Globetrotting Cook says Scotland will have to wait a little longer for him

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The Independent Online
Robin Cook is mildly amused, he says, but Scotland will have to wait a little longer for him. Reports that he was ready to become first minister of the first Edinburgh parliament were merely the product of bored, festive-season journalistic minds, he told the Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Asked if he was more world-weary than when he became Foreign Secretary last May, he replied that he was not.

"If I was, I would be going to Scotland," he said. "I very much enjoy the world and I hope to have a long session with it."

An attempt to squash the stories last weekend had failed, he said, so he would try again.

"I have a very full agenda for the Foreign Office in the future. I want to make it more open, accessible, modern, representative of modern Britain, responding to the needs and wishes of the people. These are long-term projects," he said.

The longest stint as foreign secretary this century was Lord Gray's 11 years, he added. Although he might not make that he "wouldn't mind a crack at" the post-war record of six years, set by Geoffrey Howe.

Rumours that he and the Scottish Secretary, Donald Dewar, had a bitter rivalry over the job were untrue, he said. The suggestion was "mildly upsetting" - the two men were the best of friends and had actually spoken in the last week.

"I am staying as Foreign Secretary, I am not applying for any other job in Scotland or anywhere else we have discussed this afternoon," he said.

Everyone in the new Scottish parliament would find it a "very rich and exciting job. "But for better or worse, I am happy to be in a job I enjoy very much and I am not in the market for looking for a new job," he said.

Mr Cook had been pressed on the subject by Diane Abbot, the Labour MP for Hackney, during a session which mainly centred on the Government's policies on human rights.

"I think it would be a fundamental human right of the committee to continue to see me for many years to come," he said.