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Tuesday, 6 November, 2001, 14:24 GMT
Parties' fury at McLeish admission
Henry McLeish
Mr McLeish failed to quell opposition attacks
Scotland's first minister has faced renewed calls to resign after admitting that mistakes were made over constituency expenses.

The leader of the Scottish National Party said Henry McLeish's admission of error and willingness to pay back up to 36,000 had "fundamentally weakened" his position and he should consider standing down.

Mr McLeish had originally agreed to pay the House Of Commons fees office 9,000 in a row over sub-letting his constituency office in central Fife.

John Swinney
John Swinney: Resignation call
However, in an exclusive BBC Scotland interview on Tuesday, Mr McLeish promised he would pay another 27,000 if required to do so.

He stressed that while mistakes were made, he would not resign.

SNP leader John Swinney said he was "staggered" by the potential amount of money involved.

He accused Mr McLeish of breaking the bond of trust with the public and said his position was becoming untenable.

He said: "I'm staggered by the sums of money involved and I think the first minister must have been aware of all of these details for some time, and the fact that it has taken a fortnight for this to have been dragged out of him is a matter of enormous regret.

"The first minister should have taken up our offer to come to parliament a fortnight ago and make a full personal statement and the agony of the last fortnight and the damage done to the office of first minister may have been avoided."

'Bond of trust'

Mr Swinney accused the first minister of avoiding the issue.

"It has now come to a conclusion and the first minister has got to answer how he can remain in office when the bond of trust between him and the Scottish public is fundamentally weakened, and he now must resign," he said.

Scottish Tory Party leader David McLetchie said: "I note that the first minister says it was a muddle, I've been saying for the past year there is incompetence and I'm glad to have that confirmation out of his own mouth."

Mr McLeish must now face his political opponents face-to-face in a debate in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

See also:

06 Nov 01 | Scotland
First minister denies office fiddle
02 Nov 01 | Scotland
McLeish fails to quell expenses row
23 Oct 01 | Scotland
McLeish pays back expenses
04 Oct 01 | Scotland
Minister faces expenses scrutiny
13 Jun 01 | Scotland
McLeish standards inquiry dropped
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