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McLeish resignation Thursday, 8 November, 2001, 12:00 GMT
Profile: Henry McLeish
Henry McLeish graphic
Mr McLeish will resign from his post

Name: Henry McLeish

Born: Fife

Age: 52

Education: BA (Hons) urban planning from Heriot-Watt University

MSP for: Fife Central

Former Scottish Office Minister

Former Holyrood Position: Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning

There seemed a tragic irony in the departure of Henry McLeish as the first minister of Scotland.

The man who always appeared to have a businesslike manner in his political dealings should be brought down by errors in his personal affairs.

Mr McLeish was elected as first minister of the Scottish Parliament last year following the sudden death of Donald Dewar.

How ironic, also, that the former Scottish Office minister fo devolution should be forced to step down from the top job in the very body he hoped to create.

Mr McLeish, the former Scottish enterprise minister at Holyrood had been effectively deputy to the late first minister Donald Dewar - but without the title.

Donald Dewar with others
Mr McLeish was close to Donald Dewar
A former professional footballer, he cut his political teeth in Fife in the early 1970s.

After working his way through the echelons of Kirkcaldy District Council and Fife Regional Council, he was elected MP for Fife Central in 1987.

In keeping with the convention agreed by other MPs elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999, he stood down from the Westminster seat ahead of the general election this year to focus his energies on Holyrood.

However, it was his experience at Westminster which allowed him to stand out.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, Mr McLeish was a shadow spokesman for several portfolios, including transport, health and social security.

He was a devolution minister in the former Scottish Office, and played a key role in delivering Scotland's first parliament in almost 300 years.

Mr McLeish was fiercely loyal to Mr Dewar and was perceived as a "safe pair of hands" into which the baton for leading the Scottish Executive and Scottish Labour could be passed following the former first minister's death.

Financial affairs

Evidence of this loyalty was clear when a tearful Mr McLeish joined parliamentarians in the chamber to mourn Mr Dewar.

The father-of-four was regarded as a competent parliamentary performer, but there were doubts about the presence of a "common touch" and the ability to control rebellion in the ranks.

Doubts arose about his handling of the Officegate expenses issue.

Critics said he failed to manage his financial affairs correctly, which had been damaging enough in itself.

Potentially more harmful in the long term was Mr McLeish's inability to resolve the matter in the eyes of the public and the media.

Henry McLeish with seal of office
He took over in tragic circumstances
Outside politics, Mr McLeish has sought to keep his private life out of the public domain.

In the mid 1990s his personal life was touched by tragedy.

His first wife died of stomach cancer in the mid-1990s just 19 days after it was diagnosed, leaving him to raise their two children, a boy and a girl, now in their 20s.

In 1998, at the time that most other Labour MPs were celebrating their first year in government at Westminster, he married for the second time.

His bride was Julie Fulton, a social worker for Fife Council, and they married in St Andrews.

See also:

29 Jun 00 | Scotland
27 Apr 00 | Scotland
09 Dec 99 | Scotland
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