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Representing Border at 500: Tumultuous times in politics

Representing Border celebrates it's 500th instalment. Credit: Andrew Cowan

We started with an interview with the then First Minister, the SNP's Alex Salmond, amid the increasingly tense build-up to the Scottish independence referendum.

Mr Salmond told the first edition of Representing Border in January 2014 he would win in the south, win the nation, and the September vote would herald Scotland leaving the United Kingdom by 2016.

As history records, it didn't turn out like that though Mr Salmond came much closer to achieving his life-long goal than many - including some in his party and most of his political opponents - thought he would.

It all began with an interview with the then First Minister Alex Salmond in 2014 Credit: ITV Border

The SNP and the 'Yes' campaign lost, by a margin of more than 10%. Scotland had decided. She would remain part of the UK. Nationalist hopes were devastatingly dashed, Unionists breathed a deep sigh of relief.

After such intensity, the expectation was that things would get back to 'normal'. Politics would return to being occasionally exciting but often dull. The campaigning in poetry would give way to governing in prose.

It didn't turn out like that. At times we may have lacked some poetic turns of phrase, but dull it has not been. Not dull at all.

The independence referendum was followed by a UK election, which the Tories won, the Scottish elections when the SNP won most seats but lost its majority, and the Brexit referendum - you know what happened.

That was followed by a second UK election in which the Prime Minister, Theresa May, gambled and lost the Tory majority, and much of her authority.

Oh, we also had European parliament elections in June 2014, when UKIP won a Scottish seat and local government elections in May 2017 which saw something of a Tory revival, particularly in the south of Scotland.

Throughout the last four-and-a-half years we reported these momentous national events from a south of Scotland perspective, recognising that decisions politicians (or the electorate in the case of referendums) make have a direct effect on 'real people'.

And we have not to neglect the domestic 'day-to-day' issues that impact on people's lives - from debates over the future of health and education, to the effects of Brexit on rural Scotland.

Should you wish to, you can still see our programmes and read my blogs on these issues starting here at our website:

There's a lot to see, and read, precisely because it has been such an extraordinary period in Scottish and UK politics. And there is more to come.

One of several interviews with current First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Credit: ITV Border

We still do not know what 'Brexit' will look like, though Mrs May's government at Westminster is running out of time to agree the final deal with Brussels.

And we still do not know what effect Brexit will have on Scottish politics and the continuing debate over the constitution.

When the UK voted to leave the EU the then relatively new First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said she would press ahead with a second independence referendum as Scotland had voted 'Remain'.

Ms Sturgeon thought the majority against Brexit north of the Border would translate into support for 'indyref2', as it's known, and independence.

It turned out her enthusiasm was not shared by the people and the First Minister had to pull back from her pledge to press ahead with a second independence referendum and reconsider her position.

At her party conference in Aberdeen at the weekend Ms Sturgeon will have to balance the desire of her activists for indyref2 with her caution on pressing ahead.

In an interview with me today for our 500th edition of Representing Border the First Minister stuck resolutely to her position that she would make a decision in the autumn once there is a clearer picture on Brexit.

She also launched a staunch defence of the recent SNP Growth Commission report dismissing claims from some within her own party and the wider 'Yes' movement that it was a blueprint for 'neo-liberal' economics post-independence.

Whether her positions on indyref2 and the Commission will be accepted by her party we will see very soon, though the likelihood is that they will be - by a majority anyway. The modern SNP is much better than the party of the past at loyalty.

What is still not certain is whether voters in Scotland will, if they are asked again, support Ms Sturgeon's hope of independence which she holds as deeply as her predecessor.

In our interview today she told me: "I think most people would think that Scotland is probably closer to being an independent country today than has ever been the case in the past".

Her opponents would fiercely dispute that and the polls, though they vary a bit, suggest public opinion is little changed since the last referendum.

However, with the SNP still in power at Holyrood the debate on the constitution will not go away - which some will find depressing and others heartening.

And here at Representing Border we'll continue to report on that, and the other great issues of the day which impact on the south of Scotland, Scotland, the UK and Europe.

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