Wallace in charge after Dewar's heart surgery

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Jim Wallace became the first Liberal since Lloyd George to run a country yesterday when he became acting First Minister in Scotland after Donald Dewar's heart surgery.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy First Minister will be temporarily in charge of the Scottish executive until Mr Dewar has fully recovered.

The 62-year-old First Minister was stable yesterday after four-hour surgery to replace a heart valve at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. He was expected to be in hospital for at least 10 days and spend two months convalescing.

He underwent tests at the hospital last month after a routine check-up showed heart "irregularities".

Friends and colleagues had asked Mr Dewar to undergo a check after concerns at the stress he was under. Mr Dewar's spokesman, David Whitton, denied that the heart operation had been an emergency, stressing "that is not the case".

He added: "Mr Dewar had not wanted to make a big deal out of the fact he was going into hospital for an operation. From his point of view, he regards it that he has a problem, that doctors have to deal with it, and that was it."