EMOTIONAL tributes have been paid as councillors came together to celebrate the life of East Lothian Council leader Willie Innes.

A busy agenda was planned for a virtual council meeting on Tuesday morning.

However, members agreed to postpone all items and instead focus on the achievements of Mr Innes, who passed away on Sunday.

Provost John McMillan opened the meeting by describing it as “a sad day for all of us” before a minute’s silence was held.

READ MORE: Tributes paid to councillor following his death

Mr McMillan said: “He wanted to make a difference and what a difference he did make.”

He added: “Willie’s love for politics and for his community, particularly for the ‘Pans and all of East Lothian, while it was undoubted, everyone who knew him knows his true love lay with his wife and family. His pride in them, his love for them and care for them, was constant in all he said and did.

“That love shone vividly every day in the words he used to describe them.

“Our thoughts, and love and condolences, go out to them today.

“We have been lucky and honoured that they have shared Willie with us and with East Lothian.

“We thank them for Willie and for the huge difference Willie made.”

Party colleague Norman Hampshire also gave an emotional speech and described Mr Innes as “an honest, fair and honourable man”.

He said: “You always knew if he told you something, that is what he would do. Willie was a passionate Labour man. He was dedicated to improving the life of everybody in East Lothian, especially the least well off in our communities.”

Councillor Fiona O’Donnell (Lab), also a Preston Seton Gosford member, said her heart was “broken”.

She said: “When I started covering for Willie at his surgeries, some people would open the door, see it was me and walk away.

“I don’t blame them because the sad truth is that we have lost someone who is simply irreplaceable.

“If the measure of Willie as a man was in the good that he did, then Willie was a 20-foot giant.

“Most of all, that is what Willie was – a good man.”

Labour councillor Colin McGinn described it as “a terrible, terrible time” for Mr Innes’ family.

He said: “We will struggle not having Willie around. His family will struggle more and our thoughts have to remain with them.”

Councillor Shamin Akhtar (Lab) described Mr Innes as “a man of the people”, saying: “Willie had a deep empathy for issues affecting his community. He spent over three decades representing them diligently and improving the quality of life for thousands and thousands of his constituents and for many other people across the county.

“The fire that he had in his belly for tackling social injustice, which is what got him involved in politics and got him elected, stayed with him over the years and never left him.”

Councillor Andy Forrest (Lab), depute provost, called Mr Innes “a true gentleman”.

He said: “He was not just a councillor for Prestonpans.

"He was a councillor for East Lothian because he cared really passionately about it.”

Councillor Jim Goodfellow (Lab) said: “He will not only be a loss to us as fellow councillors but to many throughout our county and in the local government world of Scotland.”

Opposition politicians from throughout East Lothian, including Conservative Group leader Lachlan Bruce, and SNP Group leader Stuart Currie, also paid tribute and shared anecdotes of their time with Mr Innes.