THE decade began with a deluge of snow – the longest cold spell to hit the UK in almost 30 years.

Temperatures had fallen as low as -18C in Aberdeen.

Scotland’s first ever SNP administration was more than half way through a difficult first term in the Scottish Parliament, having secured a one-seat majority over Labour three years earlier.

And that party was about to lose its leadership and the spring General Election in a ballot box battering that took the Tories back into power, this time in a coalition with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.

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In a rose garden press conference, Clegg and Conservative head David Cameron promised a new era of positive politics before later slashing welfare spending and imposing high university tuition fees.

Those events and those decisions would see the divergence between Scotland and England increase.

As the decade ends, the Union between Scotland and England, frozen in place for more than 300 years, looks less strong, less stable, than it has ever done.

And the relationship between governments in Edinburgh and London is anything but warm.

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Entering the 2020s, it’s unlikely that’s going to improve.

After all, the Scottish Government has its sights set on indyref2, and soon.

Just before Christmas, Nicola Sturgeon called on PM Boris Johnson to negotiate a transfer of powers to the Scottish Parliament to allow that ballot to take place.

The National: Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon

That followed a snap General Election in which Scotland and the rest of the UK seemed to move further apart, with 48 of Scotland’s 59 constituencies backing pro-indy candidates while Johnson’s majority increased in England.

Those results echoed those of the 2016 Brexit referendum, in which every Scots region backed Remain while England recorded a majority for Leave.

While divergence between electoral results in Scotland and rUK is nothing new, the discussion around independence and referenda has changed.

In 2010, pro-union Labour won 41 of 59 Scottish seats.

This month it retained a single MP and defeated candidates quickly entered into public discussions about why, and what that means. Ged Killen, who lost in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, said: “I campaigned on a promise to vote against indyref2, but I lost. The SNP made massive gains on a promise to hold another referendum and, as democrats, we must accept it even if we don’t like it.”

Labour frontbencher Monica Lennon MSP backed a second ballot, as did Alison Evison, president of councils body Cosla and leader of Aberdeenshire Council.

And Malcolm Chisholm, the former Labour minister, called on No and undecided voters to recognise the “incontrovertible democratic demand for indyref2”.

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Supporting the democratic principles of a referendum, of course, is not the same as supporting constitutional change.

But that prominent figures of a party, which has never wavered on its pro-Union stance, should now speak out in favour of a vote which may end that Union shows just how much Scotland’s politics has changed in the past 10 years.

Setting out his stall, Chisholm said the “hardest of hard Brexits and intolerable Johnson” were “not what many No voters had in mind in 2014”.

That, Sturgeon argues, is exactly the “material change of circumstances” that warrants another national vote. “The point we should be able to unite around is it’s not for me to decide” on the country’s future relationship with the UK, she said recently, “it’s for the Scottish people to decide if Scotland should become independent.”

Johnson has yet to respond to Sturgeon’s letter, but his de facto deputy Michael Gove has said the UK Government will “absolutely” not allow a second referendum within the next five years.

It’s worth remembering that the previous round of asking happened just five years ago.

And that referendum came less than 20 years after Scots demanded the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

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The lead up to the 2014 referendum saw politics become the topic of conversation in workplaces, bars and at the school gates. The level of political engagement soared as Scots spoke about what kind of country they wanted to live in.

Discussions covered the economy, industry, services, immigration, pensions, welfare and defence.

Scotland’s Future, the Scottish Government blueprint for an independent future, was made available online and in print during a two-year pre-vote preparation period during which Yes made slow but steady gains.

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In 2012, polling guru Sir John Curtice put support for independence at between 32% and 38%. By polling day that had risen to 44.7% – still heartbreakingly short for Yes voters, but a significant shift nonetheless.

Overall turnout was 84.6%, showing just how strong public interest was in the issue.

Polling has continued ever since, with a number of these showing indy majorities.

In a survey for the Courier newspaper immediately prior to the General Election, No was just a single percentage point ahead, with 7% of those asked still undecided. Excluding those “don’t knows”, it was neck-and-neck.

While debate around Scotland and the Union was broad in 2014, it’s only widened since, and now takes in broadcasting, earnings, skills gaps and diversity, and it’s generated notable changes in our day-to-day life.

Many of those who organised and campaigned then channelled their skills and passion for social justice or democratic principles into a new range of grassroots activity, such as the countrywide Back to School Bank network which answers austerity with new uniforms for children from struggling families, or the CommonSpace news and analysis platform.

The National, which first published two months after indyref, is a product of that change and reaches almost 800,000 unique digital readers every month.

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Both print and digital subscriptions are on the rise and our Sunday National sister title launched one year ago.

When this newspaper launched, it was the first daily title with a pro-independence stance. It still is.

And while Broadcasting Scotland and others provide multimedia services, there remains no mainstream TV or radio platform serving audiences in this way.

Commenting on the case for independence today, SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “In 2014 we were told that voting No meant staying in the EU and voting Yes meant leaving.

“The reality is that, not only are we being dragged out of the EU against our will, but we’re facing yet more Tory governments we didn’t vote for.

“Scotland has been completely ignored since the Brexit vote.

“Our compromise proposals were completely disregarded – and now Northern Ireland has been handed a special deal that puts Scotland at a competitive disadvantage.

“No wonder people across Scotland – many of whom are not natural independence supporters – are now thinking again.”