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Scottish Cabinet Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 15:50 GMT
Labour rejects cronyism taunts
New Scottish Cabinet
Jack McConnell has defended his cabinet choices
First Minister Jack McConnell has cleared the way for the appointment of Scotland's first female solicitor general.

Elish Angiolini, 41, is also the first solicitor to be appointed to the post, and the first person to be appointed to the job from the Crown Office and the procurator fiscal service.

News of her appointment comes the day after Mr McConnell shocked many people with the extent of his Scottish cabinet shake-up.

His new look team was getting down to business on Wednesday following ratification of their appointments at Holyrood.

Elish Angiolini
Elish Angiolini is not a member of a political party

The reshuffle casualties, including Susan Deacon, watched from their new backbench seats as Mr McConnell praised his team.

He said: "I believe they are people with the relevant experience, the absolute commitment to this parliament and the objectives that we set out, and the talent and ability to carry Scotland forward."

But Scots Tory leader David McLetchie objected to the appointment of Andy Kerr as minister for finance and public services.

He said the move proved Mr McConnell's cabinet amounted to "a ministry of all the toadies".

Mr McLetchie said: "Mr Kerr's appointment is a sure sign that we are going to see a continuation of one of the worst characteristics of this executive, namely its inability and unwillingness to take responsibility for its actions."

David McLetchie
David McLetchie was scathing about the appointments

He also attacked Andy Kerr's record as a backbencher and said Mr McConnell had used his first reshuffle to "settle a few old scores with his political adversaries".

He added: "Unlike the Mafia dons, Mr McConnell will find that he cannot just get rid of his enemies, they do not sleep with the fishes.

"They are there on his backbenches and he may come to rue the day he put them there."

Five SNP MSPs also tabled amendments objecting to the appointment of individual ministers.

Nicola Sturgeon, the party's health spokeswoman, said she was unhappy that Malcolm Chisholm was to replace Susan Deacon as health minister.

She said his record as Ms Deacon's deputy was a terrible one and added: "It's hardly a glowing record for the top job, more like the kind of record that should have seen Malcolm Chisholm follow Susan Deacon out the door."

Iain Gray
Iain Gray "came off the subs bench"

Fiona Hyslop urged MSPs to vote against the appointment of Patricia Ferguson as the new parliament minister.

Kenny Gibson said the reshuffle was motivated by revenge and he poked fun at his decision to appoint Iain Gray as social justice minister.

It is believed the post was initially offered to Susan Deacon but she turned it down and Mr Gibson said Iain Gray had "come off the subs bench" to fill the gap.

He added: "Mr Gray is widely respected, but if he was so great Jack, why wasn't he first choice for that post?"

Mike Russell said the appointment of Cathy Jamieson as education minister was the result of a "shabby process" which demeaned the parliament and Scottish democracy.

John Swinney
John Swinney and the SNP objected to the appointments

SNP tourism spokesman Kenny MacAskill also criticised the appointment of Mike Watson as the new culture, tourism and sport minister.

Backbencher Dorothy-Grace Elder mocked the reshuffle, saying: "Would you board the Arran ferry when you knew it had a totally untried crew?"

And party leader John Swinney added to the Opposition scorn over the reshuffle, telling MSPs: "We used to have Team McLeish.

"Now we have Faction Jack - it's a cabinet of cronies."

But Jack McConnell accused his critics of "hypocrisy that has known no bounds".

He said: "To criticise those who have served this Parliament very well, and then to describe that experience as irrelevant to the position of ministers, is wrong."

Before Mr McConnell's parliamentary appearance, he and the Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd QC announced the appointment of Mrs Angiolini as solicitor general.

Mrs Angiolini, married with two children, who has spent much of her career in the procurator fiscal service, is presently the regional procurator fiscal based in Aberdeen for Grampian and the Highlands and Islands.

Her task will be to oversee reform and modernisation of the Prosecution Service and Crown Office, both still shaken by recent controversies including the Chhokar affair.

Scottish political editor Brian Taylor reports
"The SNP said the cabinet newcomers had got there because Jack McConnell had dumped his enemies"
Deputy first minister Jim Wallace
"You wouldn't be human if you didn't have some personal sympathy for the people who have gone"
Health minister Malcolm Chisholm
"It's a matter of deep regret to me that Susan Deacon didn't accept the position offered her"

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