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Monday, May 17, 1999 Published at 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK

UK Politics

Reid inherits a changing Scotland

Dr John Reid: Praised for anti-independence speech

The post of Scottish secretary which Dr John Reid inherits is very different from that occupied by his predecessor Donald Dewar.

Dr Reid's domain at the Scottish Office is shrinking in size and responsibilities, with powers being transferred over to the new parliament.

He will represent Scottish matters within the cabinet but as the parliament develops, some political analysts believe the position of Scottish secretary could be downgraded.

The appointment confirms views within Labour that Dr Reid proved himself a highly effective minister, firstly at the Ministry of Defence and most recently at transport.

Prescott's fight

Transport Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is reported to have fought hard to keep Dr Reid, 52, to remain in his former role, but with full Cabinet status.

Educated at Coatbridge and Stirling University, he worked as a research officer for the Scottish Labour Party and then as adviser to Labour leader Neil Kinnock from 1983 until 1985.

He represents Hamilton North and Bellshill with a majority of 17,067 and was promoted to transport minister in place of Gavin Strang in July 1998.

Although outside the Cabinet, he attended its meetings at Downing Street.

Dr Reid's position was helped by a highly effective speech at the Scottish Labour Party conference earlier this year, setting out why he viewed devolution as the way ahead for Scotland and attacking the Scottish National Party's plans for independence.

The speech earned warm congratulations afterwards from the prime minister, whose high opinion of Dr Reid stemmed from 15 months as armed forces minister during which time he was deeply engaged in the Strategic Defence Review.

Swift action

He promised to act swiftly on Gulf War Syndrome after it was felt that Tory Minister Nicholas Soames had dragged his feet.

He also reviewed cases of soliders shot in World War I for desertion and ordered that their names be added to war memorials, without offering individual pardons.

In his time, Dr Reid has incurred the wrath of his party. He was rebuked for making an undisclosed visit to Switzerland in 1993 to meet the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadjic.

His wife Cathie, who he met at school, died suddenly in 1998. A Conservative central office researcher later apologised for a slur on her, made after her death.

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