POLLING stations have been open since 7am in one of the closest-fought general elections in recent times.
By 5pm one third of Shetland’s 15,000 voters had already been to the polling booths.
More than 34,000 islanders are being asked to choose from five candidates for the Orkney and Shetland seat, which has been a Liberal seat since 1950.
The candidates are: Donald Cameron (Conservatives), Alistair Carmichael (Liberal Democrats), Gerry McGarvey (Labour), Danus Skene (SNP) and Robert Smith (UKIP).
Islanders in Orkney can cast their votes in 10 polling stations, while Shetland has 28 between Haroldswick in the north and Dunrossness in the south.
In Orkney 4,114 people have asked to cast their vote by postal ballot including everybody from the outer isles.
In Shetland the number of postal votes stands at 2,702, around 15 per cent of the electorate of 17,796.
In a break with traditional the election count will take place in Lerwick on Thursday night for the first time in living memory.
Returning officer Alistair Buchan, the former SIC chief executive, said Kirkwall had historically been the place to host general election counts, and he felt it was high time for a change.
“It is only fair and reasonable that we should share the count and give people in Shetland who are interested the opportunity to come along and see what is a very important democratic process,” he said.
The count of the first ballot boxes from Lerwick will start just after 10pm on Thursday, with the Orcadian boxes expected to arrive at 1am after being flown to Shetland by special Loganair charter.
The election result for Orkney and Shetland is expected to be announced at around 3.30am on Friday. Shetland News will be reporting live from the count as of 10pm.
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