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BBC Scotland's Leslie Anderson
"Time is against Labour"
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banner Friday, 13 October, 2000, 08:20 GMT 09:20 UK
Dewar funeral date announced
Dewar and candles
Mr Dewar has been remembered throughout Scotland
The funeral of Scotland's First Minister Donald Dewar will take place next Wednesday at Glasgow Cathedral.

The 63-year-old died in Edinburgh after suffering a brain haemorrhage.

Mr Dewar's funeral will be open to the public and is likely to be one of the largest ever seen in Scotland.

It will be conducted by the Reverend Douglas Alexander, a lifelong friend who is father of the Communities Minister Wendy Alexander and MP Douglas Alexander.

The Very Rev Dr William Morris, minister of Glasgow Cathedral, will help conduct the service, which is due to start at 1400BST.

He said: "It is something which we are very privileged to have and we will be very pleased to make it a positive a celebration of his life and achievements.

Public funeral

"I am sure there will be a lot of people who will wish to be there."

Mourners unable to get into the cathedral will be accommodated in nearby Barony Church. There will also be a satellite link to a church in Drumchapel in Mr Dewar's constituency.

News of the politician's death has been greeted with shock from around the world. American president Bill Clinton sent a message of his sympathy from himself and his wife.

He said he had strengthened links with the United States and had led Scotland into a new era.

At Westminster the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers observed a minute's silence before their meeting on Thursday morning. And in the Welsh assembly the First Secretary, Rhodri Morgan, praised the contribution Mr Dewar made to bring devolution.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Parliament is being recalled from its autumn recess following Mr Dewar's death.

The move to reconvene briefly on Friday comes as it appears a compromise could be emerging which would allow Labour to appoint a new leader in time to meet its 28-day deadline.

The parliament sitting in Edinburgh is expected only to last for about half an hour and will be confined to speeches from the main party leaders - Jim Wallace, John Swinney, David McLetchie, and probably Henry McLeish for Labour.

Labour now has just 27 days to appoint the person who will take over the leadership of the Scottish Parliament.

Full contest

But fears that the party could not complete its election procedure in time have led to the suggestion that Labour may swiftly choose an interim leader - who would later stand down to allow a full contest.

Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace has stepped into the post of acting first minister on a temporary basis.

But under the Scotland Act, he can only fulfil this role for a month before a new first minister must be elected.

Labour's own rules lay down that its leader be elected by an electoral college in which a third of the votes are cast by MPs and MSPs, a third by the trade unions and a third by a ballot of ordinary party members.

Donald Dewar and Jim Wallace
Jim Wallace has taken over on a temporary basis
Party sources have indicated that it would not be able to complete this process within the timescale.

But BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor said the party had to choose a nominee - not least because other parties are also entitled to stand candidates.

"Strictly, Labour should use its time-consuming internal process involving MSPs, MPs, unions and the grassroots," he said.

"Some, particularly at Westminster, are privately arguing there should be a smooth transition - effectively handing the job to Henry McLeish, the most senior Labour cabinet member.

"But others feel that would be anti-democratic - and leave Labour open to critical attack.

"One suggestion being seriously canvassed is that the Scottish party elects an interim leader to meet the 28-day rule.

"There would then be a full internal election - with the interim leader obliged to stand down if defeated."

Electoral college

Political observers say there are likely to be four names in the ring for the top job - Mr McLeish, the enterprise minister; Finance Minister Jack McConnell; Health Minister Susan Deacon and Communities Minister Wendy Alexander.

Professor James Mitchell of Strathclyde University, a specialist in constitutional politics, said Mr McLeish was the interesting character.

"It is not at all clear which camp he would belong to and it is quite conceivable that both Blair and Brown and their supporters would quite happily go along with Henry McLeish.

Henry McLeish
Henry McLeish is Labour's senior spokesman
"He may, in a sense, emerge as the leader for that and other reasons," he said.

However, he warned: "When the stakes are high the battle can be tough, and indeed it can be quite dirty.

"Labour Party internal battles are often very dirty, so one should expect that this will not be a nice clean fight."

The contest is expected to start in earnest next week.

Labour will need the support of its Liberal Democrat coalition partners to get its nomination through the Scottish Parliament.

As a Lib Dem MSP, Mr Wallace has no chance of taking on the first minister role on a permanent basis as he leads the minority party in the coalition.

SNP leader John Swinney and Tory leader David McLetchie are also likely to put themselves forward for election for the post.

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A man's a man
An audio tribute to Donald Dewar
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See also:

12 Oct 00 | Scotland
Parliament mourns Dewar
12 Oct 00 | Scotland
A nation in mourning
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