And leaving it they are. On this night, I am sure of that.This article is part of the POLITICO Road trip series. To read the rest, click here. The aristocrat explains that this was when he understood.“The collapse of empire is always inevitable. Whether you are an ancient Greek, a Roman or a Soviet Russian.”His tone is as nonchalant and jovial as ever.“Whether this is in two years, or twenty years, or two hundred years, I can’t say. But I think it will. All it will take is everything to just line up — another spike in North Sea oil, another political scandal in Westminster, or another disastrous war. And it’s gone.”There is no wistful or sad look in his eyes. In fact, his manner would unnerve Alan Bennett.“I think it is inevitable. I think it is inevitable that Scotland will become independent before Britain — or England — ceases to be a thing.” I ask him when he realized the country was unraveling.“It just crept up on me during the campaign. It was the way everyone was talking about it as if it was a foregone conclusion. These are people who would just come up to you and shout — “Freedom” — in your face when you tried to get them into any kind of rational arguments.”The aristocrat is still bracing himself, and muses how many of the grand families would leave, and sell their estates to the Russians or the Chinese.“Most would. We wouldn’t leave. We’re Scottish through and through. We’d stick it through as we have 15 bad years, as they tax the opulent, and smash the rich, and run the economy off a cliff.”As I leave, a vision comes to me of England ruled by embittered, traumatized, aristocrats who have lost their lands. A ruling class, personally wrecked.*** Macpherson’s mother is English, but he started thinking about independence at university in England because of the different political culture.“I was sitting in a pub in York and I made a joke about Margaret Thatcher. And nobody laughed. And I thought, what, she’s accepted here!”We knock on more doors and meet more new SNP voters.“I love Nicola,” says one elderly woman, “I think she’s coming across really well in the debates. She’s winning.”Nationalists only ever seem to talk of the party leader by her first name. Like they all know her.Lurking behind Macpherson I note down his doorstep pitch: not once does he mention independence. He keeps saying only that the SNP can deliver Labour’s progressive promise. “Full fiscal autonomy. That’s what we’d like to see in Scotland at this stage of the proceedings. Our policy is what our policy has been for many years. If we think there’s a groundswell of support for a referendum on independence in Scotland, we the SNP will put it in our Holyrood Manifesto and go to the country and get a mandate to hold another referendum. What the first minister has said is we are not planning on holding one in the immediate future.” A man drives past shouting “wankers” at the SNP throng.Many, but not all, SNP supporters interpret vague statements like this one from Cherry to mean that a wipe-out victory on May 7 will lead to the party proposing another referendum in the 2016 Scottish election to take place before Scotland’s next parliament in 2021.Canvassing with the SNP feels vastly different to canvassing with the Labour party in a marginal. There are more activists. They are enthusiastic, even zealous. There is an undertone of something that reminds me of Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on doors with their copies of Watchtower. The SNP are not like other parties. They aim to knock on every door they possibly can — not just targeted swing voters.This is what Labour was: a movement.*** I am following a canvassing Ben Macpherson, the Chairman of the SNP’s Edinburgh City Association, an umbrella organization assisting the local branches in the city.We knock on door after door.“I’m Yes,” grunts an old man, “I’m a big Yes.”I follow Macpherson, as he keeps on going.“You’re the first politician to call in the ten years I’ve been living here,” says one former Labour member.“I used to be with them, but when I lived in London for a bit I went to the local Labour party and I found there were only four people there. Why the hell would I do that?” “My vote,” she says, “the SNP make me realize, I have my vote. For the first time in my life I felt like my vote mattered. I never knew it. I never felt my vote when I was Labour because me’ dad was Labour. The SNP woke me up. They woke Scotland up.”She gives me two leaflets covered in Nicola Sturgeon, and taps the grinning face of the leader of the party. More cars drive past, making their horns heard.This is where I meet Joanna Cherry who is the SNP candidate for Edinburgh South West.Cherry explains she has a party membership of 1500, and that 800 have probably joined since last year’s referendum. This pattern is being replicated across Scotland: the SNP members now outnumber the “British” parties 4-1 — they now enroll a stunning 2 percent of the population. Unionists accuse them of treating the vote as a second referendum.“What we said is this election’s not about independence. We had a referendum last year and unfortunately we lost. So this referendum’s about having a strong voice in Westminster.”Cherry waves as more supportive cars go past. “I was a member of Blair’s Labour Party and I left in 2003. Iraq was one of those reasons. I wasn’t a member of any party for a while. That was when I began thinking about independence — and independence could be a means to greater social change and not just an end in itself.”Here in Edinburgh South West, not only is Ben Macpherson formerly a Labour member, but so is their candidate Joanna Cherry. This is not rare among SNP candidates. Two of the five SNP candidates in Edinburgh are former Labour Party members.Their energy makes me excited, and nervous. Exhilarated, and uncomfortable. And most of all, foreign.I quiz Macpherson as, time and time again, dogs bark nervously as the SNP knock on empty doors.“There just wouldn’t be this Tory roadblock to anything if we left, and there wouldn’t be this need for Labour to keep contorting itself until it stands for nothing.”I ask him when he began thinking of exiting Britain. ***I meet the SNP handing out leaflets at a stall on the side of a busy road. They also give away “YES” badges and little fluffy stick-on animals.The scene is nothing like Crawley.The activists are all having a good time. Their energy feels like a historical moment — or an emotional bubble.“It’s easy to love it when you’re winning,” says Stephen Ramsay, one volunteer.Cars drive past honking the SNP in support. Unimaginable in England for any political party. Vivienne Bon, a volunteer in pink and purple knit wear, comes up to me. The SNP has never won more than 15 percent of the vote here. But Edinburgh South West now looks theirs to win — with some polls putting them as much as 10 percent ahead.One projection has the party set to win 59 out of 59 Scottish seats in the House of Commons. Their best record to date is a mere 11.“British politics” is over.There is now an English election — decided in places like Crawley — which the Labour Party might win, and a Scottish election, being decided here, where Labour looks set to be annihilated.The result is a national political uncertainty not seen in maybe 40 years. Will the Conservatives come first but find themselves outnumbered by Labour and the SNP? Will tactical voting by the opponents of Scottish independence arrest the looming nationalist landslide?Nobody knows: Edinburgh South West is still deciding. Macpherson tells me his great-great grandfather was one of the pioneers of vegetarianism in the UK and became a convinced Scottish nationalist as early as 1928. His cause was for more than 40 years a crank’s, ridiculed in the novels of Evelyn Waugh.Not anymore.“The establishment, don’t properly realize how much the referendum has changed everything. They don’t really understand Scotland.”But why did MacPherson’s great-great grandfather become a Scottish nationalist in 1928? He reminds me that Britain was not a democracy until that year: it was only then that women got the vote. And working class men were only fully enfranchised in 1918.It suddenly hits me: We cannot talk about centuries of Anglo-Scottish democracy. What came before was a feudal, elite, political system. A common, Anglo-Scottish democracy is, in fact, less than a hundred years old.“The was no referendum on joining the Union,” he jokes. ***Later that I day I approach people in a car park nearby without the SNP. Most told me they knew nothing about politics and didn’t care about politics. I was repeatedly told all politicians were liars — including the SNP.“They are all the same. The lot of ‘em.”I find a strong undercurrent of conspiracy theories among SNP supporters. In a car park I meet four smoking health care workers. “The referendum was all fixed, we all know it,” says Barry Smith, stout man in his fifties. “They stuffed that ‘ere ballot. They discounted our ballots I tell ‘ya. We won it for real.”He says he is originally from Yorkshire. EDINBURGH, UK — Savour this dateline while you can. “Edinburgh, UK” could soon — much sooner than you think — become the stuff of history books.I follow the giddy activists of the Scottish National Party canvassing in Park Head, in the constituency of Edinburgh South West. This was once a “marginal” like Crawley, with a two-horse race between the Conservative and Labour Parties.The voters here have swung both ways — electing both Malcolm Rifkind, a Conservative foreign secretary, and then Alistair Darling, a Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, who recently led the “No” campaign for Scotland to stay in the Union. I look around me. I am not surrounded by flag burners.These people are old Labour who no longer believe in Westminster institutions. They wear functional clothes, drink the cheapest beer, and talk earnestly. They are not loons. If anything, they are excruciatingly dour.I feel like an alien, from opulent London.We drink and argue more. Do supporters of the SNP feel concerned that exiting Britain in the years to come might destroy the country as a world power?“Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya,” replies one SNP activist.“Britain’s in decline whether we leave it or not.” In the basement flat of a grand, grey stone townhouse, I meet a charismatic aristocrat who participated in campaigning against Scottish independence. We sit back and talk as the sun creeps away over his thick, green-leaved garden.“We don’t have much sun here, so we cherish it.”His manner reminds me of a pithy remark from the grammar school-educated playwright Alan Bennett on the sons of the establishment. “I wish I could be as confident about anything as they are about everything.”That comment belongs in another Britain. In the weeks running up to the independence referendum, rumors flew around the richest families of Scotland — from the landowners to the whiskey distillers — that so and so was planning to sell up the very next day after “Yes.” There was panicked talk of land seizures, nationalization and compulsory purchase orders.My host, who has requested that he not be named, sits back on a garden chair and recalls it all.“I was handing out leaflets and I received more death threats than I can care to mention. People would come up to me and shout — “traitor” — and mutter they would hang me up with old rope if we were not in a public place. There were many — perhaps the majority — who said they would love to take my window posters but they wouldn’t want to get a brick thrown through the window. We kept hearing rumors that cars with our bumper stickers were being keyed. But what really got to me were the burnt roadside posters people were sticking up on their land: we heard about 80% of them were just burnt.” “Ay. We were robbed.” His colleague, Lauren, a red-wash dyed woman in her fifties held similar views. “MI5 robbed it!” Helen, a third carer chips in forcefully. “Tony Blair! He grabbed half our oil fields in 1997. Thief!”Many SNP supporters have stopped watching the BBC. The carers tell me they now only relied on Facebook for their information. “Its more reliable y’know. Than the Westminster propaganda!” As we talk the carers expressed fears that Whitehall would steal more oil by annexing the Shetlands isles after the referendum. “They’re after us.”A belief in these plots is shared by roughly a third of those I approach in an hour. One engineering student in a green “MAX” hoodie is adamant. “The referendum was stitched,” he says, “they stuffed it. But I voted “No” so I don’t care. I got what I wanted.” A gardener, who introduces himself as Mister George, waits at the bus stop and tells me he is vexed by Scotland’s international situation. “Why does Wales get to be independent and Scotland doesn’t. It’s just not fair!”Wales is not, in fact, independent.***The sun washes a golden hue over Edinburgh’s streets. That evening I go drinking with some SNP party men: a dozen activists, employees, and several candidates.I tell them about the old aristo’s fears of expropriation.“He should be,” one jokes.The party men in the pub tell me 432 people own half of Scotland’s private land. This is why the SNP is committed to “radical” land reform. They want to scrap landowners’ tax exemptions, and support community buyouts.The banter circles about the grouse moors. One leading activist explains he recently met an Etonian.“He told me I go to Scotland every year and I don’t want Scotland to become independent. Fuck you! Scotland’s not your holiday camp mate.”What about the aristo’s stories of street aggression?“He’s just not used to working class people expressing themselves,” says Jamie Szymkowiak, an SNP campaigner.Many tell me they don’t watch the BBC because they can’t get “the truth” from the channel. But they also tell me they are very embarrassed by the widespread belief in MI5 conspiracy theories about the referendum in the camp.“We just psychologically weren’t ready. We lost,” says Moni Tagore, an activist. We knock on 15 doors. All but one is voting SNP. Many explain they voted Labour mechanically for decades. These votes are now being cast enthusiastically. There is a glee to these voters, I have never seen in Britain.“I can’t put your poster up,” says one bald old man, “as I might get a brick thrown when they leave the pub.”Macpherson is one of the rising stars of the SNP. But like most of its new members and voters, he did not begin as a nationalist — nor would he describe himself as one.“I didn’t get into to this to just be mega-Scottish.”His ambition is to be a Scottish politician. “What you are seeing has come out of feeling betrayed by Blair’s government not delivering,” he says. “The SNP is taking Labour’s ground. To be blunt, in a lot of ways — the SNP is a better Labour party.”I joke: But you are burying Britain on this quiet street.“You say that so negatively. It’s just changing,” he smiles. “It’s just evolving. Britain will still exist. It will just be looser, like Scandinavia.”The faces on the doorstep are strikingly different from those in England. Scotland is 94% white British or Irish. There is neither widespread concern about immigration nor does the Labour party have a sizable minority support block. The issues both nations care about are now out of sync.I drive into town with Macpherson.Pebbledash gives way to grand stone villas.