A LABOUR councillor whose faced calls for his resignation after a tweet aimed at Nicola Sturgeon has been handed an influential tourism role within the council's coronavirus recovery team.

Councillor Alex Gallagher, who heads the economy portfolio in North Ayrshire cabinet, will lead post-Covid-19 service change and transformation.

Council leader Joe Cullinane has defended the decision and told the councillors who criticised the move to concentrate on' doing the job they were elected for' and serving their communities.

Last month, Cllr Gallagher waded into a row involving the First Minister and the BBC, telling a network reporter to 'grow a backbone and tell Nicola Sturgeon to f____ off."

It came after Mrs Sturgeon hit back at claims she was ‘enjoying setting her own rules’ outside of England amid the coronavirus pandemic on a BBC news bulletin.

Following a complaint to the Ethics Commission about the recent controversial tweet, Cllr. Gallagher was this week cleared of any wrongdoing.

He said: "As for the complaints from the local SNP group, I always felt that they were exaggerated. After all the hysterics of recent weeks, it's good to see that the commissioner has decided not to take the complaints forward.

"The issue is now dead as far as I am concerned and it is time to focus on the real problems for North Ayrshire in the post Covid-19 world."

However SNP group leader Alan Hill, whose party reported the Largs councillor, hit back.

He said: "Cllr Gallagher's online comments were appalling and not worthy of someone holding an elected office.

"In my opinion, he is not best placed to be in charge of any post-Covid-19 economic work. Given his pathological hatred of the current Scottish Government, does anyone believe he is the best person to be representing North Ayrshire in meetings with government ministers?

"Cllr Gallagher should not be holding down any cabinet role and certainly not one that is as important as this."

However, Cllr. Cullinane fully endorsed the updated roles in his cabinet which he says will 'drive change'.

The council leader added: "If we were all to succumb to the SNP group’s level of politicking it will do a disservice to the people we are elected to represent who expect us to be addressing the grave challenges our area faces in light of the pandemic.

"I would urge the SNP group to raise their game and match the ambitions that the Labour administration have been setting out for the area.”

Cllr. Gallagher said he was happy to take on the new role given to him by Councillor Cullinane.

He added: "I am delighted to be taking up my new Cabinet position. It is imperative that we do not come out of this crisis with the same policies and structures with which we entered it. The North Ayrshire Labour administration has put a lot of thought and innovation into our new policies of community wealth building, community involvement, green renewal, poverty reduction, recovery and renewal and I am delighted to be a key part of that.

" t is these policies and this hard work by the Labour Administration and our council officers that will take North Ayrshire forward to what I firmly believe is a better future and a sounder economic and social footing."

Cllr Cullinane added: “The world has changed dramatically over the last few months and we are only just at the start of this journey.

"What’s clear is that there can be no return to business as usual.

“All the new cabinet roles, and the work they will focus on, are inextricably linked in our fight to ensure that we have an economy and a society which works for all of us.”

The refreshed Cabinet roles are: Cabinet Member for Community Wealth Building (Joe Cullinane), Cabinet Member for Green New Deal & Sustainability (Jim Montgomerie), Cabinet Member for Education (John Bell) , Cabinet Member for Participatory Democracy (Louise McPhater), Cabinet Member for Post Covid-Renewalm National Islands Plan and Cumbrae liaison (Alex Gallagher), Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care Partnership and lead member for Poverty (Robert Foster).