NICOLA Sturgeon has paid tribute to a veteran SNP councillor who passed away over the weekend.

Stirling Council announced the death of 74-year-old councillor Graham Houston on Monday following a short illness.

Tributes have poured in for the Dunblane and Bridge of Allan ward member, who was first elected in May 2007, including from the First Minister.

In a post on Twitter, she wrote: “I am so sad to hear of Graham’s passing. He was a dedicated councillor and a staunch champion for local government.

“He was also a much loved member of @theSNP family.

“He will be sorely missed and my condolences go to his many friends, colleagues and loved ones.”

Houston had also served as vice president of local authority body Cosla. Cosla president, Councillor Shona Morrison, added to the tributes.

She said: “Councillor Houston was vice president at Cosla for five years serving the people of Scotland from 2017 until June this year, he was respected by politicians and officers alike and indeed by all those who knew him or worked with him.

“This is truly devastating news today and there is very little that can be said that pays adequate tribute to such a wonderful human being at this time.

“Graham was robust in his standing up for and defence of Local Government and he worked closely with colleagues across Scottish Local Government, as well as with others from across Scotland in a wide variety of roles. To put it simply, he was one of life’s good guys.

“On behalf of all those at Cosla and the wider local government family - I offer deepest condolences to all those who knew such a wonderful and caring person.”

SNP group leader at Stirling Council, councillor Scott Farmer, said that Houston was “a cut above the rest”.

He added: “This is extremely sad news for everyone in the SNP Group and I would like to share my heartfelt condolences with Graham’s wife Jennifer, his family and friends.

“Graham was a man of integrity and a dedicated public servant, representing his constituents with distinction to the very end despite his illness.

“That’s no surprise to me as Graham was a really caring individual, whose first instinct was always to think about other people other than himself.

“Graham was pragmatic, had a fine-tuned sense of wit and was passionate in ensuring a better future for the people he represented.

I looked up to him so much in the way he conducted himself in public life especially in how he managed challenging situations. He really was a cut above the rest.”

Youth officer for SNP Dunblane, Josh Scanlon, said that he had lost “his mentor”.

Taking to Twitter he said: “Today, as I reflect on my 20th birthday, I’m forced to pay tribute to a man far earlier than I ever would have wanted to.

“Everything I am, and everything I ever will be, in politics is solely down to the actions of Graham Houston, who was never frightened to give me a push in the right direction.

“Graham Houston gave his whole entire life to the independence cause. He is the giants shoulders that I am lucky enough to stand upon and it is my promise to him that I will do everything in my power to make him proud.

“My thoughts are with his family at this heartbreaking time. Rest easy, Graham. My colleague, my mentor, my friend.”