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EDITIONS
Monday, 23 October, 2000, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
McLeish faces first minister challenge
Mr McLeish and Mr McConnell
Mr McLeish narrowly defeated Mr McConnell
Scottish National Party leader John Swinney has confirmed he will challenge Henry McLeish for the post of Scotland's first minister.

Members of the Scottish Parliament will vote on Thursday for the successor to the late Donald Dewar.

Mr McLeish was appointed as Labour's interim leader after defeating Finance Minister Jack McConnell by 44 votes to 36 at a special meeting of the party's executive in Stirling on Saturday.

However, on Monday Mr Swinney told BBC Scotland that he would mount a challenge to the first minister designate.

John Swinney
John Swinney will challenge Mr McLeish
Mr Swinney said: "The Labour party has gone about the process of selecting Henry McLeish in such an inappropriate way that it is essential that effective parliamentary scrutiny is undertaken about who should be the next first minister of Scotland.

"That is why I intend to stand."

Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie said he had not yet taken a decision on whether to stand as a candidate.

"The result is a foregone conclusion, but I will be discussing that with colleagues in our group meeting when we resume tomorrow," he said.

Mr McLeish said he believed that a challenge from either party would prove to be purely symbolic.

'Making changes'

He told BBC Scotland that a "reshaping and refreshing" of the Scottish cabinet would be unveiled by the end of the week, but would not disclose any details.

"I have a great deal of consultation to be involved in, but we will be making changes," he said.

David McLetchie
David McLetchie has not decided if he will stand
Since Saturday's victory, Mr McLeish has held a series of discussions about the shape of his ministerial team.

On Monday morning he met the Labour group executive to outline his proposals to make the leadership more inclusive.

He also held his first face-to-face talks with his Liberal Democrat coalition partner Jim Wallace.

Both men were in London for the election of a new Speaker of the House of Commons - and used the opportunity to discuss their partnership in the Scottish Parliament.

Items for discussion included concerns among Lib Dem backbenchers that they could be sidelined if Labour backbenchers are given a stronger voice.

Mr Wallace said Mr Swinney was simply "going through the motions" by challenging Mr McLeish for leader and believed it was "inappropriate" to comment on another party's internal election procedure.

Despite Mr McLeish's victory over Mr McConnell, the official process of electing a new Labour leader will not be concluded until 20 December.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
SNP leader John Swinney
"It is essential that effective parliamentary scrutiny is undertaken"
Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie
"I don't believe in interfering in the internal processes of political parties"
First minister designate Henry McLeish
"It will be a symbolic protest by either the Conservatives or the SNP"

In DepthIN DEPTH
Click here full coverageLoss of a leader
The death of Donald Dewar
See also:

21 Oct 00 | Donald Dewar
21 Oct 00 | Donald Dewar
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