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banner Thursday, 8 November, 2001, 18:02 GMT
Wallace steps into the breach
Jim Wallace
Jim Wallace steps into Mr McLeish's shoes
Liberal Democrat leader Jim Wallace paid tribute to Henry McLeish as he took over as Scotland's acting first minister.

Presiding Officer Sir David Steel confirmed the appointment after the justice minister was nominated for the role by his cabinet colleagues.

Mr Wallace said the cabinet had been "saddened" by Henry McLeish's resignation - but respected his decision.


It must have been a very difficult personal decision for him to take but we all respect that decision

Jim Wallace
The parliament's deputy first minister has taken charge of the country twice before in place of the late Donald Dewar.

He was nominated to fill that caretaker role for a third time after a cabinet meeting which followed Mr McLeish's surprise decision to resign on Thursday over the Officegate controversy.

Later that afternoon Sir David confirmed that he had conferred on Mr Wallace the powers of first minister until Mr McLeish's replacement is appointed.

Labour has 28 days to choose Scotland's third first minister, with Education Minister Jack McConnell tipped as the early favourite.

Henry McLeish
Henry McLeish's resignation shocked MSPs
Speaking on the steps outside St Andrew's House in Edinburgh after the cabinet meeting, Mr Wallace said: "I and all members of the cabinet are saddened that Henry McLeish has resigned as first minister in such circumstances.

"Everyone will appreciate from his statement to parliament this afternoon his reasons for doing so.

"It must have been a very difficult personal decision for him to take but we all respect that decision."

He said he had formed a good personal and working relationship with Mr McLeish, who he described as "a decent man".

"Our politics may differ but I have never had any doubt that his priority has been to act in the best interest of Scotland," he said.

First minister's functions

And he added: "The Scottish Executive has an important agenda, set out in our programme for government.

"Our clear priority is for the business of government to go on."

Under the Scotland Act there are a number of functions which can only be carried out by the first minister.

These include the appointment of Scottish law officers and ministers and the role as Keeper of the Scottish Seal.

See also:

08 Nov 01 | Scotland
PM's tribute to McLeish
08 Nov 01 | Scotland
Henry McLeish - profile
06 Nov 01 | Scotland
First minister denies office fiddle
06 Nov 01 | Scotland
Q&A: Officegate
06 Nov 01 | Scotland
Parties' fury at McLeish admission
23 Oct 01 | Scotland
McLeish pays back expenses
04 Oct 01 | Scotland
Minister faces expenses scrutiny
08 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
Profile: Jack McConnell
Links to more McLeish resignation stories are at the foot of the page.


Links to more McLeish resignation stories