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Thursday, 13 May, 1999, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Dewar reaches the top
Donald Dewar's stiff exterior hides the relaxed side of his character
Scottish Labour leader Donald Dewar is now the most powerful man in Scottish politics.

Mr Dewar, who won the nomination for first minister in the Scottish Parliament, has reached the pinnacle of a 33-year long political career.

Vote 99 Special Coverage
Effectively Scotland's "prime minister", he will resign from his position of Scottish Secretary to undertake the job of forming a coalition administration with the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

It is a proud time for the tall and angular former lawyer, who has campaigned tirelessly to deliver what he sees as a democratic arrangement which will strengthen the United Kingdom.

He has been nicknamed 'Donald Dour', because of his stiff matter-of-fact tone. But that tag fails to take account of his sharpness at the hustings and often self-deprecating nature.

Unsurprisingly, his other nickname, 'The Gannet', bestowed on him because of his huge appetite, could also be applied to his approach to politics.

Coalition talks

With the dust still settling on a prolonged and exhausting Scottish election campaign, he was off again, drawing together his team for the coalition talks.

The former Glasgow University graduate, solicitor and current MP for Glasgow Garscadden was first elected as an MP in Aberdeen South in 1966 but was defeated in 1970.

He returned to the law before winning his current seat in 1978.

Mr Dewar served the party as Shadow Scottish Secretary under Labour leader Neil Kinnock for 11 years before successor John Smith handed him the Social Security portfolio.

After Mr Smith's death, Tony Bair sprung a surprise, making Mr Dewar opposition chief whip - an appointment was widely regarded as a success.

As Secretary of State for Scotland he successfully led the referendum campaign in 1997 before shepherding the Scotland Bill through Westminster to deliver the Scottish Parliament.

A close friend of the late John Smith, who viewed devolution as the "settled will" of the Scottish people, he now sees his future at Holyrood.

Effective government

But he now has the task of forging an administration that delivers effective and distinctive government in the face of a strong nationalist opposition, convinced that "London Labour" is pulling the strings.

His reign as Secretary of State for Scotland had its ups and downs.

"The Gannet" gets stuck in
After the September 1997 referendum, Mr Dewar's personal ratings dipped amid charges that he was ineffectual in the face of an SNP onslaught, but his successful stewardship of the Scotland Act restored his reputation.

In the closing stages of the election campaign he emerged as a major asset to Labour, with the party stressing his experience and presenting him as a steady hand on the tiller and vital to Scotland's stability. He soared above the SNP's Alex Salmond as the voters' choice of first minister.

The 61-year-old has now donned the mantle "Father of the Nation" - a title he will no doubt treat with good-natured derision.

Away from the cameras the gangling politician is markedly more relaxed and disarming, even avuncular, as he unleashes a keen sense of humour.

Avid reader

Mr Dewar relaxes at home in the West End of Glasgow surrounded by his vast collection of books - he is said to have a particular enthusiasm for Scottish history and rare first editions.

Although he hates cocktail parties and admits to turning down invitations "by the gross", he insists his life is far from reclusive.

The father-of-two has remained single since his wife Alison left him for the now Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine - a university friend of Mr Dewar - more than 20 years ago.

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Donald Dewer: "I'm looking forward to the task ahead"

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