Our only item of business this afternoon is the selection of the Parliament's nominee for First Minister. Before I proceed to that, I invite members to welcome two distinguished visitors from the Westminster Parliament: the right hon Helen Liddell MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, and the right hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, Leader of the Opposition. [Applause.]
I have received four valid nominations for appointment as First Minister. They are, in alphabetical order, Dennis Canavan, Jack McConnell, David McLetchie and John Swinney. A copy of the announcement in today's business bulletin explaining the procedure that will be followed to select our nominee has been placed on every member's desk.
I will shortly ask each nominated member in turn to speak for up to seven minutes, uninterrupted, in support of his candidacy. After all the nominated members have spoken, I will ask members to cast their vote for the preferred candidate. A separate vote will be called for each candidate. Once all the voting has been completed, there will be a short delay while the result is verified. I shall then announce the number of votes cast, the number of votes for each of the candidates and the number of votes to abstain. A candidate will be elected if a simple majority is obtained. If no majority is obtained, the candidate or candidates with the smallest number of votes will be eliminated and we will proceed to a further round of voting. I hope that that is clear. We now begin the selection process.