Helen Liddell in the Press

'I've nae quarrel with Hen, ah jist think he's an erse!'

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Liddell denies rift with McLeish

The new Secretary of State for Scotland, Helen Liddell has denied claims of a rift with First Minister Henry McLeish.

She also denies being sent north by Tony Blair to ensure that the Scottish Executive does not step out of line.

Mrs Liddell insists that she has a great deal of "affection" for the First Minister and is looking forward to working closely with him.

She said she has always been a supporter of devolution and does not intend to "stitch it up" in her new position.

"I didn't fight for devolution in all my political career to then try to put in place a system which denies that devolution," she said.

Commenting on her working relationship with Mr McLeish, she said: "I have a lot of respect and affection for him and I think we are going to have a good relationship, which is going to benefit Scotland."

Mrs Liddell said she does not intend to get involved in any "back biting" between the Scottish Executive and Westminster.

"Devolution is about the Scottish Parliament making its own decisions and determining its own priorities," she said.

"It is exciting when we consider that the Parliament is already in its 18 month and it has more than repaid the great hopes we had for it."