Polling stations close across Great Britain after bumper set of elections

How will voters in England decide? ITV News Political Correspondent Dan Hewitt looks at the key areas where voters headed to the polls

Polling stations have closed for voters to cast their ballots following a bumper set of elections across Great Britain dubbed 'Super Thursday'.

The fate of the United Kingdom was a key issue in Wales and Scotland as voters headed to the polls, with the future of the Labour Party tested across the country.

In the Scotland, 65 is the magic number for an overall majority at Holyrood.

There's little doubt the SNP will win overall, but by how much could determine whether a second independence referendum is on the cards.

Who were the Scots deciding the future of Hollyrood, and maybe the union, today? ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand finds out

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon’s push for a second independence referendum means the stakes are high in the Holyrood contest, with results expected to be announced on Friday and Saturday.

The SNP is expected to emerge again as the largest party in the Scottish Parliament after the election, but it wants to win an overall majority of MSPs as it pushes for a second independence referendum – something which polls suggest remains in the balance.

Mr Johnson has refused to countenance another referendum, setting up the potential for constitutional fireworks over the coming years if Ms Sturgeon gets the outcome she desires.

The SNP leader insisted her focus would be on tackling coronavirus and rebuilding the economy.

But “when the Covid crisis has passed, we will give the people of Scotland the opportunity to decide if they want the recovery to be in the hands of the likes of Boris Johnson and the austerity-driven Tories, or to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands with independence”.

It could be all change in Wales - both for Labour's historic majority in the country, and opinions on devolution.

For the first time 16 and 17-year-olds were allowed to vote in the Senedd Election.

An exclusive poll by ITV Wales suggests Labour are on course to lose a number of seats to the Conservatives in the Senedd, but are still projected to win the election.

What impact will votes in Wales and Scotland have on the union?

In England, as well as local council and mayoral contests, all eyes will be on Hartlepool's parliamentary by-election.

It will be one of the first indications of whether Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer has been able to turn around his party’s fortunes in its former northern heartlands, or whether Boris Johnson’s demolition of the so-called “red wall” continues.

The Hartlepool Bookmakers have made Tory Jill Mortimer favourite to take the seat in a rare by-election victory for a governing party.

The Hartlepool contest will be one of the earliest results, with counting taking place overnight.

The seat was held by Labour with a majority of 3,595 in 2019, even as other bricks in the red wall crumbled – in part due to the Brexit Party splitting the Tory vote.

Both Mr Johnson and Sir Keir made three visits during the campaign in a sign of the importance it represents to their parties.

The Prime Minister insisted it would be a “very tough fight” to win Hartlepool, a seat that has been Labour since its creation in 1974.

But the Conservatives hope to achieve a “hat trick” of successes, winning Hartlepool and retaining the mayoralties in Teesside and the West Midlands.

Mr Johnson said: “It’s Conservative mayors who are bringing new investment and local jobs to their areas. A new freeport and green jobs are on their way to Teesside and new trams, Metro lines and station upgrades to the West Midlands.

“More has been delivered by Conservatives in four years than complacent Labour politicians have delivered in decades.”

If Hartlepool goes to the Tories it could be a difficult long weekend for Labour.

YouGov local election polling suggested the Tories could take over as the largest party in Bolton and Dudley, while Labour sources also fear they could lose control of both Sunderland and Durham councils for the first time in half a century.

Sir Keir said it would take time to rebuild his party after the worst general election result since 1935 under Jeremy Corbyn, adding: “I never thought we would climb the mountain we have to climb in just one year.”

In his final message to voters he sought to underline the shift from Mr Corbyn, stressing “this is a changed Labour Party” which was “under new leadership”.

But a senior Labour source admitted “it’s been a tough one” while shadow cabinet minister Thangam Debbonaire admitted the party’s message had not been cutting through.

As polls closed on Thursday night, Libby Weiner was in Hartlepool assessing the mood

The impact of coronavirus has meant a bumper set of elections – including contests postponed from 2020 – and logistical difficulties for electoral administrators.

Covid measures will also impact on the vote counts, meaning results may take longer to come through than in previous years.

The new Hartlepool MP is expected to be announced in the early hours of Friday, with the Welsh Senedd results due by the end of the day.

The results of the Scottish Parliamentary elections are expected on Saturday evening, as are the results of the London mayoral race.

The other mayoral and other English local election results are expected to be announced through Saturday, while the outcomes of the police and crime commissioner elections may not be known until Monday.