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Donald Dewar Saturday, 14 October, 2000, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Scottish Labour sets leadership date
Donald Dewar
Donald Dewar's death means a leadership battle
The Scottish Labour Party has announced plans to elect an interim leader in a week's time.

The move came four days after the untimely death of leader and Scottish First Minister Donald Dewar.

A spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party told BBC News Online that the election would take place in Stirling on Saturday, 21 October.

Henry McLeish
Henry McLeish is considered a leading contender
He said: "There will be a meeting of the executive committee of the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish parliamentary Labour group."

The election will take the form of a secret ballot with nominations from the floor.

The spokesman said that, as yet, no-one has come forward to declare themselves as a candidate.

The law obliges the party to name a new first minister within 28 days of Mr Dewar's death but Labour's cumbersome selection procedure mitigates against that.

So it has been decided to convene a meeting of the 54 Labour MSPs and the 27 voting members of the executive to pick a new leader.

Two MSPs who are also members of the executive will have only one vote each.

The effect of the process would be for Labour's interim leader to be elected first minister - provided the Liberal Democrat MSPs in the coalition supported Labour.

Electoral college

It is thought highly likely that Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Minister Henry McLeish and Finance Minister Jack McConnell will emerge as the two main candidates.

BBC Scotland Political Editor, Brian Taylor, said: "The winner will be the executive nominee for first minister, who will then face confirmation by Labour's full-scale electoral college.

"That could mean a further challenge, although senior party figures say the stage one winner might expect a free run."

The electoral college will also elect someone to the post of deputy leader.

Jim Wallace, leader of Labour's Scottish Liberal Democrat coalition partners, was appointed to the position of acting first minister after Mr Dewar's death.

Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell is also expected to stand
The deputy leader, who also performed the role when Mr Dewar underwent heart surgery earlier in the year, will step down when the majority party elects its new leader.

Details of the procedure were later circulated by Lesley Quinn, the party's general secretary in Scotland.

She said: "In view of the many enquiries I have received on the process of electing an interim Labour leader in the Scottish Parliament, I have decided to make public the procedures which will govern the election."

The 28-day requirement to appoint a new leader - effectively only 20 days from the time of Mr Dewar's funeral on Wednesday in Glasgow - was written into the Scotland Act to avoid prolonged and messy coalition wrangles in a parliament where coalitions were always likely to become a fact of life.

Consultation with executive

The Labour Party's rule 5a states: "Where the party is in government, and the party leader for whatever reason becomes permanently unavailable, the Cabinet in consultation with the national executive appoints one of its members to serve as party leader, until a ballot under the rules can be carried out."

"As the Scottish Executive Cabinet contains non-Labour party members, the above reference to "Cabinet" will be taken as the Scottish Parliamentary Labour Group."

The document goes on to state that all those attending will have one vote and a secret ballot will be held to elect "the interim leader of Labour in a Scottish Parliament".

"Thereafter, a full electoral college will be conducted as within the party rules."

  • Thousands of people observed a minute's silence in memory of Mr Dewar at sporting events throughout Scotland on Saturday.
    BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor
    "The winner will be the executive nominee for first minister"

    A man's a man
    An audio tribute to Donald Dewar
    AUDIO/VIDEO  real 14k
    Click on the stories to find out more

    Key stories

    The tributes

    Filling the void


    See also:

    13 Oct 00 | Donald Dewar
    12 Oct 00 | Scotland
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