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.

Friday, April 18, 2014


‘This is gone. We go to Norwich

It was only this morning whilst listening to ‘Football Weekly’ did the true significance of these words become clear to me. James Richardson asked the big question. The huge question. The scary question. The only question.

What will these few short words become over the weeks and months and years and decades to come? Hell, even centuries.

Obviously I am assuming than anyone who is taking time out to read these Good Friday words will know who uttered them. And when. And where. And why.

Just in case you don’t, it was Stevie Gerrard addressing his now famous post final whistle huddle of fellow Reds in the immediate aftermath of Liverpool 3 – Man City 2.

And was he ever wired. It was jubilation, grief and victory all swept along by a raging, boiling a river of adrenaline and triumph. He was the winning gladiator raising his blood drenched sword to the howling masses in the Coliseum. He was King Kong atop the Empire State Building having swatted away a fighter plane. He was the human embodiment of the treeline napalm strike in Apocalypse Now.

And every molecule of the air around him was jumping with the barrage of sheer sound pouring down from the stands all around him.

“We’re going to win the league, we’re going to win the league…..”

There are still those who say that football is just a game. Well each to his own I suppose. You wouldn’t have found any of the 45,000 of us who were lucky enough be at Anfield last Sunday afternoon who would take that view.

For this was football at its very purest. Rawest. Most primordial. A place where we were in touch with our prehistoric selves. Part of a giant marauding pack. Defending our turf. Howling at the moon.


And the hell with the normal decorum and manners of life. And being civilised. That was gone. Lost. Redundant. Instead we roared. Like a marauding pack. Defending our turf.

All of us.

And right there, bang slap in the middle of it all, stood Stevie. Eyes streaming and blazing. Our very own warrior king.

Shattered and suddenly grief stricken. Human and super human.

And somehow in that crazed state he came up with those few words which might now go one way or the other.

‘This is gone. We go to Norwich.”

That’s the thing with words. They can always go one way or the other.

Churchill’s fight them on the beaches speech would have looked a bit sad had the Wehrmacht breezed across the English Channel and the Panzers had duly rolled through Kent as if it was a part of Poland.

But they didn’t, and the words became historic.

How differently would we have now viewed Kevin Keegan’s ‘I’d just love it if we beat them..’ rant had he indeed beaten them. Instead he got beat and in the weeks that followed Sky Sports seemed to screen nothing but images of blubbing Geordies in empty stands.

Four more wins and these will be the words carved into the plinth of Stevie’s statue. There he will be. Probably caught in that moment after he headed in a Risse cross to set us all on the road to the miracle of Istanbul. There were almost 50,000 of us there in the Ataturk Stadium that night. But when Stevie urged us on, it was if he spoke to each and every one of us individually. Out of the ashes of a lost cause he made us into believers. A pack. A howling, snarling, baying pack…

I have never met Stephen Gerrard. I guess very few of the millions of reds around the world have actually met the lad in person. But I feel like I know him well. I was there that night when he made his debut. A gangly looking lad with the most ridiculous pudding bowl hair cut you’ve ever seen. We watched him jog onto the pitch and though Oh Christ, who the hell is this lad?

And then after about two minutes, the gangling youth nearly cut someone in half with a tackle straight out of the Tommy Smith playbook and we roared.

We’ve been roaring ever since.

I have watched him go from shy youth to cocky youth to nervous captain to confident captain to consummate captain. From boy to leader. To elder Statesman. Captain of his country. Ambassador for his city. Hundreds of games and highs the likes of which we have never seen. Olympiakos, Istanbul, West Ham….

But those highs are all gone now. Cue Rutger Hauer hanging from a rain swept skyscraper in the last knockings of Blade Runner.

‘All these moments must now be lost… like tears in the rain….’

Like the man said. This is gone.

We go to Norwich.

Norwich is all there is now.

Nothing but Norwich.

Never in history has anyone gone to Norwich like we are all about to go to Norwich.

11 men in red.


Back room staff.

2000 fans or so.

They are the ones who will go to Norwich in person.

The rest of us will go in spirit. Absolutely bloody millions of us. And as our date with Norwich ticks ever closer, it is hard to concentrate on anything much else. It is just there. Noon on Sunday. Our date with destiny. Our moment of truth.

Not that anything will end in Norwich.

For after Norwich come Chelsea and Crystal Palace and Newcastle.

Day after day of nervous breakdown.

But before any of that, we go to Norwich.

And over the next few weeks it will go one way or the other.

So what will those words look like in the years to come? Let’s just hope they become the by-word for anyone looking to rally the troops for that last energy drained push for victory.

Well. There’s only one way any of us are going to find out.

We go to Norwich.

Whether we like it or not.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Over the last few months, the people over at Project Fear seem to have been coming out with a new scare story every week. Well three cheers to that. Each and every stark warning seems to narrow the gap between ‘YES’ and ‘No’ another point or two. The main worry for all of us who are pushing for a ‘YES’ is that they will run out of new stuff to try and scare as with and they will suddenly go all quiet.

It’s hard to think they will though. Let’s face it, these are people who just love to throw their weight about and bully people. Imagine George Osborne and Danny Alexander frantically kissing every Scottish baby in sight and playing the part of nice guys. Not a good look! No. I reckon they will keep on with the scare us all to death agenda. To persuade them to do otherwise would be like trying to persuade a lion to make do with lettuce for his tea.

No doubt all those hyper-smart interns fresh out of Oxford with their starred firsts in PPE will be coming up with new and devastating ideas on a daily basis.

If you vote ‘YES’, there will be a new law demanding that all males in Scotland must wear a kilt during daylight hours….!!!

If you vote ‘YES’, new legislation will compel all Scots to consume a minimum of 20kg of broccoli each and every year…..!!!!

If you vote ‘YES’, Vladimir Putin will have planes full of Spetsnatz paratroopers in the air within minutes are there will be nobody to help you when the sky above your towns and cities is filled with silk canopies coloured red, white and light blue….. !!!!!

If you vote ‘YES’, there will be an immediate Martian takeover of the whole country and every child under the age of five will be deep fried and eaten….!!!!!!

If you vote ‘YES’, God will be so incandescent with rage that he will immediately send a vast plague of locusts to reduce the whole land of Caledonia into an empty desert….. !!!!!!!

Now, there’s the sort of dire stuff that will finally get the wretched people of Scotland quaking in our boots and absolutely desperate to flock to Danny and George in our droves.

Oh please look after us Danny and George!

Please take care of us Danny and George!

And we’ll never ask again. Honest. We promise. Pleeeeeeese Danny and George… Please forgive us…

Please don’t hurt us again…..

A favourite from the Project Fear playbook is the absolute certainly that there will be no place for an Independent Scotland in the European Union.

Is this the case?

I have absolutely no idea. To have a clue about this, you probably need to be one of those specialist lawyers with a suite of ritzy offices in downtown Brussels who charge 500 Euros for an initial five minute consultation complete with a decent drop of coffee and one of those wrapped biscuits they go for in that neck of the woods.

From what I can gather, it will all come down to whether the other 28 members are willing to sit back and allow Spain to throw its weight about. If an Independent Scotland is allowed straight into the club, then a precedent would be set for an Independent Catalonia to do exactly the same and that of course scares the living daylights out of the boys in Madrid.

Will they or won’t they. Who knows? I am sure that Gorge and Danny don’t know either. They just like to pretend that they know.

But would it necessarily be such a bad thing if the boys from Madrid got their way? I don’t think so.

At this point I should point out that I have always been a great fan of the EU and I remain so. For two thousand years we Europeans have been killing each other in ever increasing numbers. There were 10,000 casualties at Agincourt in 1415. The advent of gunpowder took the figure up to 47,000 when the Brits and French had another square go at Waterloo in 1815. A hundred years later, a million casualties had been taken by the time the French and Germans collapsed with exhaustion at Verdun. Stalingrad? They lost count at Stalingrad. And of course if we had ever fired our nukes at each other the numbers would have gone into the stratosphere.

We Europeans are pretty good at lots of things, many good and many bloody awful. Mercedes cars – good. Tiger tanks – bad. Sadly the thing we have always been best at is falling out and killing each other in vast numbers.

And then out of the wrecked cities and 20 million dead of World War Two came the first manifestations of the EU. And for nearly seventy years we have managed to stop fighting each other. In my book that is worth any number of daft bits of legislation and bloated Brussels expense accounts.

Project Fear tells us that if we are excluded from the EU, we will never be able to sell anything to anyone ever again. We’ll all be doomed and with a matter of months we’ll all be living in cardboard hovels and living off the Red Cross. Oh really? Last time I noticed, China isn’t in the EU and yet they still seem to manage to sell plenty of stuff to us. And when I check out the butter section in the supermarket, it isn’t exactly impossible to find tubs of Anchor which one way or another have made it all the way hear from New Zealand. If Spain gets its way, will the rest of the world give up drinking Whisky the very next day?

Aye right.

Were we left outside the EU, we would no doubt find it marginally harder to trade with countries like England and France and Germany. But we would find it a whole lot easier to made trade agreements with countries like the USA and India and Australia.

Swings and roundabouts. Neither one thing nor t’other.

For me the big gain would come from immigration.

At the moment being part of the EU means that we tend to get the worst of immigrants. Now hang on a second before you start to get all riled up. I have nothing but utter respect for the young Poles and Latvians and Lithuanians who get on a bus in Bialystok or Riga or Vilnius and take a ride to Scotland to find a job. They are brave, ambitious young men and women and I take my hat off to them. It is almost impossible to imagine our young people having the bottle to do the same thing in reverse.

But what do they give us? Very few come here with the intention of sinking roots and making a life for themselves here. Instead their game plan is to stay a year or two and save every spare penny so that they can get a good start in life when they return home. By and large, they share houses and rooms and work all hours god sends in minimum wage jobs. They hardly ever take any benefits and they pay their taxes. But they don’t pay all that much tax for the simple reason that they seldom earn enough to pay much tax.

Of course the idea of all of us being free to travel and work all over the EU is a truly great thing. But there is a pretty big downside. The downside is that being a part of the club means that we have to become a part of ‘Fortress Europe’ where would be migrants from the rest of the world are kept outside the gates at all costs.

I reckon that there is a good argument to had that these people we work so hard to exclude are in fact the very best of immigrants. These are the kind of immigrants who built America and Australia and Canada. We hear a great deal about the importance of infrastructure and that is fair enough. Assets like railway lines and ports and roads and broadband are crucial for any country. But we can never get away from the fact the most vital asset any country will ever have are the people who live there. Here is where an independent Scotland might just have a mighty opportunity. As things stand, we are a small, shrinking and ageing population who live and breathe in a country with a billion acres of empty space. There will be plenty of room for new people in an Independent Scotland and crucially we are pretty good at being welcoming to new people regardless of the colour of their skin. I have first hand experience of this as one half of a mixed race couple with two brown boys. There are not many countries left in Europe where a mixed race couple can feel comfortable any more. The Far Right is on the march again. The Mediterranean countries are uncomfortable. Places like Poland and Latvia and Lithuania feel pretty damn dangerous: these are places where most buildings in the rougher parts of town are adorned with swastikas. A trip to Moscow as a mixed race couple borders on the suicidal.

Amazingly enough, the only other European country apart from Britain where we can both feel at home and unthreatened is Germany. Ain’t that saying something!

Is Scotland better than England in this regard? It certainly seems this way. Nigel Farage is an amusing chap and it is truly heartening to see a frontline politician supping a pint and smoking a fag with the TV cameras running. But just because he is a cuddly fascist doesn’t mean he’s not a fascist all the same. His game is trading suspicion and poison for votes, and his game is playing pretty well down south right now. Up here? UKIP barely bothers trying up here. No point. They would lose every deposit they paid out.

Were we to end up outside the EU, we could play our two trump cards to huge effect. We have plenty of room and we are good at making people feel at home. Outside of the EU, we would have the opportunity to make like the Aussies. We could set a high bar which would allow us to cherry pick the brightest and the best from all over the English speaking world. We could open the doors and advertise what we have to offer all over the Commonwealth. Just imagine if an Independent Scotland started to become a magnet for the brightest and the best from India and Canada and New Zealand and Australia and Kenya and Nigeria and Ghana… hell, we could even add the USA to the list. Imagine the kind of people we would be handing out work visas to. Young, super smart, super educated, and super ambitious. Doctors, teachers, engineers and entrepreneurs. These would be immigrants who would be aspiring to come and stay for good. To make a life. To become the new Scots of the 21st Century. No way would they be about to settle for 12 hours a day at minimum wage for a few months before catching the plane back home with a few savings. Instead they would start things up. Inject energy. Make things happen.

Just like what happened all those years ago when so many millions took the boat across the Atlantic to Ellis Island and a new future.

Of course I am pretty biased on this one. My mother in law Judy is a complete and utter star and many, many years ago she took a flight from Barbados to Britain and went on to become a ward sister with the NHS and as fine a citizen as any country could ever wish for. And Independent Scotland which was outside the EU could open its doors to a million of Judies from all corners of the English speaking earth.

And would they ever make the place rock….     


Thursday, April 10, 2014


Surely it is the beauty of the internet at it very purest.
Following threads.
Catching the sound of faint echoes that might otherwise have been forever forgotten. Echoes which might otherwise have been locked away into an eternity of silence.

We have entered an era where the left click is the gateway to things that once upon a time could be hidden away far from the public gaze. I find it hard to imagine how hard it must have been for authors in times past to undertake their research. Hour and after hour spent in big city libraries digging and delving through dusty paper. Now there is no such problem in following a thread. You merely left click and left click again. And again. And the only challenge is to gauge which bits are true and which bits are as mad as a bag of frogs.

Twitter can often provide the entry point. And so it was for me the other day when a re-tweet advertised a newly released edition of the Scottish Independence Podcast. Much of my life tends to be spent plugged into podcasts these days, whether I be driving from A to B or splitting logs or walking dogs.

Left click.

65 podcasts and counting.

Curser down.

Tariq Ali.

Left click.


Tariq Ali’s speech at a university in Glasgow was predictably calmer on the ears than Tommy Sheridan’s recent performance which as I write this has been left clicked 113,554 times. However, in terms of painting a picture of Scotland becoming a kinder and less morally bankrupt place to live, Tommy and Tariq are pretty well as one.

Tariq started off by recalling how as a young man he read about the exploits of John Maclean and was duly inspired.

John Maclean?

The name meant nothing to me. So when the podcast was done I typed ‘John Maclean’ into the Notes section of my phone.

Left click

24 August 1879 to 30 November 1923.

A man of the left. Of Glasgow. A man who grew into being a socialist in the grime and choking dust of the Lanarkshire coalfield. A school teacher who used his eloquence to give a voice to thousands who spent their days dying slow deaths hundreds of feet below ground. A socialist who evolved into a Bolshevik once the industrial slaughter of the Great War trenches took root. In his eyes, the war was all about Imperialism and the implacable forces of capitalism competing for market share. He saw the jingoistic propaganda of the Kitchener ‘Your country needs you!’ posters as a means to hoodwink working men on all sides to sign on the dotted line for a big lie. He raged at the fact that working men were being duped and corralled into hacking each other to pieces with bayonets in the name of patriotism.

Well that was never going to play well. He was arrested and duly banged up under the ‘Defence of the Realm Act’ in May 1915.


The Defence of the Realm Act?

Left Click

Parliament passed the Defence of the Realm Act on August 8th 1914. Bloody hell. They didn’t hang about. The war was only four days old when they voted it into law. Every politician of the day was out and about telling the people that the reason we were fighting the Kaiser was to defend our treasured British freedoms against the marauding Hun. And at the very same time, they passed a new set of laws through Parliament that made it possible to pick up and detain anyone without any kind of trial for crimes such as flying a kite or criticising the Royal Navy. It seemed like the best way to defend our treasured freedoms was to get rid of our treasured freedoms.

Well it seems that some things never change.

Detention without trial did nothing to shut up John Maclean and as the death toll ran into the millions he never stopped blaming capitalism for the greatest slaughter there had ever been.

In the end the Government could stand no more of him and they arrested him for sedition in May 1918. His trial in the High Court in Edinburgh found its way into folklore, especially when he used the dock as a stage to have his say. His words are worth repeating. Worth turning into yet another faint echo to be found with a left click.

‘I wish no harm to any human being, but I, as one man, am going to exercise my freedom of speech. No human being on the face of the earth, no government is going to take from me my right to speak, my right to protest against wrong, my right to do everything that is for the benefit of mankind. I am not here, then, as the accused; I am here as the accuser of capitalism dripping with blood from head to foot.’  

Fine words indeed and when we consider that he spoke these words mere months after countless young British and German lads had drowned in the sucking, poisonous mud of Passchendaele, it is hard to argue with them. But the judge wasn’t interested. The judge sentenced him to five years of penal servitude and they took him from the court to Peterhead Prison. And then they got stuck into the task of breaking him.

They never quite managed it.

He raged and he fought and in the end he was left with nothing but the last resort of political prisoners down the ages: hunger strike.

But the Government wasn’t ready to let him become a martyr. Every day they held him down and forced rubber tubes down his throat and into his stomach to force in enough nutrients to keep him going.

They let him out soon after the German Army caved in. Mentally, they never came close to breaking him. Physically he was a wreck. Less than five years after walking free from HMP Peterhead, his health finally collapsed and he was gone. He was 44 years old. Rumour had it that the thousands who lined the streets of Glasgow for his funeral made it the greatest send off the city had ever seen.

Years passed and the echoes faded. The British Establishment never learned to love John Maclean. Why would it? The Establishment won. And to this day the very same Establishment remains firmly in place. Half a century later, Nelson Mandela used his trial to make a speech that was heard all over the world before he was packed of to Robben Island. Nelson differed from John Maclean in two crucial areas. He had the constitution of a lion which meant they never managed to break him physically. And of course the establishment he fought tooth and nail collapsed like a pack of cards.

For a while the place where the echoes of John Maclean were heard most clearly was in the Soviet Union. In 1979 the Kremlin named a Leningrad street after him – Maklin Prospeckt. And then on the anniversary of his death they produced a stamp in his honour. But when the Bolshevik dream finally rotted away like a tired old cabbage, Leningrad reverted to St Petersburg and Maklin Prospekt was tossed into the dustbin of history. It became Angliisky Prospekt. English Avenue! A pretty bitter pill to swallow for a man who had dreamed of an Independent Socialist Scotland.

Had there been no world wide web, the echoes of John Maclean would had become ever fainter.

Instead his words are but a left click away, especially now we have reached the hundredth anniversary of the slaughter of the trenches. The Establishment seems hell bent on remembering that bout of butchery as a heroic sacrifice in the name of freedom. I guess they will be pretty keen to gloss over the Defence of the Realm Act. Will they succeed? Probably not. Instead, those echoes of John Maclean will get steadily louder. And if we all vote ‘Yes’ next September it would be nice to think that we might name a Glasgow street in his memory to make up for Maklin Prospekt becoming English Avenue.    

The renaming of the Russian street took me back to the early days of the 80’s when I was importing stuff from Rajasthan to hawk around summer festivals and autumn university fresher’s fairs at universities up and down the land. We criss-crossed the country in my venerable old VW Beetle and it seemed no matter which campus we pitched up at, there was always a Steve Biko building. I wonder if they are still Steve Biko buildings now? Or have they been renamed as history has moved on and Steve Biko’s words have become echoes from another time?

Who knows.

Steve Biko was a John Maclean. The apartheid establishment hated him for stating the blindingly obvious. His message was always one of peace. He made the point that people of all colours lived under the vast South African skies – black, white, brown and yellow. Maybe they should simply stop hating each other and learn to live in harmony. It didn’t go down well. The Pretoria Government issued a gagging order which promised imprisonment if Steve ever talked to more one person at a time. Like John Maclean before him, Steve refused to shut up. And so it was that they came for him in the night.

They took him to police room 619 in the Sanlam Building in Port Elizabeth. They tortured him for 22 hours and put him into a coma. Then they moved him to Walmer Police Station and beat him some more and then ignored his major head injury and chained him to the bars of his cell. Eventually a doctor figured that hospital might be a good idea. So they stripped him naked, chucked him in the back of a car, and drove him 1100 miles to the prison hospital in Pretoria. Apparently Port Elizabeth didn’t do hospitals. Against all odds, he survived the journey and managed not to fade out until an hour or so after his arrival in Pretoria.

The Government issued a statement saying he had died as a result of a week long hunger strike.

More echoes of John Maclean.

Memories from other times.

Left click


Search box ‘Biko Peter Gabriel’

Left Click


Left click

Are you sure?

Left click

‘Port Elizabeth 1977, weather fine…

It’s business as usual in Police Room 619….”


Faint echoes.

But echoes all the same. Echoes of the words of brave, brave men who preached decency in times on obscenity.

Words to be remembered. And treasured. And left clicked down the ages.

In the end Steve Biko’s dream of a South Africa where every man and woman has the chance to cast their vote regardless of their colour has come to pass.

Maybe next September John Maclean’s dream of an Independent Scotland where we can do things better might also come to pass…   

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Let's face it, there wasn't much to like about the old Soviet Union, but could they ever produce a poster! Take that you greedy Capitalist swine!
My blog of last week’s blog which highlighted the rip off prices being charged by the Co-Op in Kelloholm certainly seemed to chime with readers across the length and breadth of Scotland. If you missed the blog, the killer fact was that a basic bag of shopping in the ex mining village cost 350% more than the same groceries could be had for 26 miles down the road in Dumfries. The blog was published on the ‘Wings over Scotland’ site and comment after comment confirmed the fact the Co-Op likes to create monopolies in small, isolated towns and then proceed to take its customers to the cleaners.

It is all a very long way away from the ideals of the Rochdale pioneers who set the Co-operative movement ball rolling way back in 1844. Those gallant Lancastrian mill workers took a wheelbarrow on a twenty mile round trip over the moors to Manchester where food was a third of the price and twice as fresh as what was on offer in Rochdale.

Sadly, my eye watering till receipt from the Co-Op branch in Kelloholm rather suggests that a wheel has come full circle over the course of 170 years. The poacher has become the gamekeeper, and how! How those lads who heaved their wheel barrow along that rutted track must be turning in their graves. A couple of weeks ago the banking arm of the Co-Op announced that they were going to pay their Chief Exec £3.6 million a year because that is what you have to pay to get the right sort of guy. So much for founding ideals. Top, 'fat cat' dollar for the man at the helm at the same time as they are screwing the rural poor for every penny they can get.

And what goes around, comes around.

In 1844, factory owners calculated pay rates on the basis of stumping up the bare minimum required for their workers not to starve to death. Well, not too many at any rate. Then came Trade Unions and votes for everyone over the age of 18 and they were forced to stop doing that kind of thing here in the UK. Not that they stopped altogether. Instead they closed up the factories here and carried on business as usual in Indonesia and China. And what goes around, comes around and now those pesky Asians are getting ideas above their station. The cheeky sods are aspiring to more than a bowl of rice a day and they seem to think 14 hours of work entitles them to a McDonalds and a television. I mean, really…

Not to worry. Things are getting better on the home front. We now have zero hour contracts and most of those annoying factory inspectors had been downsized. And then there is that wonderful Polish chappie from Bialystok who can deliver a minibus full minimum wage lads to your factory gates at 12 hours notice. Who needs Indonesia?

But here’s the thing.

The idea of what goes around, comes around doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. There is no rule why it can’t be a good thing.

Time to hop into the Tardis and take a time trip back to those rain drenched, cobbled streets of 1844 Rochdale.

The problem? There was only one shop selling food in town and the shop owner was exploiting his monopoly to charge three times as much as the shops in Manchester.

The answer? Club together and take turns to push a wheelbarrow over the moors to Manchester and break the monopoly. The idea really couldn’t have been much more simple. And like many simple ideas, it proved to be monumentally effective. It was a genuine game changer.   


Can that simple idea from 1844 be dusted down and made to work in 2014. As far as Kelloholm is concerned, there are a couple of major problems that need to be acknowledged from the get go. A round trip from Rochdale to Manchester was 20 miles. A round trip from Kelloholm to Dumfries is 50 miles. And let’s face it, we aren’t as robust as we were back in 1844. Even if the round trip was only 20 miles, you would have to look long and hard to find anyone willing to push a wheelbarrow that distance.

But things have moved on since 1844. There have been successive technological revolutions which have brought us motorised transport and the worldwide web. So the key is to take the idea beyond needing a wheelbarrow and some stubborn Lancastrian muscle.

The key to the 1844 idea is the clubbing together bit.

The good news is that it is entirely possible for someone in Kelloholm to buy their groceries at Dumfries prices: they can order it online from Tesco or Asda and have it delivered to their door the very next day. Cue archive shots of church bells ringing and massed crowds in the streets cheering and waving.

But of course it isn’t quite as easy as that.

The downsides? There are two big downsides. Two deal breakers.

Number One: it costs a fiver to have your groceries delivered. No big deal for the Chief Exec at the Co-Op bank, but almost 10% of your disposable income if you are eking out an existence on Jobseekers Allowance.

Number Two. To qualify for a delivery, you need to spend at least £40. This is where cash flow becomes a major issue. Once power bills are paid, most people are left with about £25 a week or so for food. Basically you would need to go without food for two weeks to generate the cash flow required to make that £40 purchase. There ain’t many who will be able to manage that. So they remain doomed to walking down the road to the Co-Op and getting robbed blind.

Can that 1844 idea be dusted off to solve the problem?

Sure can.

You need someone to step up to the plate and volunteer to become a co-ordinator. That person will need a working debit card and a small amount of liquidity. The first thing they do is invest £60 in a Tesco or Asda delivery season ticket. We have these at First Base. For a tenner a month, you can have as many deliveries as you like so long as you spend at least £40 each time. We once had 15 deliveries in a month which meant that our average cost was about 66p. Now that’s more like it.

Does such a person exist in Kelloholm?

They sure do. I had a chat last week with Alistair who is the local Church of Scotland Minister and he indicated that he would be more than happy to take care of that side of things. He also said that the church hall could be used as a delivery point.

So what is the next box to tick?

Well that would be the co-operation box. Ideally 20 families will decide to co-operate to make the thing happen. Every week they will produce a shopping list for about a tenner’s worth of groceries. They take the list to a central point at an agreed time. They stump up their tenner and someone takes the list and orders it online. As soon as four people have taken in their lists, and the total goes past £40, the order can go through the checkout and be scheduled for delivery the next day. The maths are both simple and completely manageable. If 20 people spend £10 a week, there is enough to ensure that a supermarket delivery van will arrive at the church hall five days a week. Once this minimum target is reached, then people can take in orders for £5 or even £3. Once this point is reached, the delivery cost drops to 50p a day. Not so bad for a 50 mile round trip.

So. All of a sudden we seem to be getting there.

We have the company who will deliver groceries at a third of the Kelloholm price for an average of 10p per order - Tesco or Asda or both.

We have the man with the debit card who will take care of the transactions - Alistair

And we have a place where the groceries can be delivered – the Church Hall

After this morning, it seems like we have a place where with a computer and internet access: an ideal place where those involved in the scheme can call in with their shopping lists and cash.

Anything else?

A couple of smart as paint young volunteers wouldn’t go amiss. Some time spent co-ordinating this kind of project would look pretty damn fine on any young person’s CV and it would certainly give them plenty to talk about at future job interviews.

Some final pieces of the jigsaw?

We agreed this morning that it would be good to get some sort of public meeting organised to punt out the idea and see if we can win over a few converts. One of the last echoes of the village’s coal digging past is the Miner’s Memorial Hall which seems to me like a pretty ideal venue. It is worth remembering that a few miles up the valley is the town of Cumnock where Keir Hardie cut his teeth as a Union man representing miners back in the 1880’s before going on to become the first ever Labour MP to enter the House of Commons.

Bums on seats?

Well, I have left a message on Tommy Sheridan’s mobile and when he calls me back I’ll see if I can twist his arm to take a ride south from Glasgow to give the thing a kick start. I have a feeling that this kind of grass roots, bottom up trouble-making will be right up our Tommy’s street. We’ll see. Fingers crossed.

Then I guess some kind of name will be needed. 'The 1844 Club'? Maybe. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

I figured it might be a good idea to list all of these various steps from the get go. If this thing works, then it shows that it doesn’t need anything particularly earth shattering for people to start kicking back. This kind of thing is happening more and more in Greece and Spain and France, though it remains under the radar. When the lads did their wheelbarrow yomp back in 1844, there was no Facebook or Twitter or YouTube to carry the news of what they were up to around the world. Well, that is no longer the case. Should the '1844 Club' prove they are capable of giving the profiteering Co-Op a proper kick in the teeth, then there is no reason why lots of people shouldn’t know about it. And then maybe a few will copy what they are doing and break other monopolies in other isolated towns.

Which of course takes us to the very heart of the matter. 

Will the good folk of Kelloholm decide to club together and co-operate like the good folk of Rochdale did 170 years ago?

That remains to be seen.