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, May 30, 2014


This has been a week of two interviews. The first was a shining example of how the new digital world we live in is slowly but surely changing everything. The second was an overdue echo of darker times when so much was hidden away behind locked doors.

As regular readers will know, over recent weeks I have become something of an accidental tourist in the campaign for Scottish Independence. A couple of nights ago I arrived at Ayr Town Hall to speak at a meeting and saw my name on a poster on the front door.

'Mark Frankland: Writer, Drugs worker, Activist.'

Never in a million years would I have imagined that particular scenario! Or such a description of myself! The night was a joy. The podium was a politician free zone and eighty people or so turned out to watch three complete unknowns say what we had to say.

It was in every respect the very essence of grass roots. Before the meeting started, Kieran, Veronika and I got our heads together and wondered who on earth would tackle questions about what will happen with the currency. Then we just laughed.

For me the biggest joy of the growing ‘Yes’ campaign is seeing it slowly slipping from the grip of the professional politicians and mainstream media. A formal campaign is being played out in the papers and on the TV and it is predictably tedious. Politicians back-stab each other and behave like spitting fishwives. The tabloids roll out their predictable fairytale scare stories.

And you know what? It seems like people are gradually tuning out. We are all so very tired of all this. We showed how sick to the back teeth we are of politics and career politicians by giving Nigel Farage such a ringing endorsement last week. Personally I would be as likely to vote for Nigel as I am to buy a season ticket on the Stretford End, but I loved every minute of his success.

This is the era when London has become a giant safe house for the world’s billionaires. It doesn’t matter if you are the worst kind of person who has amassed a treasure chest of gold by trafficking people or drugs, so long as you have enough gold you will be welcomed with open arms. It is a time when the top 1% is thriving like never before whilst the other 99% wonders what the hell is going on.

This is the kind of thing which can lead to revolutions.

Are we beginning to have our own very British revolution? Possibly. Christ let’s hope so. Giving Nigel his Euro victory could one day be seen as the first shots of the British Revolution.

Why did so many vote Nigel? Simple. Because we’re had it with an endlessly smug establishment that is so very convinced that it can take us all for a ride for ever.

Well guys, maybe the times are finally a changing.

I am a big podcast fan. I spend many hours walking my two collie dogs with headphones in my ears. Sometimes the podcasts are as mainstram as they come: BBC flagships like ‘Any Questions and Any Answers’ or ‘Peinaar’s Politics’ or ‘5 Live Football Daily’. Other times they are the homemade efforts of people who have decided to do their own thing. The quite magnificent ‘Anfield Wrap’ is the voice of Liverpool fans all over the world and its episodes have been downloaded well over a million times.

Once I found myself caught up in the 'Yes' campaign, I hit the Itunes search box and within seconds discovered ‘The Scottish Independence Podcast. This is the brain child of Michael Greenwell.

If you follow Google you will soon find his site.

So. Who is Michael? Here is what he says about himself.

‘I have been doing some serious writing and anonymous blogging for quite a while now. In the meantime I have had about a million jobs, some interesting, some shit. At various times I have been a university tutor, a barman, a DJ (not a very good one), president of a small charity, a researcher, a librarian and a few other things to tedious to mention. I worked in Nepal for a couple of months doing volunteer work. I also worked in South Korea but didn’t have the best of time.. These days I’m back in Scotland and if I have enough money I can be found (or rather not found – that being the point) somewhere in the Highlands and Islands or otherwise in Glasgow.’

Basically Michael is just another ordinary Joe like me who has decided to get involved and has he ever. Over the last 18 months or so he has released 76 podcasts which carry the thoughts and voices of a huge variety of people. Have people been interested in what he has had to say? Too right they have. To date over 170,000 of his episodes have been downloaded.

When you sit back and think about it, this is way more impressive that mere hits on a website. To take the time to download something that is at least half an hour loang means much more than webpage hopping.

A couple of weeks ago Michael dropped me a tweet asking if I would like to be guest on his show. Course I would! We did the interview last Saturday morning over Skype. It was the digital equivalent of sitting in the pub and having a chat over a pint. The podcast hasn’t been released yet, so I have no idea whether or not I come across like a complete and utter pratt. If I do, well it doesn’t matter greatly. I am not getting paid by anyone. I don’t have a party line to stick to. I was just one ordinary Joe having a talk with another ordinary Joe, and if a few thousand people want to listen in, then the best of luck to them.

No money changed hands. No professional back room staff were required. And if by some miracle a million people want to listen to what we had to say, them they can do so.

Little by little, people like Michael and Stuart Campbell (‘Wings over Scotland’) and all the local ‘Yes’ organisers are taking control of the campaign away from the politicians and the TV stations and the newspapers.

All of a sudden it has become OUR campaign whether THEY like it or not. In many ways, it is the very best kind of revolution. I am more than confident that a brand new country will appear on the world stage on September 19th without a shot being fired.

Should that be the case, the likes of Michael will have given the rest of the world a wonderful template to follow. Revolutions do not have to be soaked in blood. Not any more. Not with the tools of the social media. In years the Scottish Revolution might become a case study of how to kick the establishment in the teeth without the need of car bombs and burning buildings.

The second interview couldn’t have been more different. Where my chat with Michael was completely informal, this was was a formal interview in every sense of the word.

Some background.

On 15th April 1989 I drove over the Pennines to watch Liverpool play Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi final at Hillsborough. Everyone knows what happened next. 96 of us never made it home.

On 18th April I was so enraged at the media coverage of the catastrophe that I wrote a letter outlining how appalling policing had been the cause behind everything that happened. I sent the letter to journalists and politicians.

I also sent a copy to The South Yorkshire Police.

A few journalists got in touch, in particular Patrick Barclay who called me to find out some facts and ended up being more like a counsellor. Thanks for that Patrick. It meant a lot at the time and it still does.

Many fewer politicians responded, but it would be wrong not to mention the long, thoughtful and very heartfelt letter I received from Michael Hesseltine.

The South Yorkshire Police?

Nothing. A deafening silence.

And that remained the case for over 25 years. I wonder what is written in the Guinness book of records on this front? What is the record amount of time to elapse between sending someone a letter and getting a reply? There won’t be many times when it took 25 years.

Two weeks ago I finally got my reply. A DC called Gareth called me up and said he had been reading a copy of my letter which had been hidden away in the dusty bowels of some government building or another since April 1989.

He said he would like to drive up to Dumfries to take a formal statement.

To interview me on the record.

I said yes. Absolutely. Why wouldn’t I? That had been the whole point of writing the letter in the first place. To give a true picture of what happened on that desperate day.

I really don’t know the law about all this stuff, so I am going to play completely safe and say nothing that might jeopardise anything the Inquiry might turn up.

Maybe I can make a couple of points.

Gareth came along with another officer, Danielle. They explained that they were both volunteers. They were doing what they were doing because they wanted to, not because they were following orders. I think that is a really good thing. The right thing.

The first thing Gareth did was to give me a copy of the letter I had written twenty five years earlier. I hadn’t kept it myself and it was very strange indeed to read the words of my 28 year old self. The events I described were no different to the events I can remember vividly to this day. They were imprinted then and they remain imprinted now. What I was quite shocked to read was a paragraph where I said that it was clear that a cover up was being put in place.

That is appalling when you think about it. Even after three days I and many others were quite certain that the truth would be buried even though there had been 49,000 eye witnesses and millions watching on live TV.

Well we weren’t wrong.

It turned out to be the mother of all cover ups and it stayed more or less in place for two and a half decades.

Maybe that time has finally come to an end and my letter of 18 April 1989 will be one of many thousands of hidden away documents to finally see the light of day.

The interview lasted a little over four and a half hours – much, much longer than my chat with Michael. Gareth is coming back to Dumfries next week to get me to read over the full statement and sign it off.

And then?

We’ll see.

And we’ll hope.

Which interview will have the greater impact? The ultra formal statement or the chat over Skype?  I have absolutely no idea. What I do know is that the podcast will appear on ITunes and it will be available to any person on God’s green earth to download and have a listen. Some will like it. Some will hate it. What matters is that everyone will free to hear the words spoken.

The extra-ordinary depth and reach of the internet is offering us all the greatest chance of a Brave New World we have ever had. I can only hope that the new online revolutionaries like Michael will prevail and gain a toehold.

If they do, then the people will have a chance for once.

And just because there are no petrol bombs and bullet holes in the wall doesn’t mean it isn’t a real Revolution!    

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