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This is the old Scottish parliament building in Edinburgh, where Scottish Members of Parliament (MPs) sat until 1707. With the act of union, they voted to form a United Kingdom with England. Since then, Scottish MPs have represented their constituencies in Westminster, but the old order is under threat: The U.K., as it exists today, may in a few years be consigned to the dustbin of history.

That is certainly the aim of the country's ruling Scottish National Party (SNP). Interestingly, though, while the SNP came to power in 2011 with a resounding 45.4 percent of the popular vote, opinion polls often show that far less than that actually want full independence. However, that could easily change in the coming years -- and while the issue clearly arouses passions, this lonely sticker was the only one I saw in favor of independence during a week of traveling around the country. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

If the SNP has its way, Scots will vote on independence in autumn of 2014. Or rather, residents of Scotland will vote on the issue, meaning that if you are Scottish and live in England you won't be able to vote, but if you are English and live in Scotland you will. Likewise, if you are Bulgarian or Portuguese or a citizen of any other EU country living in Scotland you will also be able to vote. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

Since 1998, many powers have been "devolved", as they say, back to Scotland, meaning that it has its own parliament and government again. The Scottish Parliament has some power to change tax levels, though it has never done that, and most day to day administration is in Scottish hands. The big exceptions are foreign affairs and defense. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

Much of Scotland is very beautiful, but there are not many people here. The U.K. has a population of more than 62 million, but only 5.2 million live in Scotland -- far less than London alone. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have their own parliaments, but England does not. Anomalies in the way the U.K. has evolved, especially with regard to Scotland, explain why opinion polls show that more people in England are in favor of Scottish independence than Scots. A student from London says that going to university in Scotland costs the same as it would in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, which from this year will be roughly £9,000 a year in tuition fees -- but for residents of Scotland and the rest of the EU who come to Scotland, tuition is free. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

Of course, a lot of the arguments regarding independence come down to money and how Scotland and the rest of the U.K. choose to spend it. Much of Scotland's wealth lies offshore. If Scotland becomes independent, and England does not dispute the maritime boundary line, 95 percent of the U.K.'s oil will remain in Scotland. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

Places like Aberdeen, which supplies the rigs for the oil industry, have very low rates of unemployment. Scotland is estimated to have some 16 to 23 billion barrels of oil in reserve, but how much money that would actually bring Scotland depends, of course, on the price of oil. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

A big issue in the debate has centered on the fate of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which had to be saved by the British government when it teetered on the brink of collapse in 2008. Opponents of independence say that this is a good example of why Scotland should remain in the UK. Those who support independence say it was so big, and that the impact of a collapse would have been so devastating to the whole of Britain, that authorities in London would still have had to rescue it, even if Scotland had been independent. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

Today, the SNP says that if Scotland was to leave the U.K., it would retain the monarchy and the pound. Scotland has long had its own banknotes, but they are the same as any other British pound. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

A typical war memorial from the days of the British Empire, in which Scots played a leading role. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

A painting at the museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment, commemorating their famous Thin Red Line at the 1854 Battle of Balaclava in Crimea at which they stood firmly and defeated a Russian cavalry charge. The regimental museum is in Stirling castle, which was once the home of Scotland's kings. The united military played a great role in forging a sense of Britishness, but that is fading now. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

And pride in Scottishness is returning. You can see it everywhere, from kitchy shops selling kilts...

Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

… and assorted "tartanry," as the Scots say …

Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

… to books …

Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

... to supermarkets. Tesco is one of Britain's biggest retailers, but I have never seen it trying to sell me something based on the taste of England. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

Scotland's museums are also riding a wave of pride. The National Museum in Edinburgh, which was recently revamped, celebrates Scottish scientists who kicked off the industrial revolution, invented television, and ...

Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

... more recently, gave birth to Dolly the Scottish sheep, the world's first cloned mammal. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery has just reopened after a major refurbishment, too. The crowded frieze commemorates Scots from the Stone Age to 1889, when the museum opened. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

The field of Bannockburn, near Stirling, can be pretty bleak on a winter's day with lashing rain. In June 2014, a couple of months before the probable referendum, there will be celebrations to mark the 700th anniversary of Robert the Bruce's crushing defeat of the English here. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

But will all this pride in Scottishness be enough to sway Scots to vote for an independent country? For many people, the first question is going to be: "Will I be better or worse off?" Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

Many of Scotland's industries should not really be affected by independence. Tourists will still come to see its sights ...

Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

... and look for the Loch Ness monster. They will still need to be reminded to drive on the right -- not the wrong -- side of the road. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

Meanwhile, the whisky business is booming. This is the Glen Moray distillery in Elgin, in Moray, in Scotland's northeast. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

Whisky is a big money-maker for Scotland and Britain, and business is good thanks to soaring demand from countries like India, China, and Russia, where drinking Scotch is seen as a sign of status. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

Moray is also home to two big military bases, Lossiemouth and Kinloss. They were recently threatened with closure, but a local campaign spearheaded by the Northern Scot, which is edited by Mike Collins, above, helped to save them -- at least for now. Many local jobs depend on the bases, and if Scotland leaves the U.K. there might be no British military here either. No one knows for sure, but this will be a factor in the way at least some people vote. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

But, and it is a big "but," many who are debating these issues, over a pint in famous Edinburgh watering holes like Sandy Bell's, think that Scots will opt for something just short of independence -- which is to say some form of enhanced devolution or autonomy. Whether England and the rest of the U.K. accept that, though, is another question. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

Until Scots vote, we will just have to wait and see. Image by Tim Judah. Scotland, 2012.

A guided tour of Scotland, as the country debates its looming vote on independence.

Editor’s note: A picture caption has been changed to reflect the correct name of the present ruling party in Scotland. It is the Scottish National Party, not the Scottish Nationalist Party.