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McLeish resignation Monday, 26 November, 2001, 19:23 GMT
Royal warrant for first minister-elect
First Minister Jack McConnell and the Queen
Mr McConnell receives the warrant from the Queen
Scotland's First Minister-elect, Jack McConnell, has received the Royal warrant at Buckingham Palace.

Before his audience with the Queen, he met the Prime Minister Tony Blair in Downing Street - where he discussed the various issues facing Scotland.

Mr McConnell is due to announce a Cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday after being handed the seal of office at a special ceremony in Edinburgh.

He said he was looking forward to the challenges ahead.

The Queen
The Queen met previous first ministers in Edinburgh
By law, new first ministers need to receive a Royal warrant - formal approval of their appointment.

The Lanarkshire MSP, who will be Scotland's third first minister in little more than two years, travelled to London to meet the Queen.

His predecessors as first minister Henry McLeish and Donald Dewar had met Her Majesty in Edinburgh.

Speaking outside the palace immediately after receiving the warrant, Mr McConnell said it had been a "very pleasant" experience.

He added: "The Queen is clearly very interested in Scottish politics and Scottish affairs.

Constituency office expenses

"Next year we have the Queen's Jubilee, with a number of activities taking place in Scotland and it was a good chance to discuss those activities."

In last week's parliament vote to choose a new first minister, Mr McConnell, backed by Labour and Liberal Democrat members, secured 70 votes to Scottish National Party Leader John Swinney's 34, Tory Leader David McLetchie's 19 and independent Dennis Canavan's three.

He was returned unopposed as Labour's candidate for the post following the resignation of Mr McLeish over a row about his constituency office expenses.

Mr McConnell will formally assume his new job and responsibilities at a ceremony in Edinburgh's Court of Session on Tuesday.

He has promised better public services and a more open style of government as his first priorities.

It is expected that Mr McConnell will reshuffle his cabinet on Tuesday.

He said he would then announce appointments to his cabinet, details of which he was finalising with Liberal Democrat Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace on Monday evening on his return to Scotland.

Henry McLeish
Henry McLeish resigned over an expenses row
He refused to discuss what names he had in mind for ministerial appointments, or whether he was considering a reorganisation of departments.

He said: "I can assure you it will be a united executive. The ministers will focus on the top priorities of that executive - making sure that we have improved delivery of public services in Scotland and also that we ensure opportunities are available to all the children and young people in Scotland.

"It is vitally important that we see improved public services and very important that we close the gap in opportunities to make sure that those who have the worst start in life have the same opportunities that the rest of us have enjoyed."

Mr McConnell said that his visit to Downing Street had offered him "a good chance to have a discussion with the Prime Minister about the issues facing Scotland."

Peace deal

He added: "We established contact and I think that will be good for Scotland in the months ahead."

Earlier, a source close to Mr McConnell said that the first minister would tell cabinet colleagues he will not tolerate ministers briefing against one another.

His comments came after a row with Enterprise Minister Wendy Alexander.

Mr McConnell is believed to have a struck a peace deal with Ms Alexander over her status in the cabinet.

It is thought that Ms Alexander, who had threatened to resign over moves to change the responsibilities of her portfolio, will be allowed to keep control of lifelong learning - which includes policy for Scotland's universities.

Political Correspondent Kirsten Campbell
"Mr McConnell is already facing dissent from ministerial colleagues"

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See also:

23 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
22 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
22 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
21 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
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