|First Minister of Scotland|
26 October 2000 – 8 November 2001
|Leader of the Scottish Labour Party|
27 October 2000 – 8 November 2001
Acting: 11 October 2000 – 27 October 2000
|UK party leader||Tony Blair|
|Preceded by||Donald Dewar|
|Succeeded by||Jack McConnell|
Henry Baird McLeish
15 June 1948
Methil, Fife, Scotland
|Political party||Scottish Labour|
Henry Baird McLeish (born 15 June 1948) is a Scottish politician, author and academic who served as First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the Scottish Labour Party from 2000 to 2001. He was Member of Parliament (MP) for Central Fife from 1987 to 2001 and Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for the equivalent seat from 1999 to 2003.
Born in Methil, Fife, McLeish was educated at Buckhaven High School before pursuing a career as a professional footballer. After suffering from injury, he studied at Heriot-Watt University and became an urban planner. He was first elected for Central Fife at the 1987 general election and served as Minister of State for Scotland following the 1997 general election. When the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, he contested and won the Central Fife constituency in that year's election. In May 1999, McLeish was appointed Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning by First Minister Donald Dewar in Dewar's cabinet.
Following Dewar's death in October 2000, McLeish succeeded him as first minister. McLeish implemented the free personal care for the elderly scheme as well as the implementation of the McCrone Agreement for education teachers in Scotland. His tenure as first minister was short, as he resigned the following year following a financial scandal referred to as "Officegate"; the first major scandal the Scottish Parliament had faced since its reincarnation two years earlier. After standing down as first minister, he stood down from the Scottish Parliament at the 2003 election.
Since leaving office, McLeish has remained politically active and has written several books. In 2007, he was appointed to the Scottish Broadcasting Commission and the following year he chaired the Scottish Prisons Commission. In the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, he campaigned in-favour of remaining in the UK. However, following Brexit, McLeish has stated he would back another referendum if Scotland was taken out of the EU against its wishes.
Henry Baird McLeish was born on 15 June 1948 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 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. 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 BSc (Hons) in Town Planning.
After graduating, McLeish worked as a research officer at Edinburgh Corporation's department of social work from 1973 to 1974, then as a planning officer for Fife County Council from 1974 to 1975 and Dunfermline District Council from 1975 to 1987. He also worked as a part-time lecturer and tutor at Heriot-Watt University from 1973 to 1986.
McLeish joined the Scottish Labour Party in 1970. He was a local councillor on Kirkcaldy District Council from 1974 to 1977, and then on Fife Regional Council 1978 to 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.
In the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s, McLeish was a Labour shadow spokesman for several portfolios, including education and employment 1988 to 1989, employment and training 1989 to 1992, shadow Scottish Office Minister of State 1992 to 1994, shadow Minister of Transport 1994 to 1995, shadow Minister of Health 1995 to 1996, and shadow Minister of Social Security 1996 to 1997.
When Labour came to power in May 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 May 1999, McLeish was elected as MSP for Fife Central and became Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning.
On 11 October 2000, Dewar died of a brain haemorrhage following a fall outside Bute House the following day. Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace served as the acting First Minister, until the election of a new leader of Scottish Labour was held after Dewar's funeral. On 19 October, McLeish launched his bid to be the next leader of the Scottish Labour Party, with Jack McConnell later announcing his bid.
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. McLeish defeated his rival Jack McConnell by 44 votes to 36 in the race to become the second first minister.
McLeish was First Minister during the time of the September 11 attacks in the United States, and watched the events unfold in his office in St Andrews House, the HQ of the Scottish Government in Edinburgh. McLeish has spoken about his serious concern about the defence strategies in place within Scotland to protect the country from a terrorist attack of a similar nature. He initially worried about Scotland's major cities, such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen being targets based on their economic strength and significance to the Scottish, UK and European economies. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, McLeish focussed on strengthening security, protection and defence systems in Scotland to ensure the country was equipped to deal with a large scale terrorist attack. McLeish lead the then Scottish Executive to working with the UK Government to ensure appropriate measures and strengthen security was in place within Scotland.
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks in the United States, McLeish instructed all airports in Scotland to be on alert and tighten their security measures.
On September 13, 2001, McLeish moved a motion in the Scottish Parliament to send condolences to the people of the United States and New York. Through the motion, McLeish said "the Parliament condemns the senseless and abhorrent acts of terrorism carried out in the United States yesterday and extends our deepest sympathies to those whose loved ones have been killed or injured".
As a Labour First Minister, and with a Labour UK Government in office at the time of the attacks under Tony Blair, McLeish initially supported the War on Terror, however stated in 2021 that he regrets that the war ultimately turned out as a "war on Islam".
Professor John Curtice, a prominent political analyst, commented that McLeish would not have the "kind of authority" that Donald Dewar enjoyed. 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 television 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".
Whilst in government serving as first minister, McLeish oversaw and implemented the free personal care for the elderly scheme as well as the implementation of the McCrone Agreement for education teachers in Scotland.
Main article: Officegate
McLeish resigned as first minister in November 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 Scottish Labour a clean break to prepare for the 2003 Scottish Parliament election. McLeish did not seek re-election.
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 United Kingdom 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).
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". McLeish concluded a "major report" on the state of football in Scotland, which had been commissioned by the Scottish Football Association, in April 2010.
McLeish claimed that Scottish football was "underachieving, under performing and under funded" at a press conference to unveil the report.
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.
Following the 2016 UK referendum on EU membership, in which the majority of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, but the majority of the Scottish electorate voted to remain in 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 Brexit. In September 2021, he reiterated that he would support independence if the union was not reformed.
McLeish also holds the following positions and titles: