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Thursday, May 13, 1999 Published at 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK

UK Politics

Dewar wins top job

Donald Dewar is a happy man after his election

Scottish Labour leader Donald Dewar has won the nomination for the position of first minister of the Scottish Parliament.

He polled 71 of the 126 votes cast. Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond received 35 votes; Tory party leader David McLetchie 17 and Independent MSP Dennis Canavan three.

BBC Scotland's political correspondent Kenny MacIntyre reports from Edinburgh
Mr Dewar was given a standing ovation after the result was announced by the Presiding Officer Sir David Steel.

He must now resign as Scottish Secretary, which will prompt a government reshuffle at Westminster. This is likely to happen on Monday.

Vote 99 Special Coverage
Mr Dewar was expected to announce his Cabinet over the weekend.

The election was carried out using the parliament's electronic voting system and was almost hitch-free. One MSP pressed a wrong button, meaning the vote had to be taken again.

Victory for Mr Dewar was secured earlier in the day when, as part of the coalition talks, the Liberal Democrats agreed to support him for the post.

'Great privilege

In his winning address, Mr Dewar said: "It is a great privilege to lead the first government of this parliament. This is a privilege that carries great responsibility and I have no doubt about that.

Andrew Cassell: "After 4 days of negotiations, Scotland will get a coalition government"
"The people of Scotland look to us to give them a better life and of that, I think we have a common aim."

Mr Canavan was the surprise contender for the post. He had been ditched by Labour during selection procedure for Scottish Parliament candidates but won his Falkirk West constituency as an independent.

Mr Canavan said: "I hope that Donald as first minister for Scotland will show that he is a firm believer in open democracy rather than doing these deals in the dead of night or early in the morning.

"I hope that he will act as a spokesperson for Scotland rather than somebody else's spokesperson in Scotland.

Crossing the floor

"I know that Donald said once upon a time that I was not good enough to sit in this parliament. I only hope that in the years ahead he feels himself good enough to be Scotland's first minister."

He then crossed the floor to shake Mr Dewar's hand, only to earn a rebuke from Sir David, who said he would rule him out of order if he crossed the floor again.

[ image: Alex Salmond: Polled 35 votes]
Alex Salmond: Polled 35 votes
Mr Salmond said: "May I congratulate Donald on being Scotland's first minister, this is no small thing to be the first minister of Scotland in the first administration after 300 years."

Paying tribute to Mr Dewar's loyalty to Scotland, Mr Salmond also made light-hearted reference to his opponent's renowned appetite, prompting laughter in the chamber.

"I have known Donald for some considerable time, usually in opposing ends of debates. One thing I can honestly say is I know and I hope that Donald will speak for Scotland - he can certainly eat for Scotland and every available juncture!"

More praise

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Jim Wallace also congratulated Donald Dewar.

[ image: David McLetchie: Nomination
David McLetchie: Nomination "sign of commitment"
"I wish him every success. I hope that together we will show that this is a Parliament that can make a difference for the people of Scotland," he said.

Tory leader David McLetchie also congratulated Mr Dewar, saying: "It's a great personal achievement."

And he quipped that he wished him a very happy retirement when the Conservative administration took over after the next election.

Meanwhile, the SNP has filled several posts in its parliamentary group.

Group Whip is Bruce Crawford while Deputy Whips are Sandra White and Brian Adam.

Group Convener Margaret Ewing was previously appointed.

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