I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


I have to say that it came as something of a shock to the system when the poster at the top of this blog dropped into my inbox. After just over half a century on this bedraggled planet of ours, this Town Hall meeting represents my first ever step into any kind of political fray. It is certainly one the more bizarre developments in what has become something of a bizarre life. It isn’t something I ever remotely envisaged. My CV hardly suggests a kilt wearing, flame headed Scottish Nationalist with a poster of William Wallace on the wall and ‘Flower of Scotland’ as a ringtone.

A undiagnosed dyslexic failure on the ‘Dunce’s Table’ in a god awful 60’s primary school in a Lancastrian mill village. A regular for the cane at a Blackburn Grammar School. A near drop out at Magdalene College, Cambridge. A down the line hippy in India before the 'BRICS' boom. A market trader residing in Moss Side in the time of The Smiths. A Hillsborough survivor. An owner of a traditional dark satanic mill in Lancaster. Author. Blogger. Drugs worker. Charity manager. A ‘White Settler’ and now, against all sensible odds, a campaigner for Scottish Independence. Chuck in a black wife and two mixed race sons and the bizarre picture is more or less complete.

Why on earth and how on earth has my funny old existence reached a date with a podium in a Town Hall meeting in Lockerbie?

I guess a kind of tipping point arrived last year when I was driving along and the radio commentary of England 3 – Scotland 2 was on the radio. To my utter surprise I found that I was rooting for a Scottish win. How had that happened? The thing rolled around my head for a day or two and I came to the realisation that I had never really felt English in the first place. During all my youthful wanderings of the Third World I never owned up to being English. Whenever I was asked, I would say I was Scottish for reasons of pure pragmatism. Most of the time people don’t like you when you say you are English, especially when they live in a country where the British Empire once ripped off anything that wasn’t bolted down. Scotland on the other hand is a whole different story. People like the idea of Scotland. You only need to look at the different experiences English and Scottish football fans have when they attend a World Cup. The Jocks are welcomed with open arms whilst the English are greeted by ranks of riot police and snarling Alsatians.

Did I feel like I was betraying something when I lied about my nationality? Not at all. I always felt Lancastrian, not English. And like most Lancastrians, I have always held a deep and abiding contempt for the England to be found south of Birmingham and this only deepened through the Thatcher years.

In my lifetime I have never found a single thing that I have considered to be good about being governed from London. The difference now is that I have had 15 years experience of being governed from a smaller city called Edinburgh and believe me, it is incomparably better. The prospect of being completely unaffiliated to the Houses of Westminster and the City of London is a fine one indeed. I like the idea of being able to travel the world and not have to lie about my nationality. I like the idea of suddenly being at arm’s length from the nasty wars and gargantuan corporate crimes and the endless drip feed of hatred towards immigrants and the poor. I like the idea of being a citizen of a country with a semblance of decency.

I just like the idea of being cut free of the money grubbing nastiness, nepotism and corruption of London. All those Russian oligarchs are welcome to the place.

They are welcome to every over priced brick.

All of this makes it oddly logical that I have accidentally signed on the dotted line to fight the good fight to cut Scotland loose: I just wish they would redraw the borders a hundred and fifty miles south of Gretna Green so that millions of fellow Northerners might have the same chance. Such is life. At least like me they will have the chance to emigrate.

I am certainly not the only Englishman to join the fray to create an Independent Scotland over the last few days. I reckon good old George Osborne has done exactly the same. I have never met our gallant Chancellor of the Exchequer and I can only guess at his inner motives. He strikes me as a man who is a Tory to the very core of his being. He seems like a man who would put his party before everything else. Well, apart from his bank account of course.

Bearing this in mind it seems almost inconceivable that deep down he doesn’t share my hopes for an Independent Scotland. For George this aspiration surely comes down to simple mathematics. Scotland is home to 59 Westminster seats and right now, 41 of those seats are held by Labour MPs. Right now, just 1 of those seats is held by a Tory MP. Right now the Tories in Westminster have 303 seats and Labour have 257. As we all know, this means the only way for the Tories to govern is a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Without those 41 Scottish Labour seats, the Tories would be in Government on their own. Without those 41 Scottish seats, it is all but inconceivable that there will ever again be a Labour Government in England.

Now seriously. What is there not to like about such a dreamy scenario for good old George? Of course he’s going to like it. The prospect must keep him awake at night yearning for such an ultimate victory over the hated Reds.

But he has a problem of course. He is number two in the Conservative AND UNIONIST Party. And the Unionist bit is still supposed to count. Tories are hard wired to spout on endlessly about just how much they care about the Union and how they would lay down their lives to defend it.

Aye right.

Why on earth should these public school types with their 2-1 degrees in PPE from Oxford give a damn about places like Motherwell and Llanelli and Portadown? Of course they don’t give a damn. The people who live in these places hate the Tories and would have their fingernails pulled out before they would ever vote for them. Life would be so much better and simpler if Thatcher's children could cut all of these inconvenient Celts adrift and never have to think about them again.

But there is a big problem here for George and his cronies. No matter how much they might think such a thing, they cannot possibly ever say it. Not ever.

But George is nothing if not canny. After our First Minister, he is by some degree the most Machiavellian politician in the Realm and he knows only too well that there are many, many ways to skin a cat.

I figure he must have thought long and hard about how he could do his bit to swing a bunch of undecided votes into the ‘Yes’ camp without it being obvious. I can picture him with a crystal glass tumbler of ancient Scotch and a thoughtful expression on his face. And then a thin and cunning smile as the answer came to him.

Got it.

I’ll hop on the train to Edinbugh and make a speech where I look every inch the old Etonian Grandee. And I will be flanked by lots of broad shouldered security guys. And I will give it to them straight. So you want the pound do you? Oh really? Well you know what, you can forget it. In this particular playground you are the little runty kid with the worn sleeves and snotty nose. In this particular playground I am the big kid and when I say jump, you jump. OK little man? Got that? And if you don’t jump when I tell you to jump I’m going to beat the living daylights out of you. I’m going to give you a jolly good thrashing. OK? Are we understood? Just remember your place little man…..

Think about it. Is there anything more perfectly tailored to rub millions of Scots up the wrong way? And are we seriously to believe that a politician as smart and streetwise as George Osborne would say such a thing without knowing exactly what the outcome would be? No chance. Not in a million years.

So George. Welcome to the fold. Here we are, two middle aged Oxbridge educated Englishmen doing our bit to win a ‘Yes’ majority in the Referendum. As the guy who was originally called Gideon with a proper public school background to go with Magdalen College, Oxford, it seems only right and proper that you should be the one to stay under the radar. As a lad from Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Blackburn and Magdalene College, Cambridge, I am more than happy to do the over the radar bit. And have no fear George, if we ever re-draw the borders south, we’ll make sure that your Cheshire seat stays well and truly in England. We really don’t want Cheshire thank you very much.  

In the spirit of partnership, here are a few ideas for future speeches you might want to deliver during your flying visits to Scotland. Some new and exciting ideas to make the 'Better Together' campaign oh so appealing.

-          Scottish couples will no longer be allowed to breed unless they engage the services of a chartered accountant to prove they have a joint disposable income of over £50,000 per annum.

-          A new Scottish minimum wage will introduced whereby workers are paid an amount of 500 grammes of porridge oats per hour.

-          Anyone planning to wear a kilt to a formal occasion must first pay a Kilt Tax Charge of £200 to HM Treasury and Customs.

-          20% of all revenues from Scottish oilfields will be paid into the Trust funds of nominated Public Schools in England.

-          On attaining the age of 16, all Scottish youngsters must travel to the South East of England to live in dormitory accommodation and undertake 2 years of unpaid slave labour for Her Majesty’s Government in Westminster. Jobs will include drain cleaning and weeding the gardens of bond traders in the City of London. You can deliver a superb speech extolling the virtues of this proposed scheme which will become a central pillar of the ‘Better Together’ campaign. You can point out to the Scots how character building it will be for their youth to spend two years scivvying for the good and the great of the South East of England and how living on a ration of daily porridge oats will get them fit and rid them of their acne. You can bring the speech to a rousing crescendo by promising that a re-introduction slavery for all young Scots will make our treasured Union all the stronger and kick start a new era of Empire.

That should do the trick.

Keep up the good work George!  
On a more serious note, please check out the link below for an article in today's Guardian which rubber stamps much of the 'Sanction' stuff that has appeared in this blog over recent months



  1. Hi Mark,

    I'm afraid it's just not true that Scottish votes have a meaningful impact on Westminster elections. Since 1945, Scotland stopped a Tory-led government for exactly 2 years 28 days. In return, we got unwanted Tory governments for over 32 years. Which in itself is a good reason for voting Yes - people who live in Scotland getting the governments we vote for. - graphed and election data supplied.

    Which is not exactly dooming the rest of the UK to perpetual Tory rule. If it means that Labour actually have to be sufficiently different from the Tories in order to win, so be it. Other than that, good writing!

    All the best,

    Scott Macdonald

  2. I have been around the world and married an American. Not once, except in Scotland, have I ever had any hostility for being your despised English. What utter bollocks!

    1. From the last sentence in your comment Marty I reckon it's safe to assume you have experienced hostility because of the fact you're first and foremost quite arrogant (which I bet is apparent before you even open your mouth) which when combined with being English makes some equally arrogant Scots irate. Take that as you please but imo Mark is utterly bang on with his views on international perceptions of the English.

  3. Nailed it again Mark. After reading this I'm actually becoming quite desperate that we get independence. I also happen to be with a Lancastrian man who is pro indy and we both share your wish for it to include the green and pleasant lands as far as Birmingham.

  4. To beggar our Nation for a few dollars more is not noble.To imagine this Referendum is a Class-war issue seems adolecent.Angry chips will, sooner or later,burn one's shoulder.