Scots are heading to the polls to elect the next Scottish Government – though, like Wales, the coronavirus pandemic means it could be more than 48 hours before all the results are counted.

Polling stations opened at 7am to decide election which could be crucial in determining Scotland’s future within the UK.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is certain to be returned as first minister with the largest party in the 129-seat Scottish Parliament.

But she and her party are pushing to win an overall majority at Holyrood, in the hope that this could help them secure a second independence referendum.

Throughout the campaign Ms Sturgeon has stressed that such a ballot would not take place until the immediate health crisis brought about by the coronavirus pandemic has passed.

Her opponents, however, in the pro-UK parties insist that this would hinder Scotland’s recovery from the virus, arguing that this must be the focus of the next Scottish Parliament.

With the SNP winning most of their seats in the constituency section of the ballot, elections expert Professor Sir John Curtice said there were nine “knife-edge constituencies” which will be key in this.

These are seats held by the Tories or Labour, but where Sturgeon’s party would need a swing of five points or less to claim them.

The SNP, like all parties fighting in the election, has also been seeking to maximise its votes in the regional list ballot.

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But as it won just four of its 63 MSPs on the list last time round, it is more likely that these votes will be crucial in determining the other big question in this Holyrood election campaign – who will come in second.

Scottish Labour, under their new leader, Anas Sarwar, are hoping they can make gains, and start to reverse the decline in fortunes the party has suffered in recent years.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Tories, who became the second largest party in the parliament at the 2016 election, will be hoping that Douglas Ross can repeat the success that Ruth Davidson, who is quitting Holyrood for the House of Lords, had five years ago when they won a record 31 seats.

The other parties at Holyrood are also hoping to make gains, with polls indicating the Scottish Greens could have their best ever result.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Liberal Democrats believe that they, too, can win more seats.

Just as coronavirus has impacted on the election campaign, it will also affect the time it takes for all the votes to be counted.

The need for social distancing, with fewer staff able to physically count the ballot papers means there will be no overnight counts.

Instead, votes will start being counted from 9am on Friday, May 7, with some of the constituency seats due to be declared this day.

The results of the remaining constituencies, along with the results of the eight regional list areas, will then be declared on Saturday.