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BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor reports
"The first challenge came from Dennis Canavan"
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Thursday, 26 October, 2000, 18:02 GMT 19:02 UK
McLeish wins first minister title
Henry McLeish
Henry McLeish is Scotland's new first minister
Henry McLeish has been elected as the new first minister of Scotland.

Members of the Scottish Parliament voted him into the post with a comfortable majority over John Swinney of the Scottish National Party; Conservatives' leader David McLetchie and independent member Dennis Canavan.

After his narrow victory in his election as interim leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Mr McLeish had been expected to enjoy a larger endorsement in the parliament ballot, with Labour and Liberal Democrat support.

Mr McLeish won 68 votes, with Mr Swinney, his nearest challenger polling 33 votes. Mr McLetchie won 19 votes and Mr Canavan three.

John Swinney
Mr Swinney was the closest challenger
The election was called in the wake of the Donald Dewar's death from a brain haemorrhage, and under the legislation which created the Scottish Parliament, MSPs were bound to choose a new first minister within 28 days.

Afterwards Mr McLeish told MSPs: "It is a day with, from my point of view, a sense of excitement, a sense of exhilaration.

"I feel emotion, and a deep sense of humility."

He also accepted a "deep sense of challenge" from the comments by the other party leaders.

"I want to provide a leadership that will unite the parliament," he said.

Mr McLeish paid tribute to the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Jim Wallace, who had served as acting first minister.

Jim Wallace
Mr Wallace paid tribute to Mr McLeish
He said: "There can be no prouder moment in anyone's life than when they are asked to lead a great party which I love."

He also spoke of the challenge of leading a country which he loved.

"It is a very great privilege. Thanks for the honour - I won't let you down."

After the result was announced by the presiding officer, each of Mr McLeish's opponents congratulated him on his victory.

Mr Swinney said: "I wish Mr McLeish well in his office as First Minister.

"He will understand that I will fight harder for my party - a party I love very much.

David McLetchie
Mr McLetchie challeneged for the Tories
"He said life as first minister in his brief term of office had been tough.

"I do not intend to make it any less tough for him and hopefully a great deal tougher in years to come."

Mr McLetchie said: "I would like to offer Henry McLeish congratulations on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives.

"We will certainly cross swords in the next two and a half years and there will be cross words.

"But that does not detract from the respect we have for the high office he holds and we acknowledge the demands and responsibilities he will have."

Jim Wallace said: "It will be a daunting challenge to follow in the footsteps of Donald Dewar. Let us remember that Henry McLeish was one of the craftsmen of this Parliament."

Dennis Canavan
Mr Canavan secured three votes
Falkirk West MSP Dennis Canavan also offered his congratulations.

"Can I say first that my decision to stand against him does not indicate any ill will towards him.

"I've known Henry for many years, even before he was elected as an MSP, and I know that he has done good work for the people of Fife and for the people of Scotland in general.

"If I had still been a member of the Labour Party I might even have ended up voting for him. I hope that's not the kiss of death for his career."

Mr McLeish is expected to move quickly to announce a cabinet shake-up and changes behind the scenes, with the reorganisation of special advisers.

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See also:

25 Oct 00 | Scotland
Tory leader to challenge McLeish
24 Oct 00 | Scotland
McLeish in civil servants row
21 Oct 00 | Donald Dewar
Leadership win for McLeish
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