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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 21:30 GMT
McLeish to rebuild political career
Henry McLeish
Henry McLeish took a seat on the back benches
Former First Minister Henry McLeish has pledged to remain active in politics after returning to the Scottish Parliament following an absence of almost a month.

The Central Fife MSP had not made an appearance in the chamber since his resignation speech on 8 November.

He stunned colleagues then by quitting over the Officegate expenses row, which centred on the sub letting of his constituency office in Glenrothes.


I have had time to reflect on what has been a difficult period and now I want to get on with my political life and with family life

Henry McLeish
However, his return to the chamber was a lower-key affair as he slipped unobtrusively onto the parliament's very back bench during a debate on gypsy travellers.

Afterwards, Mr McLeish broke his silence to tell BBC Scotland that he wants to rebuild his political career and promote Scottish self-government.

He said he had spent the past month rebuilding his life - and reflecting on the row over his former Westminster allowances which brought him down.

Mr McLeish said he was "delighted" to return to parliament and was looking forward to the future.

Asked about his plans, he said: "I am a passionate devotee of devolution. I will continue to promote that in every way I can - it is important for Scotland, important for the parliament itself.

Active in politics

"I want to do some teaching, I want to do some writing - indeed, a number of opportunities will open up before me.

"But the main thing is that I am going to be active in politics and I very much look forward to that."

Mr McLeish made it clear that he will not be a focus for dissent from the back benches.

Jim Wallace and Jack McConnell
Jim Wallace and First Minister Jack McConnell
He said new First Minister Jack McConnell was entitled to shape his own cabinet - and determine his own priorities.

And he declined to comment on the questions over allowances which are now being faced by two other Labour MPs.

"I have had time to reflect on what has been a difficult period and now I want to get on with my political life and with family life," he said.

Mr McLeish spoke to a number of MSPs on his return to the parliament, including former ministers Angus MacKay and Jackie Baillie and new deputy health minister Mary Mulligan.

He is believed to have spent much of the time since his resignation at the family home in St Andrews.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Political editor Brian Taylor reports
"The former first minister insists he won't be a focus for dissent"

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See also:

04 Dec 01 | Scottish Cabinet
08 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
08 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
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