Former Tory councillor Paul Aitken has snubbed calls to defend his seat in a by-election after he controversially quit the party.

Having become Barrhead’s first Conservative councillor in more than 25 years when he was elected nine months ago, Cllr Aitken has now announced he is to go it alone as an Independent.

That has led to political opponents calling for a by-election.

However, Cllr Aitken insists he intends to see out his term in office.

He told the Barrhead News: “I look forward to serving my constituents in Barrhead and Uplawmoor as an Independent councillor.

“Local councillors should not feel bound by narrow party politics in relation to what they may say or how they may vote.

“Like all local councillors, I will be answerable to my constituents at the next election. I hope to earn their respect and trust over the coming months and years.

“I hope my constituents will feel able to approach me, no matter which party they would normally vote for.”

It has been suggested that Cllr Aitken, who works as a solicitor for Midlothian Council, had not fully embraced his role within the Conservatives’ council group since his election in May last year.

Cllr Gordon Wallace, chairman of the East Renfrewshire Conservative and Unionist Association, said: “East Renfrewshire Conservatives are obviously disappointed by Paul Aitken’s decision.

“However, we wish him and his family well in the future.

“East Renfrewshire’s Scottish Conservative and Unionist MP, Paul Masterton, has been working hard in the area and will continue to do so, giving full voice to all the people of Barrhead and Uplawmoor.”

Cllr Paul O’Kane, leader of East Renfrewshire’s Labour group, has hit out at Cllr Aitken for “jumping ship” to serve as an Independent.

“He stood on a Conservative platform, convincing a large number of people in Barrhead and Uplawmoor to vote for him on the basis that he would stop a second independence referendum, along with Ruth Davidson,” said Cllr O’Kane.

“Councillor Aitken should do the honourable thing and resign from the council in order that the people of Barrhead and Uplawmoor can decide democratically if they want him to represent them as an Independent councillor.

“The people of Barrhead and Uplawmoor deserve better than this and a fresh choice on who represents them on the council.”

Cllr Tony Buchanan, leader of East Renfrewshire’s SNP group, has also responded to Cllr Aitken’s decision to quit the Tories.

He said: “No sooner has he been elected than Councillor Aitken is distancing himself from the Tory brand, presumably having seen how toxic the Tory party really is.

“Councillor Aitken stood for election on a platform he now disavows but appears to have no intention of stepping aside, leaving locals with a councillor whose views are a mystery to them.”