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RESIGNATION STATEMENT OF FIRST MINISTER

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Henry McLeish, who was sworn in on October 27 last year, tendered a resignation letter to the queen and to the pres...
Henry McLeish, who was sworn in on October 27 last year, tendered a resignation letter to the queen and to the presiding officer of the parliament before making a personal statement in the parliament chamber.

In the statement yesterday, he acknowledged mistakes had been made in the matter of his consituency office sublets and the way the matter had been handled. He added that no-one else was to blame and he took full personal responsibility.

The sublets issue at the Glenrothes office, originating in 1987 when he was first elected as a Westminster MP, and the conduct of the first minister had been listed as the subject of a debate in the parliament that morning. The debate was cancelled when MSPs were told Mr McLeish's resignation had been submitted.

Mr McLeish, who intends to continue as the MSP for Central Fife, said he had been dismayed at how his family, friends, staff, and colleagues 'had been made to suffer' through matters that were his responsibility alone.

He had been astonished by the focus of the attention, he said, and had decided to resign so the parliament and executive could continue to function with 'the minimum of distraction'.

'I call on Scotland to give all of us - and my successor - the fair and reasonable circumstances we need to allow that to happen.'

After Mr McLeish completed his statement, presiding officer David Steel thanked him on behalf of all MSPs for his year's service as first minister and adjourned the parliament.

The full text of Mr McLeish's statement follows:

'Sir David, I would like to make a personal statement to the Parliament. Let me acknowledge again today my mistakes in the matter of constituency office sublets, and my mistakes in the way I handled that matter.

There is no need here to go over the details again. What is important is that I take full personal responsibility.

Others who work with me and for me have been criticised, but the ultimate responsibility is mine - and mine alone. So I recognise the mistakes I have made.

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

Sir David, I value this Parliament. At Westminster I was the lead Minister for devolution. And I chaired the Constitutional Steering Group, the group that established the very principles by which this Parliament operates.

I am proud of my role in this. But I take even greater pride in the role of my Party, and 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.

So I would be the last person to willingly or knowingly put the principles behind these new and great institutions at risk, and in doingso put at risk everything that I have cherished in over 25 years in politics from becoming a Councillor in Kirkcaldy district in 1974 to holding the highest office in Scotland over the last year.

Even my harshest critics over the last few weeks have had to acknowledge that I made no personal gain from any of this.

Sir David, 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 knew and grew up with - and to serve them.

That has been my purpose since the day and the hour 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.

And if I have let them down in this matter, I have served them - I hope I have served them well - in many others.

It has been a privilege to do that, through the work of government here in Scotland. And I believe that this work over the past year has strengthened the roots of our devolved government; and secured it - I believe irreversibly - in the life of our nation.

It is time now 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. And I call on Scotland to give all of us - and my successor - the fair and reasonable circumstances we need to allow that to happen.

I am proud of what I have 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.'

* see herefor previous LGC story 'MCLEISH ADMITS ERROR BUT DENIES ALLEGATIONS'

* see LGCnetfor Scottish executive statement on the constitutional way forward.

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