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Helen Liddell
"I am hugely honoured to be the first woman Scottish secretary"
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Thursday, 25 January, 2001, 22:11 GMT
New roles for 'street-fighters'
John Reid and Helen Liddell graphic
All change for Helen Liddell and John Reid
Dr John Reid has handed over his Scottish secretary post to Helen Liddell following his appointment as Northern Ireland secretary.

The notable political "street-fighters" were drafted in to their new high-ranking cabinet positions in the wake of Peter Mandelson's resignation.

Downing Street also announced that Scotland Office Minister Brian Wilson would take up a position in the Foreign Office.

Mr Wilson is to be replaced George Foulkes, the Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley MP.

Mrs Liddell's return to Scottish politics after a two-year absence is expected to stir up a hornets' nest among the country's opposition leaders.

John Reid
John Reid takes time out from politics
Many will recall her infamous run-ins with the Scottish National Party when Alex Salmond was in charge.

She also found herself on the wrong side of Scotland's teachers during her time managing education north of the Border.

Mrs Liddell told BBC Scotland she was "hugely honoured" to become the first female Scottish secretary.

"I have a job to do, it is a big job to do and it is an important job to do," she said.

But she dismissed negative media speculation about her relationship with First Minister Henry McLeish.

"I have known Henry for years. I have a lot of affection and respect for Henry," she said.

"I will work well with Henry, and he will work well with me.

"We have a common vision - a stronger Scotland and a stronger United Kingdom that brings prosperity to everyone."

However, SNP leader John Swinney predicted that the appointment would increase tensions between Westminster and Holyrood.

Helen Liddell
Helen Liddell: Back to Scottish politics
He said: "This is a humiliation for Brian Wilson and I am sure Helen Liddell can be relied upon to carry on the turf war between London and the Scottish government."

Dr Reid's move over the water was made official just after 2100 GMT on Wednesday.

That appointment set in train a mini-reshuffle to fill the gaps.

Mrs Liddell's current role as Energy Minister at the Department of Trade and Industry will be filled by Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain.

And Scotland Office Minister Brian Wilson will take on his post.

George Foulkes, who takes over from Mr Wilson, was previously Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development.

The new Minister of State at the Scotland Office will be replaced at International Development by Sunderland South MP Chris Mullin.

Dr Reid, who has crafted himself the role of political sure-footedness, wasted no time in pledging to do everything possible to ensure the Good Friday Agreement would be fully implemented.

George Foulkes
George Foulkes: Moving to the Scotland Office
He said he was sad to see the departure of predecessor, Mr Mandelson, from office but Northern Ireland was entering a crucial phase.

Dr Reid added: "The next few weeks provide an enormous opportunity to put the agreement, and the future of Northern Ireland, on a more stable basis."

"I will do all in my power to help bring that about.

The new secretary of state - the first Roman Catholic in the post - expects to leave London on Thursday and travel to Northern Ireland to meet his new team.

As Dr Reid starts anew, Mrs Liddell - the first woman in the Scottish post - is expected to head north to meet her Scotland Office team.

BBC Scotland's chief political correspondent, John Morrison said the appointment of Helen Liddell was likely to cause some tension with Scotland's first minister.

Speaking on Newsnight Scotland he said that Helen Liddell's previous position as deputy Scottish secretary had "put Henry McLeish's nose out of joint" and their relationship "has not really improved since then".

He added: "Tonight, they are saying they are looking forward to a constructive relationship, but I think that is political jargon for they don't get on very well."

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See also:

24 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
John Reid appointed NI secretary
24 Jan 01 | Scotland
Helen Liddell: Profile
24 Jan 01 | Scotland
John Reid: Profile
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