Voters are heading to the polls for the first election since the SNP won an outright majority at Holyrood.
Polls opened at 7am on Thursday for elections to Scotland’s 32 local authorities, the bodies responsible for education, housing, care services and refuse collection.
The SNP has the largest number of councillors, 363 out of 1222, and is hoping to make further gains.
Scottish Labour, which has 348 councillors, faces strong challenges from the Nationalists, including in its heartland Glasgow, but could also put pressure on Alex Salmond’s party in places like Renfrewshire.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats, currently on 166 seats, are hoping a campaign focussed on local issues will convince voters not to punish the party for Nick Clegg’s coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives.
For the Scottish Conservatives, the aim is to boost their 143 seats and overtake the Lib Dems to become the third party in terms of councillors.
The election marks the first time since devolution that council elections are being held on a different day from elections to the Scottish Parliament.
The voting system is also different from Westminster and Holyrood elections. Councils are chosen using the Single Transferable Vote, under which candidates are numbered in order of preference. Voters are free to vote for as many or as few candidates as they wish.
Polls close at 10pm and results will not start to emerge until ballot counting begins on Friday morning.
More About Local elections 2012
- Scotland’s councillors get back to work as the dust settles on elections
- New coalition in Edinburgh sets out promises for next five years
- SNP fury as Labour and Tories strike coalition deal to run Stirling Council
- Voters go to the polls a week late to elect final three councillors
- Councils in Lothians strike deals after days of negotiations
- Councils across Scotland starting to take shape after days of negotiations
- Negotiations across the Lothians in the wake of local government elections