The results of Scotland's elections have been thrown into chaos and results delayed by technical problems with the newly introduced electronic counting system.
The Electoral Commission announced a full independent review as it emerged that counting in elections for the Scottish Parliament and local government had been delayed in many areas of the country.
It is understood that counts in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Argyll and Bute, Eastwood, Perth and Tayside North, and Strathkelvin and Bearsden have all been suspended until later today.
The computerised counting system was provided by specialist supplier DRS, which was selected by the Scotland Office and the Scottish Executive in June last year after a successful trial and evaluation.
Scotland went to the polls yesterday for both the local government elections - using a transferable vote system, with voters allocating numbers to their preferred candidates - and the Scottish Parliament elections, where the traditional ‘first past the post’ system is used and voters mark the ballot with an X.
DRS provided specialised technology designed to read and recognise both X marks and the hand printed characters used on the transferable voting ballot papers.
But a spokesperson for the Scotland Office said: "Counts have been delayed quite significantly today. They have not been declared when we thought they would be."
He confirmed there had been "technical hitches" with the DRS counting system. "We encountered technical problems last night and this morning. It's pretty widespread."
But he added that widely reported problems with rejected ballot papers were "not to do with the machines" but with voters having trouble completing the ballot papers. The Scotland Office was not yet looking beyond getting the count finished, he said. "Our main focus is to get the results."
DRS was unavailable for comment.
The Electoral Commission said it would undertake a full, independent review of the elections in Scotland. "In particular, it will be focusing on the reasons for the high number of rejected ballots; the electronic counting process; and the arrangements for postal voting," it said.
The move to electronic counting in Scotland was prompted by the introduction of the transferable vote system for the country's local authority elections. Electronic counting was successfully used in elections to the London Assembly in 2001.
Data privacy campaigners from the Open Rights Group were also monitoring the elections in a number of areas across the UK on Thursday, examining a range of e-voting, validating and counting technologies being tested in pilot areas.