McLeishis chosen to replace Donald Dewar

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Indy Politics

Henry McLeish, a relative unknown, was yesterday given the sizeable task of stepping into Donald Dewar's shoes after being elected as the Labour Party's new leader in Scotland. In a convoluted electoral process, Mr McLeish will now take over from Liberal Democrat leader Jim Wallace as the Scottish parliament's "interim" First Minister.

Henry McLeish, a relative unknown, was yesterday given the sizeable task of stepping into Donald Dewar's shoes after being elected as the Labour Party's new leader in Scotland. In a convoluted electoral process, Mr McLeish will now take over from Liberal Democrat leader Jim Wallace as the Scottish parliament's "interim" First Minister.

Mr McLeish must now face a full leadership ballot in which trade unions and party members will also take part, as well as a vote of MSPs, before he can be declared the true successor to Mr Dewar, the "father of Scottish devolution", who died suddenly two weeks ago.

Nevertheless, Mr McLeish, Scotland's Minister of Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, took a big step towards becoming Scotland's First Minister yesterday when he beat Jack McConnell, Scotland's Minister for Finance, by 44 votes to 36 in the party leadership contest.

Mr McLeish, 52, said: "This is a time of mixed emotions. It is a tremendous privilege to be given the interim leadership of the party.

"Donald's death was tragic. We have seen how the party and the Parliament has been affected and on Wednesday we saw in Glasgow how Donald was viewed by the people.

"We are today working on that legacy, to take it forward. We have tragedy behind us but ahead of us this party has a tremendous future."

Mr McConnell pledged to accept the result "without question". He said: "We have elected today a fine leader of the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament and somebody who will be a very fine First Minister.

"Henry McLeish has been a first-class minister who will do Scotland proud and will do Donald Dewar proud."

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