People in the UK have been voting in separate elections that were considered likely to deal a heavy blow to Tony Blair just before he announces when he is stepping down as Prime Minister.
Most of the focus has been in Scotland where pre-election surveys suggested Nationalists would top the poll for the first time. An assembly vote is underway in Wales and balloting for municipal authorities is taking place in England.
Nationalist leader Alex Salmand has promised a referendum on independence within four years if his party wins, though analysts doubt Scots would ultimately vote to break from the UK.
A victory for the nationalists would, however, be damaging for Gordon Brown, the man widely expected to take over from Blair as Prime Minister. He is himself a Scot, and the country with a population of 5 million, has traditionally been a major power base for Labour.
The local council elections south of the border are expected to measure the opposition Conservatives’ progress as they rebuild their challenge for power in the next general election, to be held by 2010.