Local Elections 2012: Low Turnout Feared

Political parties have been campaigning to get their vote out up to the last minute amid concerns of low turnout across polling stations.

The council elections are being held in their own right this year instead of the same time as the parliamentary election, leading to fears that voters might stay away.

The decision followed the 2007 election fiasco which saw around 100,000 spoilt ballots. The problems were blamed on a confusing array of voting systems, coupled with the use of electronic counting.

Parties remained confident, however, that fine weather will help draw people out to cast their vote, filling 1,223 council seats across all 32 councils.

Scotland's four million voters have until 10pm to have their say, although as many as 550,000 people could have already voted by post.

SNP campaign director Derek Mackay, who is also the Scottish Government's Local Government Minister, said: "We've fought a good, positive election campaign and we are confident that we have achieved our objective of becoming the largest party in local government across Scotland.

"Given that this is the first time in almost 20 years that council elections have been held as a stand-alone poll, almost all of us are in uncharted territory in terms of turnout.

"But our activists are out in huge numbers speaking to voters today and aided by the good weather, our vote appears to be coming out in force all over the country.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: "Turnout seems quite low but we are working hard to get all Conservatives to go to the polls.

"The party is fighting every mainland ward for the first time and we have been encouraged by the response from our own supporters.

"We are in good heart and hoping for a good result when the votes are counted tomorrow."

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: "There is great campaigning weather across the country and we hope this will help drive up turnout. Labour has 500 candidates and thousands of activists across the country fighting to elect Labour councils which will put jobs and local services first."

A Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesman said: "Our candidates will be getting the vote out right up until close of poll. At a time when councils are being asked to do more with less, to deliver the services we all rely upon despite tough times, we need councillors who will be local champions, not cheerleaders for independence."

A Green party spokesman said: "Turnout at polling stations today appears to be slow but the weather's fine, polls are open till 10pm and with the transferable voting system, every Green vote counts.

"We're looking forward to the counts getting under way tomorrow."

Political leaders were among the first to cast their votes when polling stations opened at 7am.

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont was campaigning in Glasgow's southside, having already voted by post, while Conservative leader Ruth Davidson visited the ballot box in the west end.

SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon was in Uddingston, on the edge of Glasgow, to cast her vote and Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie visited a polling station in Dunfermline.

Edinburgh City Council reported turnout being "quieter than expected" but hoped numbers would increase in the evening. Meanwhile, Glasgow City Council said it was too early to give an indication of turnout.

Counting of the votes is taking place tomorrow, instead of overnight as is traditional. The electronic technology is necessary because of the single transferable vote (STV) system of proportional representation used to elect councillors.

Across Scotland a total of 2,490 people are standing for election and under STV, voters number the candidates in order of preference.

People in the Govan ward in Glasgow have 14 candidates to choose from, the highest of any ward in the country.

Voters in Dunoon will not go to the polls until next Thursday, May 10, because the election there was postponed due to the death of a candidate.