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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 August 2007, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
McConnell's resignation statement
Former first minister Jack McConnell has resigned as Scottish Labour leader following the SNP victory in the Scottish Parliament elections.

Here is his resignation statement.

It is an honour to have led Labour in Scotland since the early years of devolution.

But today, after accepting an offer last week to help improve education for some of the poorest children in the world, I am resigning from my position as Labour Leader in Scotland with immediate effect.

I took over the job in challenging circumstances in November 2001.

At the time, some were wondering whether devolution could survive.

I knew that the task was to steady the ship and that my priority had to be working on the people's priorities. So that is what we did and the Scottish Labour Party was re-elected for a second term victory in 2003.

It was that victory that moved Scotland forward. Having built the institution in the first term, my devolved government put the powers and authority of devolution to work.

Scotland is a far better place now than it was six years ago. We are more prosperous and more confident as a nation. Our health service is better. Schools across the country are being renewed and teaching and learning are improving.

Families and communities are safer and our international reputation has improved. I believe that we have made this progress because we took bold action and addressed many of the real issues that had held Scotland back.

We prioritised growing the economy, embarking on a programme of improving our skills, infrastructure, entrepreneurship and competitiveness.

We took radical action to improve health - maximum waiting times were cut in half and we led the rest of the UK in banning smoking in public places.

We tackled the rot of sectarianism that has divided communities in parts of Scotland for too long unchallenged.

Sometimes it was right that Scotland took a different path to that in England.

That was always the purpose and definition of the devolution settlement and Scotland is a better country for it.

Today there is every reason to be optimistic that the country will continue to go in the right direction.

Even in the disappointments of this summer, I have felt real pride.

When the latest population figures were announced, I knew we had made a difference.

When the employment figures last month showed we are still best for jobs I felt a sense of achievement.

And when Scots in a position to do so continue to challenge sectarian behaviour I know I did the right thing.

My aim was to ensure that the government I led took a strategic approach to making our small country stronger, building on those particularly Scottish virtues that make our national character unique: our belief in equality and fairness; our work ethic and our inventiveness and creativity.

And that internationalist, outward looking perspective that has been so much of the Scottish identity for so long.

These are Scottish values, my values and these are Labour values. They were the values that drove my government.

Promoting Scotland overseas was never just about helping Scottish business be more successful, it was about the internationalisation of our country; improving the ease in which young Scots could come and go, make new friends and colleagues from all over the world, and ultimately be more able to succeed in the 21st century economy.

Fresh Talent was never just about numbers of people. It was an attitude, a way of marking our country out from others.

To state very clearly what kind of place our country is: open; friendly; welcoming and ready to learn from others.

The co-operation agreement with Malawi wasn't just about the Scottish government doing what it could to help a small developing country.

It was about what kind of people Scots were; that an old friendship could be renewed, offering a hand of hope when Malawians needed it the most.

The agreement has done that, but I know it has made our country a better place too.

If I have one regret it is that we did not win the mandate to pursue the radical and comprehensive education reforms I believe are right for Scotland's future. We had a carefully thought through strategy for Scotland's success.

I hope Labour MSPs are able to push for at least some of those education policies to be implemented in the next four years. But now it is time for me to move on.

The Scottish Labour Party needs to respond to the election defeat in May and hear what the Scottish people had to tell us.

We need to re-engage with our people to develop the policies and the approach which will rebuild our support, because those with the least need us to be successful.

The party has already begun that process of reflection and renewal. I will feed into that, but I believe it would be better for a new Leader to take on the changes that will follow.

It is time for me to put my efforts into new, and different, challenges.

I will remain as the MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw, and it will continue to be a pleasure and a privilege to represent the people of that area.

I want to thank my constituents - and my extraordinary constituency staff who tolerated my commitments elsewhere - their support was consistent and essential.

I want too to thank all those who have helped me deliver change for Scotland, the Labour MSPs and all the ministers who served in the governments I led, the party staff, the advisers, the civil servants and all those who made up our team for Scotland from many walks of life.

Their guidance and encouragement was truly appreciated.

And of course my family. My thanks go direct to them. Their lives were affected in many ways and I hope they will now have a bit more peace to enjoy all we do as I embark on a new phase of my career.

As you all know, in addition to my passion for education, and my desire to work with and improve the opportunities available for young people, I also have a deep commitment to tackling global poverty, and a life-long interest in Africa.

There are few things that would give me more pleasure than the chance to combine those interests while working with good and committed people to make a difference to those whose daily lives involve challenges few of us can truly comprehend.

Having given over 20 years of my life to Labour politics locally and nationally in Scotland, and the last 15 to modernising and then leading the Scottish Labour Party, I want to use the skills I have acquired, and the commitment I have to tackle those challenges.

So, I am delighted - really delighted - to announce today that I have accepted an offer to lead, on behalf of the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative, their work on education in Malawi and Rwanda.

I want to thank Tom Hunter, Bill Clinton and their team for this fantastic opportunity. I will work for them on a voluntary basis, unpaid.

All my life I've wanted a Scottish Parliament, and a chance to change Scotland. I'm pleased to have made my contribution to that.

I am very excited to bring together my other two life-long passions; education to release human potential and ending poverty in Africa.

In fact - I can't wait to get started. It is time for the rest of my life to begin.

McConnell quits Labour leadership
15 Aug 07 |  Scotland
McConnell's career in pictures
15 Aug 07 |  In Pictures
In quotes: Jack McConnell's career
15 Aug 07 |  Scotland


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