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Monday, 14 August, 2000, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Resignation calls fall on deaf ears
Sam Galbraith
Sam Galbraith has survived resignation demands
Rival politicians calling for the head of Sam Galbraith are almost certainly wasting their breath.

The Scottish National Party and the Conservatives are seeking the education minister's resignation over the exams fiasco which has already claimed the scalp of Scottish Qualifications Authority chief executive Ron Tuck.

But First Minister Donald Dewar has expressed his confidence in his close colleague, who has faced resignation calls from opposition parties in the past.

BBC Scotland's chief political correspondent John Morrison said: "Mr Galbraith is probably the last person in the cabinet, and the Scottish Executive, to resign.

Sam Galbraith
Sam Galbraith: Performed a Section 28 u-turn
"His feeling is that this is a mess, he has admitted it is a mess, but it needs to be sorted out and he is the man to do it.

"He is also the last person that Donald Dewar would sack in the cabinet, and both are very close to each other."

Mr Galbraith is one of the most experienced members of the cabinet - and health problems in the past have left him with a sense of perspective about his political battles.

He came through a lung transplant in 1990 and has been quoted as saying that, having been so close to death, he is not overawed by the hurly-burly of political life.

His status as one of Scotland's leading politicians has placed him squarely in the firing line on several contentious issues in recent years.

As Scottish Office health minister, he came in for criticism in January 1999 over bed shortages within the National Health Service.

Lack of beds

The SNP launched its attack after the resignation of Dr Keith Little, the director of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary's accident and emergency department.

Dr Little said he could not give patients the level of care they were entitled to because of a lack of beds.

But the row did not damage his ministerial chances when Mr Dewar came to pick his first cabinet.

Mr Galbraith was named minister for children and education, a portfolio which also includes responsibility for culture and the arts, sports and lottery funding - briefs he held in his previous ministerial position.

Donald Dewar
Donald Dewar has backed Mr Galbraith
The former neurosurgeon was also the minister for health at the Scottish Office, and was opposition spokesman on health and Scottish affairs from 1988 to 1992 before switching to education.

However, Holyrood has not proven to be an easier ride than Westminster.

Within months of the parliament's election the Scottish Executive had to defuse threats of a teachers' strike over pay.

The decision to take 2.1m from the education budget to bail out Scottish Opera caused controversy, and there were further financial problems over Scotland's National Stadium at Hampden.

The future of the Glasgow ground had been placed in doubt by multi-million pound debts, and the wrangling over a rescue package dragged on for months before an agreement was finally struck.

Long-running battle

Mr Galbraith also found himself with a central role in the long-running battle over Scottish Executive moves to scrap Section 28, which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

The row, which saw Scottish businessman Brian Souter fund a campaign aimed at keeping the clause, only drew to a close in June when Mr Galbraith accepted a recommendation that marriage should be spotlighted within the legally binding guidance for schools on sex education.

He had previously remained defiant throughout the debate that legally binding measures would not be necessary.

He was born in Clitheroe, Lancashire, and educated at Greenock High School and then Glasgow University.

The father-of-three and keen mountaineer was first elected to represent Strathkelvin and Bearsden at Westminster in 1987.

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See also:

14 Aug 00 | Scotland
Dewar backs education minister
21 Jun 00 | Scotland
MSPs abolish Section 28
03 Apr 00 | Scotland
SFA takes Hampden control
09 Jan 99 | UK Politics
Health crisis: 'Galbraith must go'
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