A NEW Tweeddale East councillor has hailed predecessor Shona Haslam as a “tower of strength” after being elected to represent the ward.

Julie Pirone, of the Conservatives, joined independent Robin Tatler and the SNP’s Marshall Douglas as the successful candidates following last week’s count.

In an emotional speech following her election, Ms Pirone paid tribute to the former leader, adding that Mrs Haslam had been by her side throughout the election campaign.

“I’m following in the footsteps of a fantastic woman, they’re big shoes to fill,” she said.

Ms Pirone added: “I would have loved to have shared the chamber with Shona. She’s been a tower of strength for the Conservatives in Tweeddale East.

“I thank the people of Tweeddale East who recognise that we need a strong Conservative voice representing us.

“I’m a fresh face, with fresh ideas and I’ll be fighting to represent our part of the Scottish Borders.”

In a message to women and girls, Ms Pirone said: “Believe you can do it because you can”.

Meanwhile, fellow new councillor Marshall Douglas tipped his hat to former Tweeddale East representative Stuart Bell.

“It’s quite a shock, I’m still waiting for it to sink in,” he said on being elected. “People can expect me to continue to work as hard as Stuart Bell did, engage with the community and attend community council meetings.”

Mr Marshall, the former chairman of Innerleithen Community Council, called on all councillors in the chamber to work together “for the benefit of the Borders” in what is a “difficult job ahead”.

The final seat in the ward will be taken by Mr Tatler, who was re-elected for a second term.

Speaking to this newspaper at the count, Mr Tatler said: “I’m delighted to be re-elected.

“It’s fantastic that Tweeddale East continues to have an independent councillor. It’s really hard for independents because we don’t have a party machine behind us.

“I’ll continue to work for our community. My number one priority is helping people who are struggling. It’s more important than ever to help people.”

Mr Tatler and Ms Pirone were both elected at stage five of the count after receiving 896 and 1,102 votes respectively.

Mr Douglas, who received 1,485 votes, was elected at the first stage.

Candidates Robert Bon (449 votes), Ellie Clarke (469), Calum MacEwan Watt (11) and David Pye (483) were unsuccessful.