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banner Thursday, 8 November, 2001, 20:16 GMT
Constituency stunned by resignation
Allan Crow from the Glenrothes Gazette
The news came out of the blue says local paper editor Allan Crow
In the constituency at the centre of the Officegate row there has been a mixed reaction to the announcement that Henry McLeish has resigned as first minister.

Many in the Fife town of Glenrothes are proud to have had Scotland's first minister as their MSP and believe Mr McLeish to be a fundamentally honest man brought down by incompetence.

Some even suggested that this was a west coast of Scotland plot against Fife.

However, there are a significant number who see that the first minister had to resign over the row which surrounded expenses.

Mr McLeish's office
The row centred around Mr McLeish's Fife office
He claimed expenses from the House of Commons on a constituency office in Glenrothes while he was Westminster MP for Central Fife between 1987 and earlier this year.

But he failed to declare the 36,000 he had made from sub letting the office over this 14 year period.

The editor of the local weekly newspaper, the Glenrothes Gazette, said there was much surprise in the town that Mr McLeish had decided to go.

Allan Crow said: "I think they thought the debate today would have been about Henry: could he survive the debate, could he then go on or was he damaged goods?

"The last thing we expected was for him to resign. It came totally out of the blue."

He said that to have the Labour MSP for Central Fife as first minister was a "great honour".

The last thing we expected was for him to resign. It came totally out of the blue

Allan Crow, editor of the Glenrothes Gazette
"He did a very good job as first minister. He is a good constituency MSP and he remains a good constituency MSP. That has not changed no matter what's happened," said Mr Crow.

Echoing the words of Mr McLeish himself, Mr Crow said the Officegate affair had been "a muddle from day one".

He said: "Even his opponents in Fife have said he is not a dishonest man. He is not a bad man. They were even reluctant to get involved in this at times.

"He is a very good MSP. It was not a fiddle, no."

Remembered for wrong reasons

Leader of the Labour-run Fife council Christine May said: "Our first reaction was one of shock. It was made known to us in the middle of the meeting and you could hear the intake of breath around the council chamber.

"My second reaction is one of sadness. Although I'm sure Henry will have done this for good reasons, for the sake of the reputation of Parliament and the sake of his constituents and party, I'm sad that his career as first minister is likely to be remembered for the wrong reasons.

"It should be remembered for his achievement in gaining a national strategy for Scotland, including free personal care for the elderly and getting the ferry from Fife to Zeebrugge.

She said Mr McLeish had been an outstanding constituency MP and member of the Scottish Parliament.

I believe the First Minister has done the right thing. It's very regrettable that it's taken so long for this conclusion to come about.

Tory Councillor Stuart Randall
However, a Tory member of the council, Stuart Randall, said his sympathy lay with Mr McLeish's constituents.

He said: "I believe the first minister has done the right thing. It's very regrettable that it's taken so long for this conclusion to come about.

"I feel particularly sorry for those constituents of Mr McLeish who, even yesterday, were quoted in the press as standing by him and believing he had no reason to resign.

"The fact he has now given way to the inevitable is a slap in the face to these loyal constituents."

BBC Scotland's Ken McDonald
"At breakfast time Henry McLeish was facing D-Day"
See also:

08 Nov 01 | Scotland
McLeish steps down
08 Nov 01 | Scotland
PM's tribute to McLeish
08 Nov 01 | Scotland
Henry McLeish - profile
06 Nov 01 | Scotland
First minister denies office fiddle
06 Nov 01 | Scotland
Q&A: Officegate
06 Nov 01 | Scotland
Parties' fury at McLeish admission
23 Oct 01 | Scotland
McLeish pays back expenses
04 Oct 01 | Scotland
Minister faces expenses scrutiny
08 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
Profile: Jack McConnell
Links to more McLeish resignation stories are at the foot of the page.

Links to more McLeish resignation stories