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.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Ten days ago I stepped over a line and did something I have never done before: something I never thought I would ever do. I made a political speech. I entered the political arena.

The occasion? A ‘Yes’ for Scottish Independence rally in Lockerbie Town hall. Even having made the speech, I still find it hard to figure out how on earth I found myself doing such a thing.

Unsurprisingly the back story is to be found in the online world. It is strange how the Mark who exists in the virtual world is beginning to have an ever increasing influence on the Mark who lives and breathes in the real one. A few months ago I penned a blog laying out my reasons for enthusiastically voting ‘Yes’ in next September’s referendum. The thing got tweeted and re-tweeted and linked and Googled and much to my surprise many thousands of people found their way to what I had written.

A tweet landed from Stuart in Lockerbie asking how if I might be willing to talk about my reasons for voting ‘Yes’ at a meeting in Lockerbie and I thought why the hell not.

And so it was that I stepped up to the lectern feeling nervous as hell. How did it go? That isn’t really for me to say. Thankfully nobody chucked any rotten fruit, though the banks of ‘Better Together’ supporters certainly looked like they would like nothing better. In fact they looked like they would gladly have exiled me off to some godforsaken island to break rocks in the tropical sun.

Thankfully at the send of the speech most people seemed to clap. Which was a pretty major relief.

As soon as the meeting was wound up I hit the pavement outside and more or less ate a cigarette!

Well, that was the real world part of proceedings taken care of. A twenty minute speech on a cold and misty night. The audience was about a hundred strong and the average age of the audience was older than I am. Interestingly the only young people in the room were wearing’Yes’ T shirts and badges.

But as we all know the real world only represents one side of things. We now live in a time where the virtual world kicks in almost as soon as real world proceedings have played out. The event was filmed by come people called ClanDestiny who have set out their stall to film the grass roots war for votes on September 18th.

A day or so later Stuart, told me via Facebook that the film of my speech was now live on YouTube.

Time for another first. I have done talks here, there and everywhere over the years but very seldom have I had the chance to review my efforts. So, with considerable trepidation, I fixed a coffee, lit up a tab, donned my headphones and watched it through. First thoughts? The obvious ones. Jesus, when did I get so old! And I really, really need to learn how to stand still and not jump about the place like some agitated bloke with a bunch of soldier ants climbing up my trouser leg. Too fast sometimes. Probably too much on a level. More pauses required. Further up with the ups and further down with the downs.


You can make up your own mind if you like. Click here and in the blink of a digital eye you can have a watch.

As you can see the link is not YouTube. It is a site called Wings Over Scotland which has become one of the more effective frontline units fighting the increasingly ferocious battle for votes in September.

A few months ago Wings Over Scotland carried my blog laying out my reasons for voting 'Yes', and I was bowled over by the number of times the thing was read. Now it seems that a whole lot of people are tuning in to watch my debut speech. When I started to write this the number had reached 1684: a number that is already nearly 20 times more than the audience who were there in person. How far will this number rise? I have no clue. But when you sit back and think about it, it really is hugely encouraging.

When all is said and done, I am more or less a complete nobody. Fair enough, I have written a few books and a few people have bought them. In and around Dumfries, people tend to recognise me because the local press have always covered the work of First Base. But I am in no way, shape or form famous. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion. A voice. Maybe I am right about some things and maybe I am completely wrong about some things. That all depends on your point of view. But thanks, to Winston Churchill’s stubbornness and the unrelenting guts of hundreds of thousands of the guys who stood up to Hitler, I still have the absolute right to air my thoughts and views.

Free speech of course is a thing we have enjoyed in Britain for many, many years and it is only when you visit places where such a luxury does not exist that you can really appreciate what a blessing it is.

But that is not the whole story of course. For years now free speech has been censored without us really realising it. The hellish advent of the soundbite has stamped down on the power and reach of free speech.

Let’s roll back the years a bit. Way back in 1879 the Turks embarked on a truly brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing. They butchered over 30,000 Bulgarians with the kind of primordial cruelty that is always associated with bouts of ethnic cleansing. The Westminster Government of Benjamin Disraeli decided to let it pass. They deemed that picking a fight with the Turks didn’t chime with the needs of the Empire and the City of London at the time. Funny, but that sounds familiar somehow. Isn’t the area where the Turkish atrocities went down kind of close to the Crimea? Very close. And is the current Tory led government busting a gut to put Putin back in his box? Ah. Not really. Not at all in fact. Why? Well, we found that out when a careless foreign office mandarin got his papers photographed as he made his way down the pavement to Number 10. The message was the same as the message given to Disraeli back in 1879. Having a go at Putin and his oligarch buddies would be bad for business. Bad for the City of London. The only difference is that we don’t have an empire any more.


As per usual, I digress. Turning a blind eye to butchery and slaughter didn’t sit well with Disraeli’s arch rival, William Ewart Gladstone. The 'Grand Old Man' decided that British indifference should not be allowed to stand and he embarked on what history came to know as his ‘Midlothian Campaign’. He rattled up and down the land and gave impassioned speeches to packed halls. The word spread and within months Disraeli’s government had been toppled. There was no TV back then of course and no radio either. To hear the words of Gladstone you had to turn up in person and then you got the whole speech – not just a twenty second sound bite on the evening news.

Hundreds of thousands heard every word he had to say and as a result a government crashed.

The advent of radio and TV should have increased the reach of free speech and taken messages like the one Gladstone delivered into the living rooms of everyone. But it didn’t work out that way. Instead of the whole speech, we only ever got a smattering of words. The soundbite. The message we heard was governed by the decision of the producer who would basically play God. Not surprisingly the politicians soon got wise to this and started to enlist the services of spin doctors in order to design a perfectly formed 20 second segment which would make the TV producer’s job as easy as pie.

And very soon they were all speaking like robotic morons.

And very soon we were being treated like dumbed down morons.

‘You might turn, but the Lady’s not for turning’.

‘Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.’

‘It’s the economy stupid.’

And hard working bloody families until you could happily sling a half brick through the screen.


And then worm started to turn thanks to a mixed race lad with a Kenyan dad and an Kansas mum. I refer of course to a certain Barrack Obama who proved he could give Gladstone or Churchill a run for their money when it came to getting a crowd up onto its feet. Barrack was such a dream of an orator that people wanted a whole lot more than the 20 second extract the TV channels were willing to give them. His people were quick to latch onto this and they put all their efforts into prompting people to log on and catch the whole of the speech online.


The game changer.

And of course millions upon millions did exactly that. They logged on and listened to the whole thing from beginning to end. And the Republicans were duly put to the sword, just like the government of Disraeli all those years ago.

Surely even the most cynical of individuals has to be encouraged by this. The virtual world is giving democracy a chance at last. Once he became President, Barrack took things a stage further. There was no way that the Mullahs in charge in Tehran were about to invite him along to talk to their people. So instead he talked to the Iranian people online and millions duly logged on to hear him. All of him. Each and every word.

A few years ago my friend Tommy Sheridan was elected to the Scottish Parliament. Tommy is the kind of guy who gives the Establishment kittens. He tells it like he is. He is the kind of guy who would not think twice about raising the kind of secrets the Establishment is desperate to keep on the floor of the Parliament. He is the kind of guy would use his Parliamentary privilege to expose the very worst deeds of the State.

In short, he is the sort of guy who the Establishment always goes out of its way to shut up. They tried locking him up in HM Prison Barlinnie a time or two, but that had no effect whatsoever. So it was time for Plan B. Those two worthy souls Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks were enlisted to go get him and did they ever. It was the News of the World that won it. Or so they thought.

Establishment 1 – Tommy 0

And no doubt they thought they had done enough to gag him on a permanent basis. They really thought they had rid themselves of this particular ‘turbulent priest’.

Not quite.

Not nearly in fact.

For the turbulent priest that is Tommy Sheridan is back and firing on all cylinders. He is in the frontline of the ‘Yes’ campaign and he is shooting from the hip. If you want to watch a speech from a genuine master of the art, then follow this link.

Here is a man at the top of his game. You will see that his audience is rather higher than mine was in Lockerbie, but not that much higher. Maybe two hundred and fifty or so. But here’s the thing. As I write these words, over 102,000 people have logged on to watch him. 102,000! Now we are talking the same kind of numbers as once upon a time turned out to hear the voice of Gladstone. And when you click the link you get the chance to hear ALL of Tommy’s words. Not just a soundbite carefully chosen to make him seem off the wall and semi demented.

Have a watch and then ask yourself if the likes of Cameron, Milliband or Clegg could dream of coming up with something that would even come close. Not a chance. Not in a million years. My guess is that the average age of those who have logged on to watch Tommy will be thirty years less than the average age of those who turned up in person. And that is fine by me. How you actually watch the whole speech is a distant second in importance to actually getting the chance to watch the whole speech.

The online world has many, many problems, but the fact that it has enabled over 102,000 people to hear Tommy seems a pretty big deal to me. Something tells me that somewhat less than 102,000 will tune in to my efforts, but I am merely a novice.

I wonder if Rupert Murdoch is one of the 102,000? Maybe. I hope so. You thought you had rid yourself of this particular turbulent priest didn’t you Rupurt?

Well think again.

It was 6.45am when I started writing this blog. At that point 1684 people had tuned into YouTube to watch my speech. It is now 7.53am and 1742 people have now had a watch. In 68 early morning minutes, 58 have enjoyed the fact that they can hear the words of a middle aged nobody from a small inconsequential town in the South West of Scotland.

Ain’t that something!


  1. Hi Mark, I tuned into your speech his morning, from the WOS website. It was very refreshing and inspiring and your being "from Lancs" certainly helps to put paid to the notion that the Yes campaign is full of english-hating Bravehearts. Of course, we all know it's not but that message doesn't always seem to get across. I am also one of the many firm believers that a successful independent Scotland will breathe a new lease of life into the northern parts of England by demonstrating that there really is an alternative way to a fairer society. People scoff when I say that Scottish independence will actually help bring the areas of the UK back together on a much more equal and productive basis. I guess time will tell :-)

    Also checked out the work that First Base is doing and it's so inspiring. I hope that you are managing to maintain funding sources - something that's not always easy in the current climate. Drink, drugs and gambling excesses have been a curse on our society for so long.

    Anyways, just wanted to say Hi. Cheers...Doug

  2. I watched your speech Mark but I was deeply disappointed. I'm one of the people you most despise but I have never felt the need to hide my nationality abroad - indeed the only place I have been made to feel uncomfortable about being English is in Scotland. When Rangers came to Manchester and smashed the place up in 2008 the world saw that football fans in Scotland are no so different to those in England. You were full of emotion but short on academic vigour. The stuff about the rest of the world wanting to sticj it to the English was utter bigotry.

  3. Sorry you feel that way Marty. Having lived up here for 18 years now, I have never once felt any genuine anti-English sentiment. Fair enough, there is an absolute tonne of banter, but banter is all it is. Within the UK I have felt hugely uncomfortable to be English in only two places. West Belfast for obvious reasons. Then there was North Wales where I was left in doubt whatsoever that I was not welcome. To go back to the football analogy, Liverpool and Everton are massive rivals but that rivalry is only ever played out in banter. Liverpool and United are huge rivals and when we meet things go much deeper and darker than banter. England/Scotland to me has always felt like Liverpool/Everton. England/North Wales is more like Liverpool/United.

  4. I was more taken aback by your comments about having to pretend to be Scottish which is more wish fulfilment than anything else. I lived in India teaching English, travel all over Europe constantly and have an American wife. I have never, never, felt the need to pretend to be something I am not and have never (except in Scotland where I have been assaulted because of it) been made to feel unwelcome simply because of my nationality. It just came accross like you were playing to an audience. Really sad.

  5. Doesn't look like we will be agreeing about much does it! However I expect that you will be as keen as me for there to be a 'Yes' vote in September so that all of the dreadful Scots can be cut adrift once and for all. I wonder of George Osborne might then look to kick start the English economy with a nice fat capital expenditure project like rebuilding Hadrians Wall.

  6. I don't think the Scots are dreadful You on the other hand have said you "hate" the majority of the population of England.