TURNOUT in today’s election could be up to ten per cent higher in the Capital than last time, thanks to increased public interest and the “referendum effect”, experts predict.
Polls opened at 7am and will close at 10pm.
No-one is forecasting a turnout to equal the almost 85 per cent achieved for last September’s independence poll.
But thousands more people are registered to vote in Edinburgh and the Lothians at this election compared with the 2010 vote.
An Edinburgh University study earlier this year found 76 per cent of Scots questioned said they planned to vote this time round, compared with 64 per cent in Wales, 63 per cent in England and 55 per cent in Northern Ireland.
Politics guru John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, predicted an engaged electorate would lead to an above-average turnout,
In 2010 the average turnout across Scotland was 63.8 per cent – below the UK figure of 65.1 per cent, but up on the 60.6 per cent turnout in Scotland in 2005 and the record Scottish low of 58.2 per cent in the 2001 general election.
Turnouts in Lothian in 2010 ranged from 63.1 per cent in Livingston to 73.8 per cent in Edinburgh South.
Prof Curtice said turnout south of the Border was expected to be around 65 per cent, although the tight race could push it up slightly.
He said: “Turnout could well be 75 per cent in Scotland. The referendum saw a historically high turnout and we won’t see a repeat of that, but it should certainly be higher than in England and Wales.”
He said while one poll had suggested a high turnout might help the SNP, two others had indicated it would not benefit any one party significantly.
Spread betting firm Sporting Index has predicted that the turnout in Scotland will be around 73.5 per cent, compared with just under 69 per cent UK-wide.
Brian Brown, deputy electoral registration officer for Lothian, said the increased number of people on the register was likely to translate into more people voting.
“More people on the register suggests a higher turnout,” he said. “It possibly won’t be as high as the referendum, but higher than previous elections is where the smart money is – perhaps in the mid-70s.”
Mr Brown said the increase in people registered to vote was due to a combination of factors, including the “referendum effect” and more efforts to get people to sign up.
He said: “There is undoubtedly a referendum bounce and we took a slightly different approach to our canvass, going door-to-door to reach all the people who have not returned their forms.”
Voters should expect sunshine and perhaps some scattered showers, with lighter winds making it feel a little warmer, weather forecasters predicted.
As soon as the polls close, ballot boxes from all over the Capital will be whisked to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, where the votes in all five city seats will be counted. A declaration is expected around 4am.
The East Lothian result is expected to be declared at Haddington Corn Exchange at 3am. Midlothian – counting at the Lasswade Centre, Bonnyrigg – is expected around 3.30am, as are Livingston and Linlithgow, which are being counted at Bathgate Sports Centre.