McConnell sacks ministers in Cabinet purge

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Indy Politics

Within minutes of being officially sworn in as Scotland's new First Minister yesterday, Jack McConnell purged his Cabinet of five senior ministers and replaced them with his own supporters.

Mr McConnell, 41, a former education minister, had given assurances that there would be "no night of the long knives" in his cabinet reshuffle.

But shortly after being sworn in as Scotland's third leader in less than two years Mr McConnell fired the Transport Minister, Sarah Boyack, the Parliament Minister, Tom McCabe, the Social Justice Minister, Jackie Baillie, and the Finance Minister, Angus MacKay. The last two were part of a "Stop Jack" campaign in the recent leadership election. A fifth cabinet member, Susan Deacon, resigned after she was demoted from the post of Health Minister and offered a new role in charge of Social Justice, which she turned down.

The removal of nearly half of his senior ministers wasseen as a sign that Mr McConnell's promise to lead a "unified" cabinet meant rallying his own supporters about him.

The East Kilbride MSP, Andy Kerr, who was Mr McConnell's main aide during his leadership campaign after the downfall of Henry McLeish, was promoted to Minister for Finance and Public Services.

Patricia Ferguson, another strong supporter of Mr McConnell, took over as Parliament Minister from Mr McCabe, a close ally of the former first minister. Labour's deputy leader, Cathy Jamieson, became Education Minister and Malcolm Chisholm, the former deputy Health Minister, took over the top job.

Mike Watson, who was responsible for the latest move to ban fox-hunting, was brought in to head a new cabinet position in charge of Tourism, Culture and Sport. The deputy Environment Minister, Rhona Brankin, and deputy Tourism Minister, Alasdair Morrison were sacked. Mr McConnell's most powerful challenger to his position as First Minister, Wendy Alexander, retained her position as Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning.