First Minister

Part of Contract Research Staff – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:47 pm on 22nd November 2001.

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Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative 2:47 pm, 22nd November 2001

On the previous occasion when the chamber elected a First Minister, I thought long and hard before putting myself forward as a candidate because of the tragic circumstances in which that vacancy arose. I had no such problem coming to a decision this time. The events that led up to the resignation of Mr McLeish and the manner in which his successor has emerged have raised many questions about the nature of the Labour party in Scotland and whether it is fit to govern. The purpose of my candidacy is to highlight that and to outline an alternative, Conservative, way forward.

Instead of holding an open contest and debate about the future direction of the Scottish Executive, Labour has treated us to the sorry sight of a succession of candidates being touted, only for those men and women of straw to fall by the wayside, one by one, so that we are left with only Mr McConnell. I am told that Mr Roy was particularly disappointed, because he could not place a bet on the outcome. It is absurdly easy to become First Minister: a couple of telephone calls from Andy Kerr, 386 from Cathie Craigie, and Jack's your uncle.

This unedifying spectacle has done nothing for Scotland's standing. The process has looked more like a tawdry coronation than a democratic election. Although this has been only a Labour farce so far, I have no doubt that, when it comes to the vote this afternoon, the Liberal Democrats will meekly fall into line behind Mr McConnell, who is the choice of their Labour masters. That is yet another piece of breathtaking Liberal Democrat hypocrisy from the party that likes to lecture us about democracy and standards in politics, but that refused to utter a word of condemnation or criticism during the whole officegate affair.

This cosy election is symptomatic of the culture of cronyism that exists in Scotland and that needs to be exposed and eradicated. From sweetheart deals and planning permissions to jumping the queue for a council house, an insidious network of favour trading exists in Scotland. [Interruption.]