Voters go to the polls to elect councillors across Scotland

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Voters will go to the polls on Thursday to elect 1,227 councillors across Scotland's 32 local authorities.

The ballot will determine which political parties can form council administrations either by securing majority or minority control, or by agreeing coalition deals.

The local government vote takes place just five weeks before the General Election, and follows campaigning across the country by political leaders.

While the election will provide an indication of support ahead of the Westminster poll, politicians from all parties stressed the important role councils play in areas such as education and social care, and have urged Scots to use their vote.

Under the single transferable voting system (STV), voters are asked to rank the candidates in order of preference, with three or four councillors being elected to serve any one ward.

Votes will be tallied at count centres across Scotland on Friday, with results expected from around lunchtime.

The SNP will hope to steal Labour's power base at Glasgow City Council - where the latter has majority control at present.

Party leader Nicola Sturgeon also said that a vote for the SNP will protect local services.

The First Minister added: "At the polling station today, people need to vote SNP to stop Tory cuts, protect our public services and invest in our communities.

"An SNP vote is the only way to guarantee more affordable housing, a transformation in early learning and childcare, investing in our schools, more money and power for local communities and increased support for small businesses.

"Our council candidates will work hard to serve their constituencies, to make Scotland's communities stronger, safer and more successful places to live and work in."

Meanwhile the Scottish Conservatives will aim to build on their success at last year's Holyrood elections, which saw Ruth Davidson win a constituency seat in the capital.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale urged voters to back a "local champion" at the ballot box.

She said: "Today, voters can send the SNP a message that they do not want another divisive independence referendum.

"They have the chance to tell Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson that cutting local services to the bone is not just wrong - it is unacceptable.

"With Scottish Labour, people have the chance to elect a local champion who will stand up for communities and say no to a divisive second independence referendum."