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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 14:58 GMT
Officegate: Is Henry McLeish right to resign?
Scotland's first minister has tendered his resignation over the Officegate expenses row.

When he was a Westminster MP, Henry McLeish sub let part of his constituency office in Glenrothes, in Fife, and failed to register the income he received with the Commons authorities.

Mr McLeish said he had made an honest mistake and has promised to pay back up to £36,000 to the fees office at Westminster.

However, the Scottish National Party and the Tories have accused Mr McLeish of incompetence and said he has damaged the office of first minister and the parliament.

Both parties were demanding the first minister's resignation over the row.

Do you think he was right to resign? What will this mean for the Scottish Parliament?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

I will give him his due, he did actually resign and he was right to do so - more than can be said for the majority of politicians. It used to be a good pub game to name 3 famous Belgians, but this has changed to name 3 honest politicians. It cannot be done, there aren't 3. The days of politicians entering the profession for honour, and with honest intentions are far gone and McLeish is no different. It was right for him to resign but like all politicians, his integrity is never the question, we all know political integrity is an oxymoron
Pete, GB

He has done the right thing to correct a wrong

Wesley Streeting, UK
Many more politicians have done far worse than Henry McLeish and refused to go until pushed. His resignation, while perhaps not strictly necessary, should do much to bolster our confidence in his integrity. He has done the right thing to correct a wrong.
Wesley Streeting, UK

Henry McLeish's performance over the last year has been distinctly lacklustre and we should be glad to see the back of him regardless of his guilt or otherwise. Unfortunately, the alternatives are either unknown, tarnished or reactive rather than proactive. I am with the previous commentators who feel that it would be better for the coalition to give Jim Wallace a shot at the top job.
Paul Allcock, Australia

If we continue with this culture of character assassination and determination to root out wrong doings whatever the context, then we will end up with no one wanting to submit themselves to the rigours of public life. Henry McLeish may have done wrong but unlike many others he did not do so with any malicious intent and if we continue to allow and condone the way in which the media treats politicians then we have to accept the consequences - a poorer standard of candidate standing for election. If we expect the highest integrity from out politicians then surely we should expect the same from the media. I also believe that there are a number of MSP's on the opposition benches who need to examine their conduct in this matter.
Jane, Scotland

I don't know the full ins and outs of this case, but it did seem to me from what was reported that he hadn't exactly been quick to clear up the mess. Under the circumstances, I think he was right to resign. I also think that this is the first time in many years that a politician in this country has resigned as honourably and quickly as the circumstances demanded, and I think he is to be praised for the honesty with which he conducted his resignation. It is a refreshing change to see that at least one politician is not so greedy for power that he will hang on for dear life until someone drags him out of office.
David Hazel, UK

We can argue all day whether Henry McLeish was right to resign over the "muddle" of his expenses. What is beyond dispute is the incompetent way he handled it. For this and his pathetic displays on television I am glad he has gone.
Scott Strachan, Scotland

Of course he was right to resign - and for people to be blaming the "Tory Media" is a bit rich when the same media was equally vigorous in identifying Tory "sleaze". The interesting thing is that the Lib-Dems were actually willing to support McLeish had the issue come to a vote - is there nothing they won't stoop to in order to maintain their place at the top table.
Mark, Scotland

While his departure is sad news for Scotland, it's the right move to preserve the sanctity of this most important role

Arif Sayed, Dubai,UAE
Most of my Scottish friends, in Dubai, and Myself feel that the First Minister may have made a genuine mistake. But the onus is always on an individual to ensure that he complies with laws/regulations. While his departure is sad news for Scotland, it's the right move to preserve the sanctity of this most important role. No-one is above the law and no-one, no matter how important, is indispensable.
Arif Sayed, Dubai,UAE

If Henry McLeish expects us to believe that he did not know he was doing wrong then he must consider us fools. He was caught and must pay the price. If any police investigation finds sufficient evidence to prosecute then the law must be applied. Corruption knows no political boundaries. It seems that the Scots mistrust of Westminster politicians would be better focussed at home.
phil , UK

I was highly amused by Stuart Kelly's comment that Mr McLeish's resignation was due to "...a relentless smear campaign orchestrated by the Tories". Whilst surprised to note that anyone considers the Tories to be that relevant and powerful in Scotland, I thought it was fairly clear to even the most naive New Labour supporter that Mr McLeish resigned because he had demonstrated at best ineptitude and at worst corruption in respect of the public purse!
Joe Payne, United Kingdom

Henry's a decent guy and it is a tragedy that he has resigned

Stuart Kelly, Scotland
Henry's a decent guy and it is a tragedy that he has resigned. He has fallen victim to a relentless smear campaign orchestrated by the Tories (the party of Neil Hamilton, Lord Caithness, Allan Stewart, Jeffrey Archer, Jonathan Aitken, Tim Yeo, David Mellor etc. etc.) and their allies in the right wing, (sometimes far right-wing) press. Is it Henry that has let Scotland down by not declaring money that he was using for the benefit of his constituents or is it the Tory media in their attempts to knock and undermine the Scottish Parliament at every opportunity? I don't think the Scottish Tories have come out of this at all well. The disgraceful behaviour of David McCletchie at First Minister's Questions last week exposed him as the rude and obnoxious individual he really is.
Stuart Kelly, Scotland

I've always thought the Scots are more than welcome to the devolution they so desperately aspire to. Mr McLeish reinforces my view.
Craig Martin, Ex-patriot

Why is it that politicians make mistakes whilst the rest of us lesser mortals commit criminal offences? There should be a full Police investigation into the matter. He should have resigned immediately.
Graham, England

Scotland expects something new from it's politicians and we are becoming very disappointed

Robert Graham, Scotland
Now that Henry has gone it is perhaps time for the other "old labour" party members who moved from the seats of absolute power they held in central Scotland's local government to become MSP's to think about the way they have conducted themselves since being elected. If they hold the same arrogant attitude about their right to public office and all the trappings and ignore the responsibliites that go with that we will never achieve a government in Scotland that breaks the negative approach we see at Westminster. Scotland expects something new from it's politicians and we are becoming very disappointed in the ability of MSP's. The quality of debate is so negative and the power of the Committee system is being ignored by the Executive.

It is perhaps a sad reflection that Mr McLeish could not see that there was anything wrong in what he was doing. Perhaps that was because it was the most natural thing to do if you were a Labour MP operating in a Labour dominated political monopoly which was Scotland. We should take the time to have a root and branch review of all politicians financial support.
Robert Graham, Scotland

If it was an 'honest mistake' why does he feel it necessary to pay all the money back out of his own pocket? In my opinion this is an admission of guilt!
Fiona, Scotland

Its time now to see a political leader of real integrity and in tune with the ordinary people of Scotland. Jackie Baillie would be my choice to take us beyond this sorry affair. Politics in Scotland needs someone of her committment and skills.
Susan, Scotland

What makes matters worse is the length to which the Scottish Labour Party seem prepared to go to protect Mr McLeish's integrity

Richard Dobson, England
Once again, a politician has failed to distinguish between an 'honest mistake' and fraudulent management of his expenses. Why is it that these guys don't seem to be able to tell the difference, and have so much difficulty seeing disaster staring them in the face? I'm afraid not only is Mr McLeish guilty of blatant disregard for the consequences of his actions, but must have been confident that his parliamentary peers would at best accept his misdemeanor as insignificant, or at least understand that such irregularities are a first minister's privileges. What makes matters worse is the length to which the Scottish Labour Party seem prepared to go to protect Mr McLeish's integrity, in spite of the stupidity of his actions. It's about time our representatives in power stopped their dishonest practicies while pretending to be guardians of law and order.
Richard Dobson, England

It is the old British disease again - Set them up to knock 'em over We should realise that trusting other people is a basis of good leadership and, more importantly, that people learn more from their mistakes. The UK is the only country in the world where people are villified for errors It is a sad truth that if we only have MSPs who have never trusted others - or never made mistakes - then our parliament will be empty Maybe we'd all be better off if it was
Andrew Smith, Scotland

The Labour Party in Scotland really has to get its act together

Keith, UK
This is getting ridiculous. We're only half way through the first term of the Scottish Parliament and already we're about to get our third First Minister. The Labour Party in Scotland really has to get its act together and either pick someone from their own ranks who can do the job or allow Jim Wallace to take it on permanently.
Keith, UK

If I under-declare my income I would get a visit from the Inland Revenue and/or the police; but a politician can "forget" about receiving £36,000 and then claim that it was just a muddle!?!! This is another example of what I have been saying for years - politicians are in it solely for what they can make and they think the rules that we have to abide by don't apply to them.
Paul, England

Mr Cunningham; the correct quote is that the love of money is the root of all evil; I wish that I had 36 grand that I could get into a muddle over; how green do they think we are?
Barry French, Wales

Money is the root of all evil!
John Cunningham, Scotland

I think that the issue is important, inasmuch as we expect probity from our elected officials (but how often do we get it??) and it is perhaps the only right and proper thing for Henry McLeish to do, to protect the Scottish Parliament from any further scandal. This 'muddle' could have been avoided if Mr McLeish had come out earlier and 'fessed up' to the whole situation. I work in the communications sector and from that perspective the handling of the situation has been abysmal. Admitting upfront there had been mistakes and errors may not have saved Henry from jumping before he was pushed, but it would have put the lid on this whole sorry affair much sooner.
Mary, Perth, Scotland

Which Labour makeweight will replace him?

Frank M, Scotland
Helen Wright was forced out as lord provost of Dundee over expenses of £10 mistakenly claimed - how McLeish thought he could explain away £36,000 of expenses he wasn't entitled to defies belief. Thank God he's gone - the only problem is which Labour makeweight will replace him?
Frank M, Scotland

Mr McLeish was pushed, but who by? It certainly wasn't Labour and Lib-Dem MSPs, they would have voted to keep him in office. It wasn't the opposition, this Scottish parliament is weak and ineffectual. You can't blame Tony Blair - only a few days ago he backed the First Minister. The man that pushed 'Oor Henry' was none other than Gordon Brown. The Chancellor considers Scotland his personal fiefdom, Fife his own backyard. It says so much about the new politics in this country - it stinks!
Malcolm, Scotland

The only thing I find surprising about this is that everybody is so surprised.
Sean, Scotland

I have not forgotten that he was ultimately responsible for the SQA when it was in crisis.
Ali, Scotland

How non-Scots view this affair I dread to think

Martin Hogg, Scotland
The revelations about what has been going on here just keep getting worse. I see from this morning's Scotsman newspaper that not only were there culpable failures to declare this income to the House of Commons and the Inland Revenue, but once again favours were being given in exchange for donations to the Labour Party (where have I heard that before?). I'm afraid that the nepotism and corruption of Old Labour in Scottish local government has continued into New Labour in national government. How non-Scots view this affair I dread to think. I for one am sickened and embarrassed for our country.
Martin Hogg, Scotland

So farewell then, Henry!! As someone too stupid to understand that all income has to be declared, best of luck in your search for a new post. P.S. Be very, very careful about your expenses this time - they'll be watching you.
David Harris, Scotland

Henry has done the right thing

Bob, Scotland
Henry has done the right thing and should have done so when all this started. But who does this leave us with as first minister? Wendy Alexander? God forbid!
Bob, Scotland

What's the big deal? Politicians are corrupt and easily expendable. McLeish will go and someone will take his place, neither better nor worse, but equally dull.
Mark, Edinburgh

Are we truly to believe that a man who reached this level in government can't manage to administer his own expenses, or at least appoint someone who could? I personally believe that the police should investigate what would seem to amount to fraud and deception.
Ewan, Scotland

McLeish must go for the sake of the office he holds. For certain he is no Donald Dewar, one year on from his death, we can really truly start seeing the difference between the two men. McLeish has nailed himself to the cross so on his own head be it. Scotland has more important matters to be on with than one Henry McLeish
Deirdre M, Scotland

I agree with Sandra Scott on this matter. One cannot simply over-claim on one's expenses to the tune of £36,000 and then try to dismiss the matter as a "muddle" when found out. Using the Lib/Lab coalition majority in the Scottish Parliament to win the no-confidence will send the wrong message entirely on this and will only damage the credibility of the parliament itself..
Scott Ronald, Scotland

If anyone else had made a muddle to the tune of £36,000 regarding expenses. Or if someone claimed it in council tax rebate or in income support, you can be sure that the department involved would not accept that it was a "muddle". I'm sure there would be a police investigation and perhaps even a jail term. Henry McLeish has no credibility in Scotland, in the Scottish Parliament or with the Scottish people. For the first time in this whole sorry mess, do the decent thing Henry. Resign now!
Sandra Scott, Scotland

Henry Mcleish (who apparently cannot count to save himself, or so we are led to believe) thinks he should stay on as first minister. Perhaps his interpretation of his very basic arithmetical skills should have included the fact that Scots have always been considered to be very careful when it comes to money, which he obviously isn't!
Richard, Scotland

Sadly I think he should go. I expected so much from our new Government, and would hate to think that one man's ineptitude would tarnish it so early. I had hoped it was the begining of a great rebirth of the Scottish state.
H Mackay, Scotland

I have known Henry McLeish for over 20 years and know him to be an honest man. He has not been best served by those who advise him, and has been ill served by critics who come from the party of Jeffrey Archer and Neil Hamilton who have little room to criticise others whilst they inhabit the cesspool of the Tory Party.
Michael Coyne, Scotland

I expected so much from our new Government, and would hate to think that one man's ineptitude would tarnish it so early.

H Mackay, Scotland
Once the McLeish debacle is over, should we not ensure that our politicians are there only if they have the interests of the country to heart by passing legislation to say that they shall only be elected if they give an undertaking to accept only a salary equivalent to their average annual earned taxable income for the five years prior to the date of their being elected? All expenses would be paid directly by the Executive upon proof that they were incurred "solely and exclusively" on Parliament business.
Tom, Scotland

The man is guilty of arrogance in that he believes he is untouchable. Whether or not what has happened regarding the monies made on his offices is an error or not, he should have been aware of it. Ignorance is not a reason to avoid being charged with an offence. If he cannot manage his own affairs then why should he be trusted with that of Scotland's?
Ron Foster, Scotland

I'm afraid I don't buy all this "McLeish is as honest as the day is long" rubbish. He used his office as a way of getting support for the Labour Party in Fife at the taxpayers expense. We should really be investigating what the donors got in return. The whole thing smells of the rotten Labour establishment in Scotland.
Paul Nelson, Scotland

McLeish is right not to resign just yet. He is the subject of a police investigation. He may be charged with a criminal offence. To resign at this stage would be to admit guilt. Better to put the accusers to the test, and then resign.
Abe, Scotland

He must resign immediately. When the issue first came to light Henry McLeish should have instigated a full investigation to avail himself of all the facts. He should then have made a statement to the assembly giving full disclosure and promising to repay in full the £36,000 in over-claimed rent. Had he gone down this route he would still have been criticised for his negligence and lack of control but at least his honesty and integrity would most likely have remained intact. He chose however to short-circuit any investigation by repaying £9,000 to the Fees Office and then saying that the matter was now closed. He doesn't really know where this additional income has gone except to say that it has been spent on providing services for the benefit of his constituents. He is, however, I believe unable to prove this point.

It is clear, however, that he simply does not have the necessary tools to carry out the duties and responsibilities of First Minister of Scotland as his credibility has reached rock bottom as a result of his handling of his issue.

John Topham, Scotland
The Labour Party should bite the bullet and insist he resigns his position immediately. It has gone beyond the point whether you think Henry McLeish is an honest or dishonest person. It is clear, however, that he simply does not have the necessary tools to carry out the duties and responsibilities of First Minister of Scotand as his credibility has reached rock bottom as a result of his handling of his issue.
John Topham, Scotland

McLeish was a mediocre half back in an even more mediocre football team. It was part of his job to cheat, by jersey pulling, tripping, shoving and committing any kind of foul play to try to keep attackers at bay, whilst all the time claiming " I never done nothin'". It would appear you can take the man out of East Fife, but you can't take the East Fife out of the man. The only possible verdict is RED CARD and in this case SINE DIE.
Leslie Horne, Scotland

McLeish may not be corrupt but he is incompetent. Oh, that just sums up this administration.
Kenneth Lockie, USA

The First Minister was paid rent for the sub-let of part of his offices. Did he declare it as income in his tax return?
Alexander, Scotland

If you received £36,000 and didn't declare it to the tax man then you'd be strung up. Even if no tax was due, not declaring the income is tax evasion - and that's against the law. If the first minister has broken the law, he should go.
Russell Horn, Scotland

The only possible verdict is RED CARD and in this case SINE DIE.

Leslie Horne, Scotland
I've been lucky enough to meet Henry McLeish and he's one of the nicest politicians you could hope to meet. Alex Salmond doesn't think he's a crook and I don't either. The rude and pugnacious manner of the Scottish Tory leader has been exposed in this matter. Much of this has come from a desire of the opposition to make mountains out of molehills for partisan advantage.
Stuart Kelly, Scotland

I don't believe a word that comes out of Henry McLeish's mouth. When he was Minister for Lifelong Learning he ducked out of taking any responsibility for the SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) debacle and let Sam Galbraith take the full rap. Galbraith and McLeish had joint responsibility for the SQA and it was Sam Galbraith that took the full blame.

It was only a matter of time before this sleazy man put his foot in it once again.

Not only should he be forced out of office, in my opinion, he should never have been there in the first place.
Squire, Scotland

Yes he should go, but I'm not surprised by this at all; we've had Mandelson, Robinson, Vaz etc. now we can add McLeish.

All we got in 1997 and 2001 was a new set of pigs for the same trough!
John Bates, England

Henry McLeish is as honest as the day is long.

William Young, UK
So he was claiming money from the state for an office but at the same time collecting rent for it. What's the difference between someone claiming benefit and gaining income at the same time. I'm sure the First Minister would rightly condemn the latter. Why does he fail to see that there is no difference.
Graeme, UK

Henry McLeish is as honest as the day is long. Henry McLeish should be annoyed at his agent and his political advisers for allowing this error to have occured. Henry is good for Scotland. Politically Labour will be damaged in the short term but when you look at the alternatives on offer such as John Swinney or David McLetchie or Jim Wallace, all of which inspire no one but themselves, it becomes obvious that the wishes of the Scottish people to elect a Labour First Minister will continue for years to come.
William Young, UK

The whole of the Labour party should go now and take the Scottish fiddlers three with them. What gross hypocrisy!
Mairi M. Scotland, Scotland

Sounds like Scottish National Party leader John Swinney has bottled the chance to get rid of the Labour First Minister.

Never mind what is best for Scotland now¿Swinney has an election to contest in 2003.

Preferring to face a weakened Henry McLeish, Mr Swinney is "Standing Up" for his own narrow Party interest rather than the greater good of our Nation.
W. Wallace, Scotland

I think he should stay - he's a good man for Scotland and his opponents are just using this as an excuse to get rid of him - they should be thinking about Scotland's reputation rather than making us look stupid
Ross Kennedy, Scotland

Consider the "explanation" that Digby Brown didn't have a telephone number registered for the office that they were sub letting because their clients found it simpler just to drop in to discuss their cases. Many of these clients, Mr McLeish assures us, were ex-miners seeking compensation. Presumably a fair proportion of these men would be suffering from severe respiratory illnesses and yet they found it easier to drop into the office? This, amongst many other aspects of this case, doesn't really stand up to the slightest scrutiny.
Graham , Scotland

If we accept his explanation then should we also accept the notion that Robert Maxwell simply mislaid the odd billion

John B
If the leader of the house is on the fiddle he should resign. Since politicians are bred to lie, no doubt he has convinced himself he's honest, when quite frankly he is not fit to lead the country.
Keith Lagden, USA (expat brit)

If a Conservative had pocketed £36,000 Labour would want them strung up for it. However, Henry McLeish expects us to believe that this is an innocent mistake. You cannot mistakenly sub let an office to tenants. What is thoroughly dispicable is Tony Blair's determination to defend McLeish when he has clearly done something that is obviously wrong. To maintain the integrity of the position of first minister, McLeish should do the honourable thing and resign.
George, England

All politicians and those of the kind with financial uncertainities should of course resign. There is a place for these people and it's called the international finance markets.
Peter, Finland

McLeish should go - on grounds of fecklessness
Leslie, Glasgow

Henry McLeish should resign. He has abused a position of trust and has absolutely failed to provide anything to disprove this. He claims that the money was used for the benefit of his constituents by covering office material, this is a con which he cannot prove.
Martin , UK

If we accept his explanation then should we also accept the notion that Robert Maxwell simply mislaid the odd billion, and that Nick Leeson meant to shout Sell instead of Buy? I wish I could get an interest-free loan of that size and then shrug it off as a bit of an oopsie.
John B, UK

It's impossible not to be cynical about Officegate especially with Henry McLeish's "honest mistake" comment. Pull the other one, Henry. I suspect the desperate rush by New Labour apologists to "draw a line under the incident" is to prevent other skeletons in sub rented constituency offices being discovered. Also hilarious are New Labour MSPs pronouncing that "the public want to move on from this issue" mantra. Who exactly makes up this memory-of-a-goldfish "public"?
Robbie, Glasgow

He should not only be required to reimburse the taxpayer in full, with interest, but he should step down on grounds of incompetence

David Moran
If a person had been found guilty of benefit fraud to the tune of £36,000 they would have been jailed. If a businessman had pocketed £36,000 at the expense of his workers he would have been derided in the press and called a fat cat. If a public service worker was found to have mishandled public finances to the tune of £36,000 that person would have been sacked.

After weeks of dodging the issue, our first minister finally tells his own Labour MSPs that as the tenant he wrongly but unwittingly claimed over a 14-year period £36,000 of taxpayers' money by sub letting his office. How do these Labour MSPs respond? They applaud him!

How would these same Labour MSPs react if council tenants claiming housing benefit where found to have taken in lodgers? Would this command a standing ovation?
Malcolm, Scotland

He's been found out. He should not only be required to reimburse the taxpayer in full, with interest, but he should step down on grounds of incompetence.
David Moran, Scotland/Australia

He won't have to resign, he's New Labour! By the time he has spun his way out of this it'll probably end up being blamed on the last Tory Government (like every other embarassment they've had over the last five years).
Neil, Scotland

I think he has made a mistake - but there is a difference between a mistake that does harm and one that actually does good. He used the money to pay for an expensive office - it never crossed his mind that he should declare the way in which he managed his office finances. I think that was silly - but whilst doing what he did - he provided an accessible parliamentary service. I don't think he should have to go for this.
Ronald McEwen, Scotland

He is ripping taxpayers off, his only course of action having been found out is to resign

Andy, UK
If he can't even manage his own affairs, how on earth is he supposed to run the inflated-ego town council that is the Scottish Parliament/Executive? Leave, sir, be gone and take the whole shower with you.
Jock, Scotland

Wouldn't McLeish's resignation enhance Jack McConnell's career prospects? If so, keep fiddling (sorry muddling) Henry. It would seem that the distinct lack of political talent operating in Scotland leaves it with few delectable morsels.
Paul, England

The "Officegate" affair has all the stench of corruption and graft hanging over it. The "fees" paid by those organisations who rented the office space appear to be far in excess of what a fair market rent would be for the space concerned. Call me a cynic but were these so-called fees only for rent or were the payments from tenants, (if they ever existed) part of a contribution for political patronage?
Richard Dye, Scotland

Is this not similar to a council house tenant sub letting a property provided by public funds? If an MP can do it without punishment then the floodgates will open. He is ripping taxpayers off, his only course of action having been found out is to resign or failing that he should be sacked and lose his seat.
Andy, UK

See also:

08 Nov 01 | Scotland
McLeish quits as first minister
06 Nov 01 | Scotland
Parties' fury at McLeish admission
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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