CHENNAI Six Scot Billy Irving declared "it feels excellent to be home" yesterday as he touched down more than four years after being jailed in India.

The former soldier is the first of the Britons to return to the UK after being acquitted of weapons charges.

The men had been guards on a ship to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean but were jailed in October 2013 after being charged with carrying unlicensed firearms and ammunition.

They won an appeal against their convictions last week and were given permission to leave India, ending years of legal wrangles and campaigning by their families.

When the news broke, Irving's fiancee Yvonne MacHugh said she was "over the moon", adding that she hoped her partner would return home in time to spend Christmas with their son William. The youngster was born after his dad was arrested and the pair have only ever met in prison.

The mother, who led tireless campaigning for her partner's release, said she is now looking forward to getting married, stating: "I just feel sheer relief - finally we're getting our family back together."

Yesterday two bagpipers played as Irving arrived at Glasgow Airport to meet family members.

With freshly trimmed beard and hair, the 37-year-old, from Connel in Argyll and Bute, told waiting reporters: "I'd just like to give a massive thank you to everyone who supported all of the Chennai Six.

"I just want to thank everyone, they've been so kind. Thank you for your support, thank you so much. It feels excellent to be home."

The other five men - Nick Dunn, John Armstrong, Nicholas Simpson, Ray Tindall and Paul Towers - are expected to arrive in the UK today.

They were arrested while serving on the US-owned MV Seaman Guard Ohio, which offered armed protection to other vessels sailing in an area of waters dubbed "pirates' alley" due to the prevalence of raiders.

Semi-automatic weapons were amongst the 35 guns found in a raid by police and customs officials, which also turned up almost 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

Authorities in India insisted the items had not been properly declared. The six maintained permissions had been granted by the UK Government and the case against them was dropped.

However, it was subsequently reinstated by a lower court, resulting in a conviction last January that triggered further legal action. Had they not won their case, the men would have served six-year jail terms.

Responding to news of the men's return, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: "It is wonderful news that the men are returning to the UK.

"The Foreign Office has worked unstintingly on this case, lobbying on the men's behalf, visiting them in prison, updating their families and maintaining close contact with their legal team.

"I pay tribute to those who have campaigned for the men, who will be delighted to see them return home after being separated for so long."