SEVEN weeks ago Theresa May stood on the steps of Downing Street and surprised just about everyone - including the media – with her decision to hold a snap General Election.

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011 was supposed to mean there wouldn’t be another Westminster election till 2020. The Act does allow for one outwith these terms if there are exceptional circumstances - and the Brexit vote was deemed by some to qualify as such - but Mrs May had been consistently ruling it out for months.

Then the Prime Minister performed an about turn and in the reaction of a politically weary electorate, the first of the many paradoxes and ironies that have come to define this poll became obvious: not only was this the general election that wasn’t supposed to be, it was the one nobody wanted.

Early on, it also appeared to be the election we knew the result of. Mrs May said she needed a bigger majority to push through her plans for a hard Brexit, and with her party holding a 20-point lead over Labour in the polls, it looked like England and Wales was prepared to give it to her.

The decision to call a general election was certainly a gamble, and sometimes politics is all about being bold, just at the right moment. But following one of the shortest general election campaigns in living memory, cut even shorter by two dreadful terrorist attacks and pushed in unexpected directions by various events, tomorrow we will go to the polls not knowing for sure who will be Prime Minister come the end of the week. Mrs May’s gamble may not pay out.

Here in Scotland, which voted strongly to remain in the European Union last June, the constitution is still the big issue. The day before voters went to the polls in May 2015, The Herald made the following prediction in its leader: “Sooner or later, and probably sooner, the UK will need to balance the wishes of its peoples with their representations in the political system. If this is not done, or at least attempted, the issues that have characterised the 2015 campaign will return in five years, if not sooner.”

This most prescient warning is as relevant today as it was then, perhaps even more so, and it is notable that both sides of the independence debate have been impacted by the implications of the Brexit vote, which was arguably caused by an arrogant Westminster elite failing to make swathes of voters in England and Wales feel adequately represented, albeit in a different way from Scots.

There are ironies a plenty in Scotland, of course, with opposition to a second independence referendum being the main campaign strategy on the doorstep for the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems, all of whom are talking about independence far more than the SNP. At the same time, Nicola Sturgeon’s party is being taken to task on devolved policies such as education and the NHS, which are, theoretically, outside the remit of a Westminster election, but matter hugely to voters.

Paradoxes are also apparent in England and Wales. Brexit is the major consideration for voters there, and the Prime Minister made it clear from the start that she wanted to them to concentrate on her leadership, making “strong and stable” her constant mantra. Over the course of the campaign, however, Mrs May’s refusal to appear in any of the TV debates and answer questions directly, added to her mis-step on social care, raised questions about whether she possesses either strength or stability.

At the same time Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was thought by many to be a dead duck, has grown in stature thanks to a populist manifesto and an increasingly successful strategy focusing on the impact of Tory austerity on public services such health and policing over the last seven years, and how this could be compounded by the damaging effects of a hard Brexit on the economy. It remains to be seen whether the Corbyn bounce signalled in the polls will follow through in terms of seats.

On a number of levels this campaign has turned out to be a far more surprising and complex than many would have expected. And this should be perhaps be viewed in a positive light, since it highlights that democracy can always find new ways to keep its leaders in check. It also shows that no matter how weary the electorate claims to be, it will still find the capacity to scrutinise those in power and those who wish to be in power. This is just as it should be.

To be clear, The Herald does not endorse any political party; our readers are more than capable of making up their own minds. Also, we believe our journalism is better able to question authority when unencumbered by party loyalties.

But we can certainly make the point that despite what some may say about the homogeny of modern politics, there are clearly very different visions on offer at the ballot box tomorrow.

And, with so much at stake both in Scotland and the UK, there has surely never been a more important time to use your vote.