Scotland’s independent think tank
Scotland’s independent think tank

Lord McConnell Joins Reform Scotland

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale is to become the new chair of think tank Reform Scotland.

The former First Minister takes over from Alan McFarlane, who steps down after seven years chairing the independent, non-partisan, Edinburgh-based think tank.

Reform Scotland, which was set up in 2008, is Scotland’s leading think tank, and works to promote increased prosperity, a positive climate for entrepreneurs and innovators, reform and modernisation of public services, a widening of opportunity for all, compassion for those who slip through the cracks, and greater courage and appetite for risk among policy-makers. It enjoys strong and constructive relationships across the political spectrum.

“I am delighted that Lord McConnell has agreed to join us as chair. As a hugely respected former First Minister he has unparalleled understanding and experience of government and policy, and will greatly enrich our work and focus.

“While Jack is a member of the Labour Party, he has always put good public policy and the interests of Scotland first, and has excellent relationships with politicians of all parties. As First Minister, he pioneered the ban on smoking in public places, set up the Fresh Talent Initiative, which allowed overseas students to remain in Scotland after graduation, and was responsible for major reforms in education and criminal justice. Before that, he was a passionate campaigner for the creation of a Scottish Parliament, and started out as a young, reforming council leader in Stirling. Since leaving office he has been an active member of the House of Lords, and his ongoing charity and development work in Africa and elsewhere shows the mark of the man.

“Jack will bring fresh energy and expertise to Reform Scotland as we seek to continue our recent growth, our exciting programme of research and policy development, first-class events, and engagement with people across Scotland who care about the future of our nation. We are a fiercely independent, non-party think tank and always will be – it remains our guiding aim to produce ideas based on evidence and data that can improve the state of Scotland, and to continue to work with partners of all political persuasions and none.

“I’d also like to thank Alan for his commitment to Reform Scotland over the past seven years. He has been an exemplary chair and a huge support to me and the team, and will be missed.”

Chris Deerin, Director, Reform Scotland

“Over centuries, Scotland has contributed some of the most important ideas and inventions the world has ever seen. But we cannot rest on the past.

“If we are to meet the challenges of the 21st Century our ambitions need to be high, and our debates need to be radical and inclusive. Reform Scotland has been challenging policy-makers and politicians in Scotland to look at new ideas and approaches that would strengthen our economy, raise standards in education, improve our governance and tackle inequalities. Their approach to evidence and debate is needed today more than ever. ”

“As we move on from the pandemic there is a real and urgent need to open up the debates on public policy in Scotland and secure a better future for our country. I am excited to be joining Reform Scotland at this time and I look forward to using my experience to help them make an even greater impact in the future.”

Jack McConnell, Chair, Reform Scotland

“Lord McConnell is a man of principle and intellect, and continues to be an important voice in the debate about Scotland’s future. During my period in the chair, it has been my privilege to help Reform Scotland thrive and grow. I have observed first-hand the important and influential role our think tank plays in the political and policy-making process, and how passionate and committed its team is. I am delighted now to pass the torch on to Jack, and I know that Reform Scotland will continue to go from strength to strength.”

Alan McFarlane, Outgoing Chair, Reform Scotland

“Reform Scotland has made great strides over the past few years with its brilliant research and events, its strong partnerships and rising public profile. With Jack in the chair we look forward to continuing this exciting growth. His experience as a former councillor, devolution campaigner, MSP, First Minister and now in the House of Lords will be invaluable to our work.”

Geraldine Gammell, Reform Scotland Trustee

“The Reform Scotland trustee board contains people with radically different views on Scotland’s constitutional future and who also occupy different positions on the left-right spectrum of politics, but what we share is a willingness to explore new ideas for innovative public policy. Under Jack’s chairmanship, Reform Scotland looks forward to continuing to lead high-profile policy debates in the public domain, and offer thoughts and potential solutions to politicians of all parties, and other decision makers, from a non-aligned perspective.”

Kevin Pringle, Reform Scotland Trustee

Biography – Rt Hon Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale

Jack McConnell was First Minister of Scotland 2001-2007, UK Special Representative for Peacebuilding 2008-2010, and he has been a member of the UK House of Lords since 2010.

Lord McConnell is Chancellor of the University of Stirling, Chair of the McConnell International Foundation, Chair of the SSE Renewables Sustainable Development Fund, Deputy Chair of the UK/ Japan 21st Century Board, and a global adviser to PwC. He is Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the UN Global Goals, Chair of the International Peacebuilding Awards and an adviser to the Bangsamoro peace process in the Philippines.

Jack has served with many organisations supporting vulnerable young people and is currently Vice President of UNICEF UK and a Trustee of youth mentoring charity MCR Pathways. He has a keen interest in sport, now serving as Honorary President of Scottish Athletics and Chair of the Commonwealth Games Scotland Endowment Fund.

From 1999 to 2011, Jack McConnell was an elected Member of the Scottish Parliament. He was Minister for Finance from 1999-2000 and Scotland’s Minister for Education, Europe and External Affairs 2000-2001. He represented Scotland internationally and in 2004 he was President of the Conference of European Legislative Regions.

Jack McConnell was born in Irvine in 1960, and grew up on a sheep farm on the Isle of Arran in Scotland. He graduated in Mathematics and Education from the University of Stirling before working as a High School Mathematics teacher for a decade. He was Stirling Council Leader 1990-1992, a Member of the Scottish Constitutional Convention 1989-1998 and General Secretary of the Scottish Labour Party 1992-1998.

Lord McConnell enjoys live music, gardening, and sports. He is married to Bridget McConnell, Chief Executive of Glasgow Life. They have one daughter , one son, and four grandchildren.