A FORMER councillor who helped Largs twin with Andernos Les Bains in France has passed away.

Tributes have poured in locally and from overseas for Richard Wilkinson, who died in Crosshouse Hospital after a short illness at the age of 72.

He was a Conservative councillor who represented Largs, Fairlie and and the local district over a 20 year period, stretching back to the formation of Strathclyde Regional Council in 1978.

The father-of-two was heavily involved as a volunteer in various groups including the Brisbane Queen, Viking Festival, Fairlie Fairtrade, as well as being the long-erving chairman of the Largs Town Twinning Committee.

Mr Wilkinson, who was schooled in Irvine, once stood as a Conservative candidate in Inverclyde for the Scottish Government and lived in West Kilbride.

He was chairman of the North Ayrshire Conservatives and sat on the management board of the party in Edinburgh.

Away from politics, his role as chairman of the Town Twinning Association resulted in many exchange trips between Largs and France.

Mr Wilkinson also served as the first chairman of the Hunterston site stakeholders public liaison group when it launched.

Interim Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw, pictured with Mr Wilkinson, led the tributes.

He said: "It is an especially sad day for the Scotland Conservatives with the death of Richard Wilkinson.

"Alongside his late wife Anne, Richard has been a constant through my more than 40 years in politics.

"The nicest and most loyal of men, he will be missed by the many he befriended and did so much for."

Conservative group leader Tom Marshall commented: "Richard was a real gentleman

"I have known him for a number of years and enjoyed working with him. One of his proudest moments was at the last local elections where seven Conservative councillors were elected. That was in no small part due to him.

"We extend own deepest sympathy to his family."

West Kilbride councillor Todd Ferguson said: “I am deeply saddened by the news or Richard's passing.

"I have known him since I was a child and he will be sorely missed.

"Had it had not been for his support, belief and mentoring I would never have considered standing for council. I owe him a great debt of gratitude for his sound counsel and steadying influence.

"My thoughts and prayers are with his daughter Victoria and son Miles during this difficult time."

West of Scotland Conservative MSP Jamie Greene said: "Richard is the main reason I am doing the job I am today."

Mr Wilkinson was married to former West Kilbride postmistress Anne, who passed away in December 2017. She was also very active in voluntary groups including the Town Twinning and West Kilbride Community Council.

Richard was a senior manager at Lothian Health Board before becoming a manager at Hansel Village in South Ayrshire, which provides services to people living with learning disabilities.

Former Andernos town twinning chairman Eric Arnaud, a firm friend of Mr Wilkinson, said he was 'devastated' to hear the news.

Labour councillor Alex Gallagher said: "This is very sad news. Richard was an effective local councillor who represented the local community well.

"He very much led the way with the Largs Town Twinning group and will certainly be missed."

Independent councillor Ian Murdoch added: "Richard was a very hard working councillor. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends."