SCOTS are heading to the polls in what the First Minister has dubbed the most vital local elections since devolution began.

Independence supporters have been urged by some to "vote till you boak" – ranking all parties, including Unionist ones, in a tactical ploy to boost the results of Yes parties.

Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon told voters to "send the Tories a message". 

The Greens' pitch is "building a fairer, greener Scotland", while Alba say a vote for them is a vote for independence

Conservative and Labour leaders are encouraging voters to send a message to the Scottish Government with their ballot.

Douglas Ross wants to "lock the SNP out of power", while Anas Sarwar said in Parliament that "Scotland deserves better than SNP cuts".

The LibDems say selecting one of their candidates will mean voting for a "tireless community champion who will fight for you and your community".

The cost-of-living crisis – prompted by an increase in fuel bills, national insurance contributions and inflation, and worsened by Brexit – has been top of the agenda for Scotland’s parties throughout the campaign.

But it is the impact of the Prime Minister's rule-breaking that could overshadow the chances of the Conservatives.

READ MORE: Parties push home key messages as polls open for local elections

Boris Johnson, along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and his wife Carrie Johnson, was given a police fine after a party in Downing Street at the height of the pandemic.

Paired with the resignation of MP Neil Parish on Wednesday, after he admitted watching porn in the House of Commons, the situation at Westminster has dominated much of the campaign.

The National: SHEPTON MALLET, ENGLAND - JUNE 01:  Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton speaks at a CLA business breakfast in support of a vote to remain in the European Union in the June 23rd referendum on the opening day at the Royal Bath and West show   on June

The Scottish Tories have also seen a downturn in fortunes in the polls over the past few months, dropping to third behind Scottish Labour in surveys done for Westminster, Holyrood and local council votes.

As polls opened, Sturgeon said: "My message to voters today is clear – don’t sit this election out. 

“People across Scotland have the power to lock out the Tories and send a political shockwave to Downing Street, forcing action on the cost of living crisis.

“The Tories have spent months consumed by Downing Street parties while ordinary people have been terrified to open their bills as energy and food prices soar. Let the Tories feel the full force of public anger at the ballot box.

“This election is an opportunity to lock the Tories out of power – but that can only happen by maximising the SNP vote."

The National: First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon alongside the party's campaign bus at Drumgelloch near Airdrie during campaigning for the Scottish Parliamentary election. Picture date: Tuesday May 4, 2021..

READ MORE: Here are the key areas to watch as Scotland goes to the polls

Polls opened on Thursday at 7am and close at 10pm.

While overnight counts have been the norm, Scotland’s counting will take place on Friday, with final results expected in the early evening.

The Single Transferable Vote (STV) will be the electoral system employed during voting, where Scots will be asked to rank their preferred candidates by number, with one being the most preferred.

In the counting process, a formula is used to calculate the representatives elected to each ward in Scotland’s 32 local authority areas.

Despite the expectation that counting will be complete by Friday evening, the overall control of councils will not be known for some time.

The STV system rarely, if ever, provides an overall majority for any one party, meaning parties will be forced to run councils as a minority administration or enter into formal coalitions.

While official SNP guidance urges voters to give the party their first, second and, if possible, third vote to the party, MP Pete Wishart has told independence supporters to "vote till you boak (VTYB)".

In a column for The National, he explained: "VTYB comes from STV-savvy Northern Ireland and helped nationalist parties deny Unionists a majority by ranking nationalist candidates at the top and Unionists at the bottom. Increasingly it is being adopted in Scotland."

"The top of the list is pretty straight forward – SNP 1 and 2, or maybe even 3 ... How candidates are ranked after that will be a matter of individual preference (as long as the Tories are at the bottom, of course)."

He added: "Putting the Tories last in an STV election is as close as we get to being able to register a vote against them. So vote well and vote wisely. Most importantly Vote Till You Boak."