Henry McLeish – Former First Minister of Scotland
Henry McCleish, former First Minister of Scotland and currently member of the Labour party’s Scottish Executive, recently warned the Scottish Labour party against sleepwalking into independence. Politics has changed drastically north of the border since his tenure and it’s time they caught up.
McLeish resigned after just 13 months in office following a controversy surrounding subleasing his constituency office. Due to his poor judgment, this scandal resulted in him facing a no-confidence vote against him.
Early Life and Education
McLeish grew up in Methil, Fife. At Buckhaven High School he became part of the football team, but was advised he had no future in education.
After graduating from Heriot-Watt University, he worked as a planning officer for local and regional governments before being elected to the United Kingdom Parliament in 1987 under Prime Minister Tony Blair’s administration as Minister for Devolution and Home Affairs – playing an instrumental role in shaping Scotland’s first parliament for nearly 300 years.
He later became First Minister of Scotland, representing Central Fife constituency. While in office he led official government missions overseas and implemented Scottish social and economic policies. Additionally he served on Privy Council. Since leaving office he has lectured at universities including University of Arkansas and Air Force Academy Colorado Springs in America.
Henry McLeish began his political career in local government with Kirkcaldy District Council and Fife Regional Council before being elected to the UK Parliament as an MP in 1987, first serving on shadow benches until becoming one of Blair’s ministers in his government in 1994. Later he would help shape Scotland’s inaugural parliament before eventually being named First Minister responsible for representing Scotland internationally.
As First Minister, he successfully advanced a smoking ban and strengthened ties to Malawi, one of the poorest countries on Earth. Additionally, he conducted a review into Scottish football before chairing a commission on prisons.
Since his resignation from public office he has lectured at universities throughout the US on European Studies and UK Government and Politics. Additionally he was an adjunct professor at both University of Arkansas and Air Force Academy Colorado Springs.
Achievement and Honors
McLeish was awarded the British Empire Medal in recognition of his services to politics. Additionally, St Andrews University named him an Honorary Fellow and granted him the Freedom of Edinburgh City.
He represented Central Fife in the UK Parliament for thirty years, serving as deputy first minister and minister for lifelong learning during that time. Later on he became Scotland’s Prime Minister following Donald Dewar.
While in office, he led various task forces set up by the Scottish Executive designed to make Scotland more competitive. Until his resignation in 2001, he held this post and created both free personal care for elderly people and implemented the McCrone agreement for teachers in Scotland.
McLeish left Buckhaven High School at 15 to become a professional footballer for Leeds United but left after six weeks due to homesickness. Returning home, he joined East Fife FC before going on to study at Heriot-Watt University.
He joined the Labour Party in 1970 and, at 24 years old, was elected to Kirkcaldy district council where he served as chairperson of its planning committee and eventually Fife regional council leader until 1982 when his “municipal socialist” manifesto of free bus passes and TV licenses for pensioners took effect.
McLeish served as Labour’s campaign director in Scotland during the 1997 UK general election and worked alongside Donald Dewar to secure devolution and pass through parliament the Scotland Act. Since leaving active politics in 2003, he has lectured across America on European studies as well as UK government and politics.
Henry McLeish, who serves in the House of Lords, receives an annual first minister’s pension of around PS42,000. Additionally, two further Parliamentary pensions exist – one from his time spent representing central Fife MPs and another for his involvement with establishing the first Scottish Parliament.
At Labour’s 1997 UK general election victory, he played an instrumental role. Working as Donald Dewar’s right-hand man before leading the Scottish Office through passage of the Scotland Act that established the Scottish Parliament in 1999, his reputation was severely dented when he admitted subletting part of his Westminster constituency office to a solicitor’s firm against parliamentary rules – ultimately leading him to resign as first minister in 2001.
McLeish has since changed his views, supporting Scottish independence so long as the Union reforms itself. Additionally, he has found himself picking up consulting jobs and lecturing on politics at universities worldwide.