The First Minister has lead tributes to SNP councillor Graham Houston following his death at the age of 74.
Stirling Council announced that he died following a short illness on Sunday.
The Dunblane and Bridge of Allan ward member who was also the former vice president of COSLA, the governing body for local authorities, has been described as a “staunch champion for local government” by Nicola Sturgeon.
Houston was first elected as an SNP Councillor in May 2007 and served across a range of roles including as council leader from 2008 until 2012 and depute convener from 2017 until 2022.
He served as chair of the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) from 2009 until 2017 and as a board member of the Scottish Police Authority from 2012 until 2018.
He was also on the Integration Joint Board from 2017 until 2022 that oversees the Clackmannanshire and Stirling Health and Social Care Partnership.
In a tribute, Sturgeon said: “I am so sad to hear of Graham’s passing. He was a dedicated councillor and staunch champion for local government. He was also a much loved member of The SNP family.
“He will be sorely missed and my condolences go to his many friends, colleagues and loved ones.”
Councillor Shona Morrison, president of COSLA, 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.”
Councillor Scott Farmer, SNP group leader, led the tributes from across Stirling Council.
He said: “This is an 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.”
He added: “Graham had an incredible mission to improve the lives of young people, doing all he could to help them achieve their potential, especially the more vulnerable in our communities. He was a proud corporate parent and a member of the Champions Board.
“As well as an active participant in the party, locally and nationally, Graham was highly thought of throughout the public sector, and he was at the forefront of supporting the response of local government during the pandemic as vice president of COSLA.
“Away from public life and politics, Graham ran a small business and was involved in business coaching. He was a private person who loved nothing more than spending time with his family or playing a round of golf at Dunblane Golf Club where he was an active member. I will miss him greatly”
Stirling Council leader, councillor Chris Kane said: “I am incredibly saddened and shocked to hear the news of Graham’s passing.
“Graham was genuine and hardworking, a committed councillor who cared deeply about serving the needs of his constituents in Dunblane and Bridge of Allan.
“Graham was a formidable political opponent who was respected and admired across the political divide and that says a lot about his character.
“My thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.”
Stirling Council Chief Executive, Carol Beattie said: “Graham will be hugely missed by everyone at Stirling Council and by the communities he served with such distinction for more than 15 years.
“Graham was respected across the political spectrum. His legacy will be of outstanding public service and I am grateful to have known and worked with him.”