He became member of Parliament for Edinburgh Pentlands in 1974, and was promoted into the cabinet as Secretary of State for Scotland in 1986. In 1990 he moved by John Major to Transport, and became Defence Secretary in 1992. In the dying years of the Major administration he was the Foreign Secretary.
In the 1997 election he lost his Pentlands seat as part of the massacre of the Tories in Scotland and Wales, and was succeded by Labour candidate Lynda Clark. However, unlike many Tories who either retired from politics or tried to find a safe seat elsewhere to contest, he stood again for the same seat against Clark for the 2001 general election, and improved his showing somewhat.
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