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Scottish Cabinet Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 16:32 GMT
Tory trumps first minister's choice
MSPs vote
Members of the parliament voted in a secret ballot
The election of Tory MSP Murray Tosh as deputy presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament has been described as a "humiliation" for Jack McConnell.

The South of Scotland list MSP had faced competition for the post from Labour backbencher Cathy Peattie - who had won the support of the first minister.

That backing had led to fresh accusations of cronyism from Conservative and Scottish National Party politicians.

Murray Tosh
Mr Tosh is congratulated on his victory
However, Mr Tosh won the secret ballot on Thursday lunchtime by 68 votes to 45 with one abstention - a vote which was being seen as a snub to the new first minister.

SNP leader John Swinney said the decision was a "humiliation" for the first minister.

He said: "The Scottish Parliament has today demonstrated that democracy will always win out over Jack McConnell's cronyism."

Mr Tosh admitted that he was " slightly surprised" by the margin of his victory.

"I thought it might be quite close," he said.

"Obviously, I am very pleased to have been elected and to have gathered support from across the political parties."

Cathy Peattie
Cathie Peattie: "A bit scunnered"
He declined to comment on the fate of his Labour rival, saying: "Only members of the Labour group know what happened and I have nothing to say about it."

Ms Peattie said she felt the appearance of involvement by Mr McConnell had played a role in her defeat.

She said stories suggesting Mr McConnell had told Labour MSPs to vote for her had "not been helpful".

"People presented it as cronyism but I have never been anyone's crony," she said.

And she added: "I'm a bit scunnered today to be completely honest, but you just move on and I wish Murray Tosh all the best."

Vacant post

The Tory MSP had been nominated by the SNP's Mike Russell and Liberal Democrat Tavish Scott, while Ms Peattie was put forward by Labour colleagues Janis Hughes and Ken McIntosh.

The post had become vacant following the promotion of Patricia Ferguson to the Scottish Cabinet as parliament minister.

The controversy surrounding Mr McConnell's backing for Ms Peattie came amid opposition allegations of cronyism over his shake-up of his ministerial team.

Jack McConnell
The first minister hears the result
The first minister dismissed these accusations on Thursday during his first question time since taking office.

He was criticised by the SNP and the Tories for leading an administration of cronies and for failing to deliver real change for Scotland.

But Mr McConnell told them: "What we have today in the Scottish Parliament, elected by this parliament yesterday, is a team of people in the right places at the right time for Scotland who will be a united team who will deliver improved public services for Scotland."

The deputy presiding officer role is supposed to be independent of the Scottish Executive or any political party.

However, there was an outcry over the news that Mr McConnell informed the Labour group that he would be backing Ms Peattie, the MSP for Falkirk East.

Scale of defeat

She stood against Mr Tosh in place of West Renfrewshire Labour MSP Trish Godman, who had been intending to put her name forward.

A Labour spokesman declined to comment on whether the scale of Ms Peattie's defeat amounted to an open rebuke to Mr McConnell for expressing a preference.

He said: "People in the party who voted for Cathy will be disappointed for her.

"However, this was not a party political issue and there was no Labour whip."

Brian Taylor reports
"The look on Mr McConnell's face said it all"

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28 Nov 01 | Scottish Cabinet
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