Nicola Sturgeon describes Scottish Election 2021 as 'most important in our lifetime'

ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith believes Nicola Sturgeon will push for a independence referendum within "two to three years" if the SNP triumph in Thursday’s election

The Scottish Parliamentary Election is the "most important election in our lifetime", Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Speaking to ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) said: "We live in serious times, the demand is serious leadership. And this is probably the most important election in our lifetimes."

However, the first minister said she did not describe Thursday's vote as a "de facto referendum" on whether there should be another referendum on Scottish independence, instead saying "it's an election".

Should Ms Sturgeon win a majority, Peter Smith said he would expect the first minister to push for another referendum within this parliamentary term and once the coronavirus pandemic has passed.

"It's not a defacto referendum, it's an election", First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tells ITV News

Ms Sturgeon's comments come as a poll for STV suggests there is a chance the SNP could win that outright majority on Thursday.

And if the party gets it, the first minister has promised another referendum, one way or another.

However, the Westminster government has repeatedly said such a referendum would not take place.

ITV News Presenter Julie Etchingham looks into the role women and young voters play in Scotland and what significance this could potentially have

Similarly to the polls, even the opposition parties agree the SNP will almost certainly win this election and are instead are focusing on second place.

The Scottish Conservatives were second last time around and have campaigned on one clear message: a vote for them is a vote against a referendum.

Credit: ITV News

The leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, Douglas Ross, told ITV News: "This vote is on a knife-edge, it will come down to a small number of votes, and that's why people are thinking very carefully before they go to that polling station and they're looking at the strongest party to stop the SNP and that's the Conservatives."

Scotland used to be dyed in the wool Labour red. But no more. The independence debate left the party squeezed out and divided.

And on Wednesday, summoning memories of those days gone by, the party's new leader in Scotland had support from the last Labour prime minister Gordon Brown.

Much like the Tories, they don't expect to win, but their mission is to stop an SNP majority.

Anas Sarwar told ITV News: "We know it's a stark choice, we can either have a parliament that's going to go back to the old arguments and focus on a referendum or you can have a parliament that's going to build on a recovery and transforming the economy.

"We are building the alternative than Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP".

ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith explains if SNP win a majority they would not push for an independence referendum for another two or three years

ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith reports "that the SNP will win is not in doubt - the question is will they win big enough for a majority?"

The latest polling for STV and Ipsos MORI confirms they are projected to pick up 50% of constituency votes.

That would give the SNP 68 seats, which is above the magic number of 65 needed for a majority.

But psephologists warn this majority hangs in the balance because the SNP is relying on winning ultra-marginal seats.

Emily Gray from Ipsos MORI told ITV News: "The second most marginal seats in Scotland are either held by the Tories or Labour.

"And that includes Scottish Labour's deputy leader, who holds Dumbarton - the most marginal seat in Scotland," she added.

Dumbarton is the most marginal because five years ago, the SNP just missed out by 109 votes.

The future of this nation will be decided in a handful of seats like this - and that's why so many here say they're going to vote tactically.

Danielle Byars, who is a hairdresser, says she has spoken to a lot of people who will vote tactically. Credit: ITV News

One voter, Laura Park, told ITV News: "I'm not completely against independence but at the moment I need to have more faith in the person that is representing our country."

Another voter, Danielle Byars added: "I work at a hairdressers and speaking to a lot of people who say they are going to be voting tactically - trying to make sure the SNP don't get in." The Union will not be on the ballot paper in Scotland on Thursday, but the result will set a loud and clear tone for those independence referendum demands that are already on the horizon.

As well as the SNP, Conservative and Labour, the other main political parties standing in the Scottish Parliamentary elections are the Lib Dems, Scottish Greens and Alba.