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banner Saturday, 17 November, 2001, 14:59 GMT
Opposition scorn for Scots Labour leader
John Swinney
John Swinney accused Labour of "political hegemony"
Opposition parties have criticised Jack McConnell's confirmation as Scottish Labour leader.

Mr McConnell was elevated to the position on Saturday after securing 97.23% of the vote in an "affirmatory ballot" at the party's Glasgow headquarters.

The Scottish National Party said the result was "deeply damaging" to democracy - a clear reference to the education minister's uncontested candidacy.

The Scottish Conservatives also branded the vote a "sham" and said that Mr McConnell had no real mandate to become first minister.

Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell was 'elected' on Saturday
SNP leader John Swinney said: "It is a bleak day for democracy in Scotland when the new leader of the Scottish Labour Party has been appointed without a proper election.

"Unfortunately for Jack, his leadership bid did not even have the support of a single member of the Scottish Cabinet, and coupled with a palpable lack of support from Gordon Brown and his acolytes in London, this means the new leader will not have a legitimate mandate either from his own party or the public.

"The SNP and the Scottish Parliament, as the demise of Henry McLeish displayed, will not allow Labour to continue to treat Scotland as their private playground, where they have complete freedom to appoint Labour supporters into positions of power."

Mr Swinney accused the Labour Party of exercising "hegemony over Scottish political life" and pledged to stand against what he called the culture of "backstairs deals and cover-ups".

'Serious embarrassment'

He added: "Scotland has changed for the better with the introduction of a democratic parliament, but Labour has failed to change with it, and are finding it decidedly difficult to meet the standards our new democracy demands.

Prior to the vote, Scottish Conservative leader, David McLetchie expressed similar sentiments.

He said Mr McConnell would become leader without having issued a manifesto or policy statements, and with no contest.

David McLetchie
David McLetchie: "Sanctimonious lectures"
"For a party that likes to deliver sanctimonious lectures about democracy and the new politics, Jack's non-election is a serious embarrassment which will be compounded by the fawning support of his Lib Dem lackeys in Thursday's election in the Parliament," said Mr McLetchie.

But Labour's coalition partners, the Scottish Liberal Democrats, adopted a more conciliatory approach.

Party leader and Acting First Minister Jim Wallace said he was looking forward to working with Mr McConnell.

"I have not only worked alongside Jack in the Cabinet, but before that I worked with him in the Scottish Constitutional Convention which set out the guiding principles for the Scottish Parliament.

"Scotland's partnership government has worked well to date, and I am confident that as first minister, Jack will work as hard as his predecessors did to implement the policies set out in the partnership agreement which both the Liberal Democrats and Labour signed up to in 1999.

"We have already begun to deliver on a shared agenda. But there is still much to be done, and I look forward to a continuing partnership, which can still achieve so much more."

See also:

17 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
Scottish Labour elects McConnell
17 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
McConnell's clear run to the top job
17 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
Scottish Labour in leadership vote
14 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
Date set for Labour leader vote
13 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
McConnell alone in leadership fight
10 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
Deacon rules herself out of contest
09 Nov 01 | Scotland
Search begins for new first minister
11 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
Trade union warns leadership hopefuls
Links to more McLeish resignation stories are at the foot of the page.

Links to more McLeish resignation stories