It is the nation that once ran the largest empire the world has ever known, a country so powerful that it claimed to “rule the waves” in a patriotic anthem.

But last month a “political tsunami” struck the United Kingdom and this once-mighty state faces being broken up.

An astonishing victory for nationalists in the Scottish parliamentary elections means it is almost certain that a referendum will be held within five years on whether Scotland should leave the U.K. and become an independent country.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) won 69 out of 129 seats in Edinburgh’s Holyrood parliament, with about 45 percent of the vote, up by more than 12 percentage points. Their three main rival parties — Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats — all lost ground.

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