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Former First Minister papers preserved by University of Stirling

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Lord McConnell - working with the Scottish Political Archive, based at the University.
Lord McConnell - working with the Scottish Political Archive, based at the University.

The papers of former Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell are to be catalogued and preserved by the University of Stirling.

The institution has received a grant for more than £37,000 from the National Cataloguing Grants scheme, administered by The National Archives, to carry out the work. The scheme helps archives to catalogue previously inaccessible collections.

The Scottish Political Archive – based at the University – has around 120 crates of material supplied by the now Lord McConnell, ranging from early election leaflets to diaries from his period as First Minister.

The University plans to share some of the material online and also exhibit items from the collection. Lord McConnell will help catalogue the material and will also record a series of interviews to put the collection in context.

Lord McConnell said: “I am delighted that my former University in Stirling have been awarded this grant to catalogue my archive collection. My papers include material on almost every major development in Scottish politics since 1979 and I want them to help others understand those developments and use that history to shape the future.”

James Travers, Secretary to the National Cataloguing Grants Panel, said: “Cataloguing past collections has uncovered treasures, which have provided unique insight into our nation's history. The programme is funded by a collective of charitable trusts and foundations including the Pilgrim Trust, the Foyle Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation and for the first time this year, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Each individual grant can last for up to two years, enabling the archives to explore each collection fully.”

Karl Magee, the University Archivist, said: “We are delighted to receive this funding which will enable us to catalogue and conserve this important collection to the proper archival standards, providing access for researchers and ensuring the long-term preservation of the material.”

Sarah Bromage, Scottish Political Archive Archivist, said: “The McConnell collection spans the period from 1979 to the present day and contains material from his time as President of the University of Stirling right through to the present day. The collection includes papers relating to Lord McConnell’s time as First Minister from 2001 to 2007.”

Lord McConnell is a graduate of the University of Stirling, where he served as President of Stirling University Students’ Association between 1980-82 as well as Vice-President of NUS Scotland in 1982 -3. He graduated in 1983 and took up a post teaching maths in Lornshill Academy in Alloa. Between 1984 and 1993 he served as a Labour Councillor for Logie Ward on Stirling Council. He led the local authority from 1990 to 1992.

Said Sarah: “Lord McConnell’s collection incorporates papers relating to this period which are particularly relevant from a Stirling perspective. In addition it directly ties into the Stirling University institutional collecting policy by including material relating to the history of the University Students’ Association and Stirling Council.”

Throughout the 1980s Lord McConnell was involved in the Labour Co-ordinating Committee (Scotland) as well as a founder member of Scottish Labour Action: each was responsible for developing Labour policy in Scotland.

He was appointed General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party in 1992, a position he held until 1998, during which time he was a key member of the Scottish Constitutional Convention which designed the current devolution settlement.

Between 1999 and 2011 he was returned as the Labour MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw, successively holding the positions of Minister for Finance (1999–2000), Minister for Education, Europe and External Affairs (2000-2001) before becoming First Minister (2001-2007).

Said Sarah: “Lord McConnell was at the heart of Labour policy decision making throughout this period and his papers reflect this involvement. Following his departure from the office of First Minister, Lord McConnell was Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Special Representative for Peace building from 2008 to 2010 and was introduced to membership of the House of Lords in 2010 as Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale.  

“The McConnell Collection will be of interest to researchers interested in the establishment and first decade of the devolved Scottish Parliament. The papers are of vital importance for those interested in tracing the history of British devolution, in that they provide data on the debates that took place prior to the establishment of the Scottish parliament and offer insight into the pressures and influences at play. The collection contains material relating to Scottish Labour Action, the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly and the Constitutional Convention, in which Lord McConnell played a leading role. 

“Lord McConnell was instrumental not only in lending credibility to Labour’s devolution proposals, but also in encouraging Labour to work with other parties and with non-party organisations to secure broad agreement for a Scottish Parliament.”

The papers include considerable material relating to Jack McConnell’s time as First Minister where he presided over initiatives such as the smoking ban, the Fresh Talent Initiative and Scotland-Malawi Partnership. 

Said Sarah: “Papers relating to the office of First Minister in the initial decade are scarce given that the majority of former First Minister Donald Dewar’s papers were destroyed almost immediately after his untimely death. This makes Lord McConnell’s papers of even greater national significance given the unique insight they provide into this period of political and constitutional reform. As such it is of national and international interest to those who study politics, government and governance, and constitutional matters.

“McConnell’s appointment as First Minister followed on from his roles as Finance and Education Minister and his papers from that period give detailed insights into the operation of inter-governmental relations with the UK government, with other governments in the UK, and with regional governments elsewhere as McConnell sought to strengthen Scotland’s international contacts.”

The project to catalogue Lord McConnell's papers is expected to take two years to complete. The University anticipates formally launching the archive in late 2015.


The Scottish Political Archive

The Scottish Political Archive (SPA) is held within the History and Politics at the University of Stirling.  SPA aims to collect political material and archives from Scottish politicians and political organisations to chronicle the political history of Scotland in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. 


National Cataloguing Grants Scheme

The National Cataloguing Grants Scheme supports the cataloguing of collections that need external funding to provide access to their content.

The National Archives is administering the distribution of more than £2 million over six years to tackle cataloguing backlogs. This has been made possible by the generous support of:

  • The Pilgrim Trust;
  • The Foyle Foundation;
  • The Wolfson Foundation;
  • The Monument Trust;
  • The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation;
  • The Mercers Company Charitable Foundation;
  • The Goldsmiths Company;
  • The J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust; and
  • The Andrew W Mellon Foundation.

It supplies provide additional funding, together with expert and secretariat support, for the programme. An independent panel makes the final decisions on the allocation of grants.


The National Archives - National Cataloguing Grants

Scottish Political Archive

Jack McConnell addresses a rally at the University of Stirling in 1980.

Jack McConnell addresses a rally at the University of Stirling in 1980. 

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