Personal Statement

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:33 pm on 8 November 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 2:33, 8 November 2001

Under standing order 5.5.4, this afternoon's business will be a personal statement by the First Minister. There can be no debate or questions after the statement. I call the First Minister to speak.

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Labour

Sir David, thank you. Colleagues, I would like to make a personal statement to the Parliament.

I acknowledge again today my mistakes in the matter of constituency office sublets and in the way in which I handled that matter. There is no need to go over the details again. What is important is that I take full personal responsibility. Others who worked with and for me have been criticised, but the ultimate responsibility is mine and mine alone. I recognise the mistakes that I made.

I have been surprised and dismayed over the past few weeks at how my family, friends, staff and colleagues have been brought into matters that are my responsibility alone and at how they have been made to suffer. That focus and attention has astonished them and me.

I value this Parliament. At Westminster, I was the lead minister for devolution and chaired the consultative steering group, which established the very principles by which this Parliament operates. I am proud of my role in that, but I take even greater pride in the role of my party and in what it has done for Scotland. We led on devolution, we delivered devolution and, with our colleagues in a historic coalition, we are and remain determined to make devolution work.

Scottish devolution, a Scottish Parliament, a Scottish Executive. I would be the last person to willingly or knowingly put the principles behind those new and great institutions at risk and in doing so put at risk everything that I have cherished in more than 25 years in politics, from becoming a councillor in Kirkcaldy district in 1974 to holding the highest office in Scotland over the past year. Even my harshest critics over the past few weeks have had to acknowledge that I made no personal gain from any of that.

I did not come to Parliament simply as some kind of career choice. I did not enter Parliament because it was some kind of family tradition. I came to Parliament to work for the people I know and grew up with and to serve them. That has been my purpose since the day and the hour that I was elected. I came to Parliament, and eventually to the office of First Minister, to serve my constituents and, eventually, all the people of Scotland. If I have let them down in this matter, I hope that I have served them well in many others.

It has been a privilege to do that through the work of government here in Scotland. I believe that that work over the past year has strengthened the roots of our devolved Government and secured it irreversibly in the life of our nation. It is now time for others to lead us as we take that work forward. The future of Scotland is the responsibility of every one of us here today. That is why this Parliament must now turn its energies once more to its real and pressing business: the concerns of the people of Scotland. I want us to be allowed to do that with a minimum of distraction. That is why I am resigning. I call on Scotland to give all of us, and my successor, the fair and reasonable circumstances that we need to allow that to happen.

I am proud of what I achieved in Parliament, in the Executive and as First Minister. I will continue with my duties as MSP for Central Fife, serving the people I know and grew up with. That in itself is and remains an enormous privilege for me.

Thank you, Sir David and colleagues, for the courtesy. [Applause.]

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

On behalf of all of us, I would like to thank you for your year's service to Scotland as our First Minister and for making that statement in the best interests of the Parliament.

Meeting closed at 14:38.