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The Right Honourable
 Henry McLeish

In office
27 October 2000 – 8 November 2001
Monarch Elizabeth II
Deputy Jim Wallace
Preceded by Donald Dewar
Succeeded by Jack McConnell

In office
6 May 1999 – 1 May 2003
Preceded by Constituency Established
Succeeded by Christine May

Member of Parliament
for Central Fife
In office
11 June 1987 – 7 June 2001
Preceded by Willie Hamilton
Succeeded by John MacDougall

Born 15 June 1948 (1948-06-15) (age 61)
Methil, Fife, Scotland
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Henry McLeish
Personal information
Date of birth 15 June 1948 (1948-06-15) (age 61)
Place of birth Methil, Fife, Scotland
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.
† Appearances (Goals).

Henry Baird McLeish (born 15 June 1948) is a Scottish Labour politician, author and academic. Formerly a professional association football player, McLeish was the Member of Parliament for Central Fife from 1987 to 2001 and the Member of the Scottish Parliament for Central Fife from 1999 to 2003, during which time he also served as the second First Minister of Scotland, from 2000 to 2001, following the sudden death of Donald Dewar.


Footballer and early political career

McLeish played professional football for East Fife,[1] for whom he signed after a spell at Leeds United;[2] he also represented Scotland as a youth international. After this he was a lecturer at Heriot-Watt University before entering politics.

McLeish was leader of Fife Regional Council, before his election as a Labour MP for Central Fife at the 1987 General Election. In the late 1980s and into the 1990s, McLeish was a Labour shadow spokesman for several portfolios, including the Scottish Office, transport, employment, and health and social security. When Labour came to power in 1997, McLeish was appointed as a Minister of the Scottish Office.

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

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.[3] 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.[3] Professor John Curtice, a prominent English political analyst, commented that McLeish would not have the "kind of authority" that Donald Dewar enjoyed.[3]

While First Minister, McLeish was widely commended as being a business-like manager of the Scottish Executive, with good political instincts and good relations in Westminster and Holyrood. He travelled widely, particularly in the United States, where he capitalised on sentimentalism for Scotland among American politicians to advance the cause of Scottish industry and export. He managed several tasks forces designed to improve the competitiveness of Scottish industry, especially the PILOT project for Scottish oil and gas supply chains. Even so, he was embarrassed when an open microphone recorded him with Helen Liddell in a TV studio, describing 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".[4]

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 is a consultant with political and public relations consultancy Halogen Communications Ltd, as well as J. Chandler & Co., distributor of Buckfast Tonic Wine and has written a number of 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).

McLeish also holds the following positions and titles:

In August 2007 he was appointed to the Scottish Broadcasting Commission (established by the Scottish Government).


Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Willie Hamilton
Member of Parliament for Central Fife
Succeeded by
John MacDougall
Scottish Parliament
Preceded by
Constituency Created
Member of the Scottish Parliament for Central Fife
Succeeded by
Christine May
Political offices
Preceded by
Donald Dewar
First Minister of Scotland
Succeeded by
Jack McConnell
Preceded by
Office Created
Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning
Succeeded by
Wendy Alexander
Party political offices
Preceded by
Donald Dewar
Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
Succeeded by
Jack McConnell


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