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LOCAL GOVERNMENT 'SHOCKED' AND 'SADDENED' BY McLEISH DEPARTURE

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Commenting on yesterday's resignation of first minister Henry McLeish, West Lothian Council deputy leader Willie Du...
Commenting on yesterday's resignation of first minister Henry McLeish, West Lothian Council deputy leader Willie Dunn said:

'I'm shocked, particularly with the speed.' He added that he thought Mr McLeish had 'made the right move under the circumstances, with his personal integrity intact.'

As for a replacement, Cllr Dunn said: 'Both Jack McConnell and Angus Mackay have insight into local government.'

Mr Dunn put his football affiliation to Mackay aside - both are Hibernian supporters - and admitted to favouring McConnell, a former leader of Stirling Council and known Blairite moderniser, to seize the goal which McLeish denied him following the death of Donald Dewar in October 2000.

'Jack McConnell is well-respected in the party and the country and has the experience.'

Stirling Council leader Corrie McChord looked back on Mr McLeish's long career in politics, followed by his brief stint as first minister: 'Henry started politics in local government and did keep faithful to its principles. Local government had a friend in Henry,' adding that McLeish 'did come across as a man of integrity,' and may simply have been 'badly-advised.'

Stirling Council chief executive Keith Yates described Mr McLeish's original expenses offence as 'piddling,' adding that the matter had only come to light in the Scottish Parliament because, compared to Westminster: 'This level of transparency and scrutiny is more focused and sharp. There is no hiding place.'

'Jack McConnell has impressed with his briefs,' said Mr Yates, adding that the British media appeared to be focused on the possibility that Wendy Alexander could be 'foisted' upon the Scottish parliament from 'south of the border.' This could happen at the expense of Scottish health minister Susan Deacon, but Yates also drew attention to Angus Mackay's credentials f or the top job. Until two years ago, Mackay worked with Tom Aitchison, chief executive of Edinburgh City Council, as chair of the finance committee and has, Mr Yates said: 'More experience of any of them in local government.'

Glasgow City Council leader Charles Gordon said that yesterday had been, 'a sad day' and that he had enjoyed, 'a very good working relationship with Mr McLeish.'

by assistant editor Neil Watson

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