Following yesterday's resignation* by Henry McLeish as first minister, the parliament's presiding officer David Steel has designated Jim Wallace to take over the functions of first minister.
'The office of first minister being vacant I hereby, under section 45(4) of the Scotland Act 1998, designate you as the person by whom the first minister's functions shall be exercisable. This designation has effect from November 8, 2001. This arrangement will be superseded on the appointment of a first minister in accordance with the provisions of the Scotland Act.'
Following Mr McLeish's personal statement to parliament on Thursday, November 8, Mr Wallace spoke to the media outside St Andrew's House in Edinburgh.
Afterwards deputy first minister Jim Wallace spoke to the media outside St Andrew's House in Edinburgh.
'I - and all members of the cabinet - are saddened that Henry McLeish has resigned as first minister in such circumstances,' he said. 'Everyone will appreciate from his statement to parliament his reasons for doing so. It must have been a very difficult personal decision for him to make, but we all respect that decision.
'Let me pay tribute to Henry for the considerable contribution he has made in his time as first minister, and indeed, for his contribution to the creation of our Scottish parliament.
'Following his election as first minister, we established a good personal and working relationship. He is a decent man. Our politics may differ, but I have never had any doubt that his priority has been to act in the best interests of Scotland.
'The cabinet met this afternoon and agreed to recommend to David Steel, the presiding officer, that I should formally be appointed acting first minister.
'The Scottish executive has an important agenda, set out in our Programme for Government. Our clear priority is for the business of government to go on.'
The cabinet met briefly yesterday in the wake of the first minister's resignation.
The Constitutional arrangements
The procedures that must be followed when the post of first minister is vacant are laid out in the 1998 Scotland Act.
APPOINTMENT OF FIRST MINISTER
Under the Scotland Act, the first minister is appointed by her majesty on the recommendation of the presiding officer.
The Scottish parliament is required to nominate one of its members for appointment as first minister within a period of 28 days of a vacancy arising (this means that the nomination must be made on or before December 5).
The parliament's standing orders set out the procedures for the nomination and voting process. Any member may nominate a candidate for appointment as first minister by submitting a written nomination, which must be seconded by another member. If there is more than one candidate, the presiding officer will invite members to vote for each of the candidates in turn. A simple majority is required for a member to be nominated.
Once the parliament has selected a nominee, the presiding officer is then required under the Scotland Act to recommend to her majesty the appointment of that person.
The new first minister is appointed by royal warrant signed by the queen, and once appointed requires to be sworn in as first minister and as keeper of the great seal by the lord president of the court of session.
The provisions in the Scotland Act relating to the first minister are intended to ensure that there is always someone able to perform the functions of the first minister (such as the appointment and removal of judges and Scottish ministers).
Therefore, if the office of the first minister becomes vacant, section 45(4) of the Scotland Act provides that the presiding officer must designate a person to exercise the functions of that office until a new first minister is appointed.
Following the death of Donald Dewar on October 11, 2000, the presiding officer designated the deputy first minister, Jim Wallace, to exercise the functions of the first minister.
* see LGCnetfor Mr McLeish's resignation announcement and statement.