Henry McLeish

The Right Honourable
Henry McLeish
First Minister of Scotland
In office
26 October 2000  8 November 2001
Deputy Jim Wallace
Preceded by Jim Wallace (Acting)
Succeeded by Jim Wallace (Acting)
Leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament
In office
27 October 2000  8 November 2001
Preceded by Donald Dewar
Succeeded by Jack McConnell
Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning
In office
17 May 1999  26 October 2000
First Minister Donald Dewar
Jim Wallace (Acting)
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Wendy Alexander
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Central Fife
In office
6 May 1999  1 May 2003
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Christine May
Minister of State for Scotland
In office
6 May 1997  29 June 1999
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by James Douglas-Hamilton
Succeeded by Brian Wilson
Member of Parliament
for Central Fife
In office
11 June 1987  7 June 2001
Preceded by Willie Hamilton
Succeeded by John MacDougall
Personal details
Born Henry Baird McLeish
(1948-06-15) 15 June 1948
Methil, Fife, Scotland
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Margaret Drysdale (1968–1995)
Julie Fulton (1998–2011)
Caryn Nicolson (2012–present)
Alma mater Heriot-Watt University
Occupation Urban planner
Religion Church of Scotland
Henry McLeish
Personal information
Playing position Wing half
Youth career
Leeds United
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1964–1969 East Fife 84 (2)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Henry Baird McLeish PC (born 15 June 1948) is a Scottish Labour Party politician, author and academic who served as the second First Minister of Scotland from 2000 until 2001 when he had to resign following a financial scandal, the first major scandal to face the Scottish Parliament since its reincarnation.[1] Formerly a professional football player, McLeish was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Central Fife from 1987 to 2001 and the Member of the Scottish Parliament for Central Fife from 1999 to 2003.

Early life

McLeish was born in Methil, Fife into a coal mining family. Educated at Buckhaven High School, he left school in 1963 at the age of 15 to become a schoolboy professional football player at Leeds United[2] and represented Scotland as a youth international. After six weeks he was suffering from homesickness and moved back to Scotland, where he joined Scottish Football League club East Fife.[3] His footballing career was cut short by injury, and he returned to education, studying at Heriot-Watt University 1968–1973, where he graduated with a BA (Hons) in Urban Planning.

After graduating, McLeish worked as a research officer at Edinburgh Corporation's department of social work 1973–1974, then as a planning officer for Fife County Council 1974–1975 and Dunfermline District Council 1975–1987. He also worked as a part-time lecturer and tutor at Heriot-Watt University 1973–1986.[4]

Political career

Fife local government

McLeish joined the Scottish Labour Party in 1970. He was a local councillor on Kirkcaldy District Council 1974–1977 and then on Fife Regional Council 1978–1987, fighting East Fife unsuccessfully in 1979. He served as leader of Fife Regional Council from 1982 until his election as Labour MP for Central Fife at the 1987 General Election.

Westminster and Holyrood

In the late 1980s and into the 1990s, McLeish was a Labour shadow spokesman for several portfolios, including education and employment 1988–1989, employment and training 1989–1992, shadow Scottish Office Minister of State 1992–1994, shadow Minister of Transport 1994–1995, shadow Minister of Health 1995–1996, and shadow Minister of Social Security 1996–1997. When Labour came to power in 1997, McLeish was appointed as a Minister of State for Scotland, with responsibility for home affairs and devolution.

As Donald Dewar's right-hand man in Westminster, McLeish helped secure devolution for Scotland and manoeuvre the Scotland Act through the Westminster Parliament. After the creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, McLeish was elected as MSP for Fife Central and became Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning.

First Minister of Scotland

After Dewar's death in 2000, McLeish defeated his rival Jack McConnell by 44 votes to 36 in the race to become the second First Minister.[5] The ballot was held amongst a restricted electorate of Labour MSPs and members of Scottish Labour's national executive, because there was insufficient time for a full election to be held.[5] Professor John Curtice, a prominent political analyst, commented that McLeish would not have the "kind of authority" that Donald Dewar enjoyed.[5]

He travelled widely, particularly in the United States. He managed several task forces designed to improve the competitiveness of Scottish industry, especially the PILOT project for Scottish oil and gas supply chains. He was embarrassed when an open microphone recorded him with Helen Liddell in a TV studio, describing Scottish Secretary John Reid as "a patronising bastard" and said of his colleague, Brian Wilson, "Brian is supposed to be in charge of Africa but he spends most of his time in bloody Dublin. He is a liability".[6]

Whilst in government serving as First Minister, McLeish oversaw and implemented the free personal care for the elderly scheme[7] as well as the implementation of the McCrone Agreement for education teachers in Scotland.[8]

Resignation as First Minister

He resigned as First Minister in 2001 amid a scandal involving allegations he sub-let part of his tax-subsidised Westminster constituency office without it having been registered in the register of interests kept in the Parliamentary office. The press called the affair Officegate. Though McLeish could not have personally benefited financially from the oversight, he undertook to repay the £36,000 rental income, and resigned to allow the Scottish Labour Party a clean break to prepare for the 2003 Parliamentary elections. McLeish did not seek re-election.

After politics

Since leaving mainstream politics McLeish has lectured widely in the United States, particularly at the United States Air Force Academy and the University of Arkansas, where he holds a visiting professorship shared between the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and the University of Arkansas School of Law.

He is considered an expert on European-American relations and on the European Union.

He has written books including Scotland First: Truth and Consequences (2004), Global Scots: Voices from Afar (with Kenny MacAskill) (2006) (published in the UK as Global Scots: Making It in the Modern World), Wherever the Saltire Flies (with Kenny MacAskill) (2006) and Scotland: The Road Divides (with Tom Brown) (2007).

Scottish Broadcasting Commission

In August 2007 he was appointed to the Scottish Broadcasting Commission (established by the Scottish Government). He also chaired the Scottish Prisons Commission, which produced a report into sentencing and the criminal justice system in 2008 entitled "Scotland's Choice".[9]

McLeish concluded a "major report" on the state of football in Scotland, which had been commissioned by the Scottish Football Association, in April 2010.[9] McLeish claimed that Scottish football was "underachieving, under-performing and under-funded" at a press conference to unveil the report.[9]

Scottish independence referendum

In the run up to the referendum on Scottish independence on 18 September 2014, there was much media and public speculation towards whether McLeish backed a "No" vote to remain within the United Kingdom, or whether he supported a "Yes" vote in order to create an independent separate sovereign Scotland. Speculation from the public came from media articles in which McLeish was reported to be talking negatively about the prospect of a No vote to remain within the union, but was later reported as stating it would be "near impossible" to vote Yes in the referendum.[10]

Following the 2016 European referendum on British EU membership, in which there was a majority British vote to leave the European Union, but a majority Scottish vote to remain within the EU, McLeish has since claimed that he would support and campaign for an independent Scottish sovereign state and campaign for it to be a fully functioning member and participate fully within the European Union despite a British exit.[11]

Titles and achievements

McLeish also holds the following positions and titles:


External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Willie Hamilton
Member of Parliament
for Central Fife

Succeeded by
John MacDougall
Scottish Parliament
New title Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Central Fife

Succeeded by
Christine May
Political offices
New office Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning
Succeeded by
Wendy Alexander
Preceded by
Jim Wallace
First Minister of Scotland
Succeeded by
Jim Wallace
Party political offices
Preceded by
Donald Dewar
Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
Succeeded by
Jack McConnell
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