And the winner is...

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FIFE Council has hit back over harsh criticism of its decision to abandon the tradition of counting votes on the night of the election.

The Kingdom will be among the last to declare its Scottish Parliamentary winners after the local authority decided to scrap the count straight after the polls close ... and start instead on Friday morning.

It says the move will mean the count can be conducted accurately and securely.

But the decision has come under fire from large numbers of political candidates in Fife, and MPs.

Conservative candidate Ian McFarlane told the Press the move was “a very bad idea” and added: “It takes all the excitement out of the election. They say accuracy is the most important thing - but every election that there’s ever been has happened overnight. There isno reason not to do that again.

Pathetic

“It’s a pathetic decision to have made.’’

Kirkcaldy’s SNP candidate David Torrance said the move was “disappointing.’’

He added: ‘’I would rather the people of Kirkcaldy got to know the results as soon as possible.”

Labour candidate Marilyn Livingstone addded: “It’s disappointing but we are just going to have to make the best of it.

‘‘The bigger mistake is having the referendum vote at the same time.

‘‘The Scottish Parliament elections are very important and should be stand-alone - that’s why the local council elections were moved to next year. We have evidence of the problems last time and now we have this again.”

However, not all candidates have been upset by the move.

Liberal Democrats’John Mainland, said: “What’s important is we get the votes counted properly and correctly, and that we get accurate results.

Timing issue

“Once the ballot boxes are closed at 10 p.m. on Thursday night what will be will be and there’s nothing else we can do. It’s unfortunate that what will be in Fife will be after everywhere else.”

Depute returning officer Iain Grant said the question of timing of election counts has been an issue for a number of years, particularly following the 2007 count where there were computer software glitches and confusion over the ballot paper.

Staffing, the size of count centres and fact the AV referendum will not be counted until 4 p.m. on Friday were all factors in delaying until Friday morning, he added.

The Kirkcaldy count will be at at Fife Institute, Glenrothes.

There will also be counts in Dunfermline, and St Andrews.

Fife Council is gearing up for the elections and referendum vote on May 5, with work already well underway to ensure voting on the day goes smoothly.

Depute returning officer Iain Grant explained: “It’s our job to make sure the election is run smoothly, fairly, democratically and with the interests of the voter at heart. It’s a big responsibility and one that we take very seriously.

“With three ballot papers to deal with this year, the Electoral Commission is issuing an explanatory booklet to every household over the course of the next few weeks to help voters understand the process of voting.”

Constituents have until April 15 to register to vote on May 5.