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EDITIONS
McLeish resignation Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 14:59 GMT
McConnell: "Time to deliver"
jack McConnell, labour leader
A relaxed Jack McConnell listens to the debate
First minister-elect Jack McConnell has told a packed Scottish Parliament that he believes it is time to deliver on improved public services.

His strong words came at the beginning of the session to choose the country's third first minister in three years.

First to make his seven-minute speech in the four horse race was independent MSP Dennis Canavan.

He said: "If the problem of cronyism is not tackled, it could corrode the very heart of government, as well as local government."

Parliament chamber
MSPs will vote for the new first minister
In his address, Mr McConnell said the country's first two men in the top post, Donald Dewar and Henry McLeish, had ensured that "in the first 30 months of the parliament, the parliament and executive worked well".

But he added: "But we must now take on new challenges, we need a fresh approach and direction.

"Scots want better health, less crime, and transport services which works well - on all of these it is time to deliver."

The other contenders include Scottish National Party leader John Swinney and Tory leader David McLetchie.


I've got hopes and aspirations for Scotland that I think are in tune and in touch with the majority of Scots

Jack McConnell
The new Scottish Labour leader is expected to succeed, with backing of his party's coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats.

Mr McConnell said earlier on Thursday he has a good track record as a minister in the Scottish Parliament and did not see the absence of Westminster experience as a bar to taking on the role as Scotland's top politician.

He said: "I think people in Scotland want to know what their politicians are going to do, and whether or not they have the right judgment to be in the positions they hold.

"I believe in the last two and a half years I have shown in the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament I have that judgment."

"I have a track record now as a minister in delivering in two different departments.

"But much more importantly I've got hopes and aspirations for Scotland that I think are in tune and in touch with the majority of Scots."

John Swinney
John Swinney: Among the challengers

Mr McConnell said his priorities would be in areas including education, health, transport, jobs, and tackling crime.

He said: "I am interested in becoming First Minister for Scotland, and the Labour Party is interested in ensuring that the Scottish Parliament goes in the right direction in order to close gaps in opportunities, to ensure children and young people can develop their talents and to improve basic public services in Scotland."

Mr Connell stressed that he did not want the administration to become tarnished by clashes with Westminster and he has no interest in "carrying on some sort of battle over constitutional issues or institutions".

"What's important is that we focus on the people's priorities and not our own," he said.

However, opponents of Mr McConnell have alleged that public trust in the Scottish Executive has been shattered.

Extra-marital affair

The executive has endured a turbulent time of late, with former First Minister Henry McLeish resigning over the Officegate expenses controversy.

Before his election as Labour leader, Mr McConnell admitted to an extra-marital, in what was seen as an attempt to "clear the air" and fend off the media scrutiny which led to the downfall of Mr McLeish.

He told the BBC: "We need to develop the credibility and the judgment of the Scottish Parliament, we need to improve basic public services, and we need to make sure that everybody in Scotland - particularly those children and young people who might be left behind - have the opportunities I have enjoyed in my life."

David McLetchie
David McLetchie: Cronyism claims
Mr McConnell showed no sign of bowing to backbench opposition to the private finance initiative and sought to brush off allegations of media intereference, levelled by a National Union of Journalists official on Wednesday.

He described the allegations as "nonsense" and said the parliament and executive should be seen as "open and transparent".

The current education minister and former finance minister faces three opponents in the parliamentary vote.

Scottish National Party Leader John Swinney will say that the executive lacks trust from the public in its efforts to improve public services.

David McLetchie, Scottish Conservative Leader, will set out to expose what he sees as Labour cronyism.

And Dennis Canavan, the independent member for Falkirk West and a former Labour MP, will claim Labour has betrayed its principles.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John Morrison
profiles Jack McConnell's political career
First Minister-elect Jack McConnell
"We need to develop the credibility of the Scottish Parliament"
Independent MSP, Dennis Canavan
"This has not been a good time at all for the Scottish Executive"

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21 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
20 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
18 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
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