught to controversy.

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It came shortly after a very public conflict with his successor, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon.

Details of the breakdown of their relationship were exposed when both gave evidence to a Holyrood committee, investigating the Scottish Government’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against Salmond.

Sturgeon has expressed that she doesn’t think her former boss – who was cleared of a series of sexual assault allegations in March 2020 – is a fit and proper person to stand for election.

She has also insisted that the SNP will not work with Alba after the election.

Sturgeon’s election campaign has in part focused on her record of leadership through the pandemic.

As Scotland looks to recover from the virus, she has insisted that focusing on the next steps out of lockdown will be her top priority of re-elected.

HeraldScotland: Leaders of main political parties standing in Scots election. Credit: PALeaders of main political parties standing in Scots election. Credit: PA

But Sturgeon maintains that independence is key to building a better nation.

The SNP and the Scottish Greens argue that the powers of independence would include the economy and employment – both of which are crucial in the recovery.

Sturgeon refused to specify when a second independence referendum could be held, saying that she wouldn’t campaign for independence when Scots are still living under restrictions.

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But she did indicate that it wouldn’t be before the end of 2023.

Yet pro-UK parties – Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats – have consistently accused Sturgeon of planning another referendum in the midst of the pandemic.

They insist that independence would damage Scotland’s economy and recovery.

Scottish Labour, under new leader Anas Sarwar, and the Liberal Democrats have both focused their campaigns on the need to build a recovery from the pandemic.

Meanwhile the Scottish Conservatives have urged voters to back them to prevent the SNP from a majority in Holyrood.

If a pro-independence majority is elected, there’ll certainly be a push for another ballot on Scotland’s place in the UK.

And in an election in which the SNP is all but guaranteed to win, the biggest question is perhaps what coms next for Scotland after the votes are counted.

Sturgeon has insisted that Boris Johnson’s refusal to grant a second independence referendum will crumble if there’s a Holyrood majority in favour.