Ministers

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:24 pm on 28th November 2001.

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Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party 12:24 pm, 28th November 2001

Section 47(3) of the Scotland Act 1998 says:

"A Minister appointed under this section-

(a) shall hold office at Her Majesty's pleasure,

(b) may be removed from office by the First Minister".

I suspect that the person who drafted that section could not and did not foresee the circumstances of today's debate. The First Minister has ensured that Her Majesty's pleasure has been forcibly withdrawn from three quarters of the entire Scottish Cabinet and more than a third of the Scottish ministerial work force.

In opposing the nomination of a minister, one factor that a member must take into account is the fitness for office of the person concerned. I do not question Cathy Jamieson's fitness for office. However, many in her party believe that she is no more or less fit than many other members who have not been preferred or catapulted from the very back bench to the very front bench in the time that it takes Jack McConnell to sack an enemy—in other words, in no time at all.

I question the process of appointment. Unfortunately, Cathy Jamieson's appointment is the result of a flawed and shabby process. Not a week ago, Jack McConnell promised his own group and the country that there would be no night of the long knives, that there would be an end to factionalism and that he would ensure that all those with a contribution to make were valued. Three promises were made and three promises were broken within 24 hours of his being sworn in. With 519 days to go to the Scottish Parliament elections in 2003, Jack McConnell is well on course for a place in "The Guinness Book of Records".

Cathy Jamieson has been appointed through a deeply divisive process. An arcane knowledge of the processes of the Labour party is required, but some things are clear—friendship with Jack McConnell is a clear asset and support for anybody else is fatal. There is an obvious attempt to get at somebody who is not even in the chamber—the king over the water, although the water is only the Firth of Forth. The reshuffle is designed to damage the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am not against that. In the Sunday papers, he was described by someone on the front bench as a paranoid egomaniac. The reshuffle is about the war between Jack and Gordon—that is the background and the war has nothing to do with Parliament, policy or serving the people of Scotland. There is a tussle for place and a clash of personalities. Parliament is the victim.

Cathy Jamieson's appointment is the result of a demeaning process. It demeans those who are appointed, Parliament, our democracy and the First Minister, who has had the shortest honeymoon period in electoral history. Yesterday morning, he did not have one rival. Now, they are on the benches round the chamber. The process demeans Parliament because Jack McConnell understands exactly how cronyism works. It works not just by appointing one's friends, but by doing down one's enemies. Cronyism is not just about connections rather than talent taking one forward—it is about ensuring that despite talent, ability and determination an individual will not succeed. Cronyism is not just about favouring the less talented because they have pledged their loyalty—it is about disadvantaging the more talented because they have not pledged their loyalty.

On my way to the chamber this morning, I saw a billboard advertising The Scotsman. It said:

"First Minister rewards his friends".

In the past 24 hours, Jack McConnell has signalled to Scotland and the world that it is business as usual for a party whose time has passed and that is tainted by cronyism and abuse of patronage. He intends to raise those to an art form.

I am glad that I did not vote for him last week. I suspect that his benches are now full of those who wish that they had not voted for him either, although I hear them cackling.

We should not approve the Cabinet. The whole process is damaging to Scotland and deeply destructive. We should reject the Cabinet and reject Jack McConnell, too.

I move amendment 2488.3, to leave out "Cathy Jamieson".