BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: In Depth: McLeish resignation  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
McLeish resignation Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 19:01 GMT
McConnell elected first minister
Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell with his wife and children
Jack McConnell has been elected as the new first minister of Scotland by a majority of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

The former education minister had the support of his Labour colleagues and their Liberal Democrat coalition partners in the vote on Thursday.

His election came exactly a fortnight after former First Minister Henry McLeish sensationally resigned following controversy over his office expenses.

The result
Jack McConnell, 70 votes
John Swinney, 34 votes
David McLetchie, 19 votes
Dennis Canavan, 3 votes
No abstentions

The first official job of Scotland's new leader will be to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace on Monday.

On Tuesday he will get down to the serious business of government, firstly meeting Court of Session members and secondly choosing his new Cabinet.

After his election, a jubilant Mr McConnell posed for pictures with his wife Bridget and children Hannah, 22 and Mark, 18.

The happy scene was in contrast to a media conference Mr and Mrs McConnell gave almost two weeks ago, where the Scottish Labour leader confessed to an extra-marital affair seven years ago.

The couple said they made the disclosure to "clear the air" and end the prospect of the negative media scrutiny which had led to Mr McLeish's resignation.

In his acceptance speech to the chamber on Thursday, Mr McConnell said he was "ready to deliver".

The calm and composed new first minister, who defeated nearest rival John Swinney by 46 votes, added: "I am delighted and honoured to be elected.

'Privilege to lead'

"I am proud of the party I have been elected leader of and I am proud of this position and parliament, and I am especially proud that so many of my family are here today."

Turning to his fellow MSPs, he said: "We share the privilege of being elected to represent the people of Scotland.

"It is a privilege to lead this government.

"Responsibility for leadership is not a responsibility I take lightly, we must all earn the confidence of the people of Scotland."

Mr McConnell, 41, has become the third person to lead the Scottish Executive since the parliament's birth in 1999.

Bridget McConnell
Bridget McConnell, Jack's wife, looks on
Henry McLeish had taken over following the sudden death of Donald Dewar last year.

Mr McConnell faced a challenge for the first minister's position from Scottish National Party Leader John Swinney, Scottish Tory Leader David McLetchie and independent MSP Dennis Canavan.

However, the 55 Labour and 17 Liberal Democrat MSPs in the Scottish Parliament gave him a clear majority in the 129-strong members chamber.

Mr McConnell, MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw, was elected Scottish Labour leader on Saturday and had stood unopposed for that post.

The first minister leadership debate began at 1430 GMT with seven-minute speeches from each of the four contenders.

'Corrode government'

First to his feet was Mr Canavan. He demanded a more inclusive style of government.

"Even the new Labour leader has admitted their is a problem of cronyism, if it is not tackled it will corrode the heart of government and local government," said the independent MSP.

Henry McLeish
Mr McConnell succeeded Henry McLeish
He then borrowed a phrase from Prime Minister Tony Blair when he said the Scottish Executive's priority should be "education, education education".

Second to speak was Mr McConnell. He began by saying that the first men in Scotland's top post, Donald Dewar and Henry McLeish, "ensured in the first 30 months of this parliament that the parliament and executive worked well".

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 work well - on all of these it is time to deliver."

Noise in the chamber increased when Tory leader David McLetchie and SNP leader John Swinney made their addresses.

'Sorry sight'

In scenes more reminiscent of a rowdy House of Commons, Mr McLetchie was forced to shout above the jeers to denounce the "tawdry coronation" of Mr McConnell.

"Instead of an open contest and debate about the future direction of the Scottish Executive, Labour has treated us to the sorry sight of a succession of candidates being touted - only for these men and women of straw to fall by the wayside one by one so that we were left with only Mr McConnell," said Mr McLetchie.

Running with the same theme, Mr Swinney said the day's events had been "a farce".

Jim Wallace
Jim Wallace: "Jack is determined to deliver"
The nationalist boss accused Labour of failing "the democratic test" in electing an unopposed Mr McConnell as leader of the Scottish party and accused the party of "arrogance".

He also outlined his vision for Scotland, including reform of local government, the appointments process for public bodies, an end to the use of private finance initiatives and investment in public services.

After the election, the man who has been caretaker since Mr McLeish resigned, Jim Wallace, spoke of Mr McConnell's "energy and determination".

He added: "In his new role as first minister Jack will have the opportunity to shape the nation's future.

"I look forward to working with him in partnership as a colleague and as a friend, supporting him in the challenges that lie ahead as we seek to unlock the potential of a great nation."

The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"Tonight Jack McConnell was settling into his new role"
Jack McConnell's acceptance speech
"I am proud of my party, of my position and the parliament. I am ready to deliver"

Latest stories



See also:

22 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
22 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
21 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
20 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
18 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
Links to more McLeish resignation stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more McLeish resignation stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |