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McLeish resignation Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 11:04 GMT
Wallace predicts electoral reform
Jim Wallace and Jack McConnell
Jim Wallace and Jack McConnell emerge from the talks
Scotland's Liberal Democrat leader has predicted that the 2003 local government elections will be the last under the first past the post voting system.

First minister in waiting Jack McConnell has promised Labour's Lib Dem coalition partners "demonstrable" progress on introducing proportional representation for council elections.

Lib Dem leader Jim Wallace told BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme he was confident that proportional representation would come soon.

Ballot box
The 2003 local election could be the last under first past the post
The Lib Dems were given assurances on change in their meeting with Mr McConnell on Tuesday night ahead of the vote for first minister on Thursday.

But as Scotland's power-brokers were savouring the pledge, nationalists made moves on Wednesday to embarrass them.

Scottish National Party local government spokeswoman Tricia Marwick is due to launch a parliamentary member's bill with the aim of legislating to bring in PR in local elections.

Such a move could cause problems for Lib Dem MSPs who would be faced with the choice of supporting the nationalists on an issue they hold dear or staying loyal to their Labour coalition partners.

Timetable

Meanwhile, Scots Tory leader David McLetchie mocked the Lib Dems who welcomed the outcome of their meeting with Mr McConnell.

Mr McConnell, who needs Lib Dem support to be elected as first minister by the parliament on Thursday, pledged to deliver a timetable mapping out the next steps to PR.

But Mr McLetchie said that Mr McConnell, like previous first ministers, was "stringing along" the Lib Dems.

David McLetchie, Tory leader
David McLetchie: "Stringing them along"
He said: "We are now talking about progress about progress.

"It just shows that these Lib Dem lackeys are very easily strung along for the sake of a few ministerial jobs."

In a statement issued after Wednesday's meeting, Mr McConnell said: "Labour and the Lib Dems remain firmly committed to progress on electoral reform and my job is to make sure that progress is made and seen to be made.

"I am clear that the next steps should be taken with urgency and I will make it a priority to deliver a timetable for those next steps."

And he told reporters there would be discussions within the Labour and Lib Dem groups before Christmas on what that timetable could be.

Strong believer

Mr Wallace said the promised progress could result in the 2003 local elections being the last held under the first past the post system.

"That certainly must be the objective. I very much think the next elections in 2003 will be the last to be fought on first past the post," he said.

"And I think that's important - it transcends a single party's interest in this. I am a very strong believer in good representative local government."

Mr Wallace said there had previously been "misgivings" within his own party and Mr McConnell had admitted demonstrable progress had yet to be made.

He said: "Jack McConnell has indicated that he must now come forward with the next steps and a timetable for that.

"He will come back to both party groups by Christmas with details of those next steps and a timetable.

"There is a sense of urgency and priority there that my colleagues support," Mr Wallace said.


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20 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
19 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
18 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
17 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
17 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
17 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
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