Jack McConnell

For the lawyer and United States District Court nominee, see John J. McConnell, Jr.
The Right Honourable
The Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
First Minister of Scotland
In office
22 November 2001  16 May 2007
Deputy Jim Wallace
Nicol Stephen
Preceded by Jim Wallace (Acting)
Succeeded by Alex Salmond
Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
In office
22 November 2001  15 August 2007
Preceded by Henry McLeish
Succeeded by Wendy Alexander
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning
In office
26 October 2000  22 November 2001
First Minister Henry McLeish
Preceded by Sam Galbraith (Children and Education)
Succeeded by Cathy Jamieson (Education and Young People)
Cabinet Secretary for Finance
In office
17 May 1999  26 October 2000
First Minister Donald Dewar
Jim Wallace (Acting)
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Angus MacKay (Finance and Local Government)
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Motherwell and Wishaw
In office
6 May 1999  5 May 2011
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by John Pentland
Personal details
Born (1960-06-30) 30 June 1960
Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Bridget McConnell
Children Hannah
Alma mater University of Stirling
Profession Teacher (Mathematics)
Religion Church of Scotland

Jack Wilson McConnell, Baron McConnell of Glenscorrodale (born 30 June 1960) is a Scottish politician and a Labour life peer in the House of Lords. He was the third First Minister of Scotland from 2001 to 2007. He was the Member of the Scottish Parliament for Motherwell and Wishaw from 1999 to 2011. McConnell became an MSP in the inaugural elections to the Scottish Parliament in 1999, later holding the positions of Finance Minister, and Education Minister. He was elected First Minister following the resignation of his predecessor Henry McLeish, and led the Scottish Labour Party to its second election victory in the 2003 election.

After losing office as First Minister of Scotland, McConnell became a member of the House of Lords of the United Kingdom. He made a commitment to continuing his work to tackle poverty in Africa and to develop the relationship between Scotland and Malawi.[1]

Education and early career

McConnell was born in Irvine and brought up on a sheep farm near Lamlash on the Isle of Arran and educated at Arran High School.[2] He later went on to study at the University of Stirling, graduating with a BSc Dip Ed. He was also President of the Students' Association.[3] After graduating in 1983 he began work as a mathematics teacher at Lornshill Academy in Alloa, Clackmannanshire (a position he retained throughout his subsequent council service).

McConnell's political career began with his election to Stirling District Council. McConnell served on the council for eight years, while retaining his job at Lornshill. He served as Treasurer from 1988 until 1992, and was the Leader of the council from 1990 to 1992. McConnell became the General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party in 1992. His major breakthrough was in his handling of the 1997 General Election success, where Labour attained a large overall majority victory over the Conservatives. Together the Scottish Labour Party, the Scottish Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish National Party eliminated every seat the Conservatives held in Scotland. In 1998, he served as a member of the Scottish Constitutional Convention where he pioneered the Scottish devolution referendum success, establishing the Scottish Parliament.

Political career

Early political career

As a strong proponent of Scottish devolution, McConnell helped push for reform. Between 1989 and 1998 he was a member of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, where he was playing an important role in the creation of the Scotland Act, which created a Scottish Parliament for the first time. As General Secretary he managed the Labour Party’s successful YES YES devolution referendum campaign in 1997. Following the successful devolution campaign and the creation of a Scottish Parliament, McConnell was elected as an MSP, for Motherwell and Wishaw, in the first Scottish Parliament in May 1999. He was appointed immediately by Donald Dewar, the then-First Minister, to the post of Minister of Finance. As Finance Minister one of his primary jobs was to establish the budgeting procedures for the new Scottish government, which included consulting the public on budget priorities. As Minister responsible for External Relations he established Concordats with the UK Government and opened Scotland House in Brussels.

Finance Minister

McConnell was elected an MSP in the first Scottish Parliament elections in 1999. He was appointed Minister for Finance in the new Scottish Executive by then-First Minister Donald Dewar. One of his first moves as Finance Minister was to establish the budgeting procedures for the new Scottish Executive, including publishing a consultation document asking the public and MSPs how the budget should be spent. His department also passed the Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000 through Parliament, which set out the finance and auditing procedures of the Executive.[4]

Education, Europe and External Affairs

On 11 October 2000 Donald Dewar died of a brain haemorrhage. After the Labour leadership intervened to stop the Enterprise Minister Henry McLeish being appointed Dewar’s successor without a vote, McConnell decided to stand in the leadership contest. The election was held on Saturday 21 October, only 72 hours after Dewar’s funeral and the surprise result saw McConnell defeated with 36 votes to Henry McLeish’s 44 votes.

McLeish appointed him Minister for Education, Europe and External Affairs.[5] Some analysts considered this post to be a "poisoned chalice", as he would be required to resolve both a crisis in the Scottish Qualifications Authority over exam marking, and pay disputes with the teaching unions.[6]

In August 2000, prior to Jack McConnell’s appointment as Education Minister, Scotland's national exams system was plunged into chaos when 5,000 students got the wrong exam results. Immediately following his appointment as Education Minister Jack McConnell appointed a new board for the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and introduced significant changes to the way the agency worked. The marking of the 2001 exams was a success. He introduced a new pay and conditions package for Scottish teachers and the largest ever investment in schools buildings. He also established the Scottish government’s first external relations and European strategy.

First attempt to become First Minister

First Minister McConnell with President of Russia, Vladimir Putin

After the death of Donald Dewar whilst he was First Minister of Scotland in 2000, McConnell ran for First Minister, but was narrowly defeated by Henry McLeish who became the second First Minister of Scotland. In the office of First Minister, McLeish then appointed McConnell to the post of Minister of Education, Europe and External Affairs. This was viewed as a particularly tricky post due to thousands of students getting the wrong exam results and pay disputes with teacher’s trade unions in the preceding year. He negotiated a new pay and conditions package for Scottish teachers and invested heavily in improving school infrastructure. He reformed the Scottish Qualifications Authority and appointed a new board, and the following year there was no problem with exam results. In terms of European and External Affairs, he created the first External Relations and European Affairs strategy on how to influence and implement EU policies and promote Scotland abroad.

Election for First Minister

Henry McLeish resigned as First Minister on 8 November 2001 over the Officegate Scandal, regarding the sub-let of his constituency office. In the resulting search for a leader, McConnell was seen by many political analysts as the likely successor.[7] McConnell quickly emerged as the only candidate and was elected First Minister by the Parliament on 22 November 2001 and formally appointed into office by Queen Elizabeth II on 26 November 2001. As a result of his becoming First Minister, he was appointed to the Privy Council.[8][9]

First Minister of Scotland

Jack McConnell welcomes President of the United States George W. Bush and Laura Bush to Scotland for the 31st G8 summit on 6 July 2005 at Glasgow Prestwick International Airport.

First term

A few days after his appointment, on 27 November 2001, McConnell carried out a reshuffle of the Cabinet, axing four Ministers: Angus MacKay, Sarah Boyack, Tom McCabe and Jackie Baillie, and demoting Susan Deacon (she later resigned rather than accept the new post offered to her).[10]

In February 2002, Scotland joined forces with the Republic of Ireland in a bid to host the 2008 European Football Championship.[11] McConnell was initially unconvinced that it was worth spending around £100 million on the tournament, but he later put his support behind the joint bid with the Irish. Although the bid lost out to Austria/Switzerland, McConnell later supported other attempts to land major supporting events including London's successful bid for the 2012 Olympic Games[12] and Glasgow's bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.[13] In December 2002, McConnell launched his government's campaign against sectarianism.[14]

Second term

McConnell was re-elected MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw at the Scottish Parliament elections. The Labour Party won 50 seats, the largest number, and formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrat Party which won 17 seats. On 15 May, McConnell was re-appointed First Minister of Scotland and on the same day the Scottish government published A Partnership for a Better Scotland which set out the government’s priorities for the four-year term.

Key achievements

2007 election

The Scottish Parliament elections of 3 May 2007 saw McConnell re-elected as the MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw with a majority of 5938 votes, representing 48% of the vote with a turnout of 50.3%. The Labour Party was defeated by the SNP with the Nationalists winning 47 seats to Labour's 46, leaving the SNP short of an overall majority in the Parliament.[15]

After First Minister

On 15 August 2007, McConnell announced his intention to resign as Labour leader in the Scottish Parliament.[16] He continued to sit as the MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw until the 2011 election. On 28 May 2010 it was announced that McConnell would be made a life peer and enter the House of Lords as a working peer on behalf of the Labour Party.[17] On 28 June 2010, he was created a life peer as Baron McConnell of Glenscorrodale, of the Isle of Arran in Ayrshire and Arran,[18] and was introduced in the House of Lords the same day.[19]

Other positions

McConnell was widely predicted to take the position of British High Commissioner to Malawi when it became vacant in 2009, having taken an interest in the development of the country during his time as First Minister. In August 2007, he was appointed an adviser to the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative in Malawi and Rwanda and in October 2008 was appointed by Gordon Brown as the Prime Minister's Special Representative on Conflict Resolution Mechanisms, a position which ceased following the 2010 general election. He is a UK Ambassador for Action for Children; a Fellow of the 48 Group Club, which promotes relationships between the UK and China and an Ambassador for Pump Aid.

On 8 March 2012 Optical Express announced the appointment of Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale joining the Board as non-executive director.[20]

Personal life

He is married to Bridget McConnell, and has two adopted children by that marriage, Hannah and Mark. The Lady McConnell is Chief Executive of Culture and Sport Glasgow, Britain's largest and most comprehensive cultural and sports charitable organisation. He has admitted to having an affair with a married woman.[21]

Styles of address

See also



Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jack McConnell.
Scottish Parliament
New constituency Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Motherwell and Wishaw

Succeeded by
John Pentland
Political offices
New office Minister for Finance
Succeeded by
Angus MacKay
as Minister for Finance and Local Government
Preceded by
Sam Galbraith
as Minister for Children and Education
Minister for Education, Europe and External Affairs
Succeeded by
Cathy Jamieson
as Minister for Education and Young People
Preceded by
Jim Wallace
First Minister of Scotland
Succeeded by
Alex Salmond
Party political offices
Preceded by
Henry McLeish
Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
Succeeded by
Wendy Alexander
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