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, May 21, 2014


When I am speaking at Indy rallies, I introduce myself as the ‘token English guy’. This is invariably received in the spirit that is intended. It’s called banter. Throughout my eighteen years in Scotland, there has always been plenty of banter. Pals from England have often asked if things ever go beyond the banter stage. Do things ever get nasty? Turn ugly?

I have always found this quite amusing, but it should always be remembered that there are many south of the border who are still convinced that Glasgow is three notches down from 1980’s Beirut. Years worth of apocalyptic films and dramas have filled their souls with terror at the idea of getting off the train at Glasgow Central and walking fifty yards into the deadly streets outside.

Maybe the Commonwealth Games might change some of this nonsense but I’m not holding my breath.

We have always had a fondness for banter on this rainy island of ours. Sometimes it is just a laugh: good natured. Give and take. And other times it can have a darker edge. After eighteen years up here, I am more than happy to report that I have never been involved in a single piece of knock about English/Scottish banter that has ever strayed into the darker areas where violence can appear out of nowhere.

Have I ever been involved in banter which has veered into ugliness? Sure I have. Plenty of times. As someone who has held a season ticket at Anfield for forty years, I am wary of engaging in so called good natured banter with any Man Utd fan. It might start as knock about fun, but it can descend into snarling nastiness in the blink of an eye. Once upon a time I did quite a lot of business in North Wales and I soon gave up on even thinking about engaging in banter with the locals. If you want to find a place where the locals really don’t like the English, then North Wales offers the perfect venue for a case study.

I should point out that we are not just any English family who has trekked north and set down roots. We are a mixed race family. My partner is of Afro-Caribbean descent which of course means that both of my boys are of mixed race. Almost all of the time at school, they were not only the only English lad in their class, but also the only coloured lad as well. Did they get any hassle? Barely any at all. Finding a place where tolerance is the norm was one of the big reasons why we upped sticks and moved out of Blackburn which has become a festering racial tinderbox of a place.

I spoke at a meeting in Dumfries last Friday night and took along a surprise guest, Teni.

Teni’s family fled Nigeria nine years ago when he was eight years old and his twin sisters were three. Maybe a few months ago people might have wondered why they got out of Dodge. That certainly isn’t the case any more.

They lived in London for five years and then moved north to Dumfries. To say they have had a tough time would be a every major understatement. For four years, Teni’s mum Yemesi has been battling to be granted leave for the family to stay from the Home Office. During this period they have not received so much as a penny in benefits. To make things worse, Yemesi has not been allowed to work. Imagine it. Trying to survive in a small town thousands of miles from home as a single mum with three kids and no money. Well the good news is that the family has survived. The fact that they have kept going owes nothing to Government. Instead it has been the local community which has rallied around and supported them. We have done our part by providing food parcels and in return Yemesi bakes 50 cakes a week for us to give out. The local High School have been amazing as parents and teachers have joined forces to make sure the kids have uniforms and the family can put some money in the power meter every now and then.

Thankfully the story has had a happy ending and a few weeks ago a judge in Glasgow gave the family leave to remain. The Home Office lawyer was given two weeks to appeal the decision and thankfully he has remained silent. Yemesi’s twin daughters told the judge about the nightmares they have been experiencing: nightmares where the family is deported back to Nigeria and the monsters of Boko Haram come to take them away in the night.

Last week Teni called in and I suggested that he now has a pretty big decision to make. He is about to be granted a passport and he is 17 years old. As one of Scotland’s newest citizens, he will have a chance to have his say on September 18th. Which way did he think he would vote? There was not so much as a beat of hesitation.


Why? Because of the people. Because of the way the community of Dumfries has made his family so welcome. Because of the way the community of Dumfries has rallied round to keep the family on its feet. He told me it has been so very different from London.


So much better.

So on Friday night at the end of my speech I invited Teni up onto the podium. The poor lad was as nervous as hell, but he spoke really well. And he got a hell of a cheer.

So where is all this leading?

I’ll tell you where. It is leading to my utter disgust at the Sunday Times choosing to poll a sample of English people living in Scotland about their voting intentions on September 18th. The findings?

66% said they would be vote ‘No’ whilst 27% said they would vote ‘Yes’.

The paper then highlighted the fact that when voters who were born in Scotland were polled, 44% said it would be ‘Yes’ against 42% who said it would be ‘No’.

The headline?


What were their motives for commissioning the poll in the first place? Well I think it pretty safe to assume that they had the headline firmly fixed in their minds before they asked a single question of anyone. The idea of course is as old as the hills. It comes from the playbook that once upon a time enabled this little island of ours to rule two thirds of the planet. It’s called divide and rule and the British Establishment are the best there has ever been when it comes to this particular dark art.

Check out all the places where we used to rule the roost and look at the legacy we left. Arab versus Jew in Palestine. White versus black in South Africa. Nuclear Muslim against nuclear Hindu on the Indian/Pakistani border. Catholic versus Protestant in West Belfast. Sunni versus Shia in Iraq. Kikuyu versus everyone else in Kenya. Ibo versus everyone else in Nigeria. Buganda versus everyone else in Uganda

It is a seemingly endless list of some of the world’s bloodiest hotspots where people continue to pay a horrific price for the callous machinations of the British Empire.

And here they are playing the same old nasty games. Right now there are absolutely no issues between the immigrant English and the indigenous Scots. It seems like someone, somewhere has decided to try and put a stop to this state of affairs. Why? For the short term gain of trying to scare people into voting ‘No’ and the hell with the consequences.

I heard a guy from Business Scotland the other week talking about the massive media coverage which will focus in on Scotland during the week of the Referendum. They had done a few calculations to work out what it would cost Visit Scotland to buy in such a monumental amount of global air time.

£800 million!

Wow. And that £800 million can tell one of two stories. It will either be cheering crowds in the streets celebrating the birth of the world’s newest country. Or it will be the sense of brooding emptiness as Scotland becomes the first country in history to shrink back from the chance of Independence.

If there is a ‘No’ vote on September 18th,, a lot of people are going to be absolutely gutted. Seriously gutted. And they are going to ask how on earth could such a thing have happened? And then they might remember that nasty little headline in the Sunday Times.


How will things be for us English immigrants then? Will the banter continue to be friendly? Will there be any banter at all? I doubt it. The callous, shadowy figures who are calling the shots for ‘Better Together’ are cynically setting us up to be the fall guys. Just like they always do. Are you upset that your real wages have dropped since the recession? Well blame the poor. Blame the immigrants. Are you upset that your country has been scared off the chance of a new future? Blame the English in your midst.

The foreigners.

The ones whose accent marks them out.

It might be about to get pretty ugly for half a million of us. Do the ones behind the divide and rule stunt care? Do they hell. Just so long as they can keep their nukes in Coulport and continue to skim the oil revenues, they couldn’t care less what becomes of us.

It is worth making a couple of points before wrapping this up. It might be worth taking a step back and looking at who most of the immigrant English actually are. Most of the ones I have met tend to be retired people who have sold up and moved north for fresh air and less crime. I wonder what the voting stats are for retired people born in Scotland? I am sure the likes of ‘Wings over Scotland’ would be able to show that the voting intentions of the immigrant English are in fact not all that very different from the retired indigenous Scots. My gut feeling is that the statistic is much more down to age than Nationality.

You see, when you think about it, the statistic doesn’t make much sense. There are different kinds of immigrants. There are immigrants like Yemesi and her family who left home to escape danger. And then there are immigrants like me and my family who left home because we wanted to live somewhere better. We didn’t have to leave England. We chose to leave England. And we didn’t have to emigrate to Scotland. We chose to emigrate to Scotland. Why? Because we like Scotland better than England. When you look at it that way, it seems a little odd that we should vote against our chosen home becoming independent.

I have a feeling that the nastiness of the Sunday Times will have a galvanising effect on many English immigrants. I think many will get off the fence and make their feelings known and I will have to stop using my ‘token English guy’ line.

Let’s just hope this will prove to be yet another nasty little ‘Better Together’ scare story that will backfire in their faces.


  1. Unexpectedly, your piece brought a lump to my throat more than once. Whatever the voting intentions of English born residents in Scotland it is their business. My only wish for them, as it is for my fellow Scots, is to inform themselves, weigh up the issues and vote with their hearts as well as their heads. Whatever conclusion they arrive at is their own business and democratic right. I don't believe that many people who will vote No are doing it to harm Scotland, they have their belief that the Union is better for Scotland. I disagree but I am not going to fall out or come to blows with anyone for having the opposing but equally sincere view, whatever their place of birth.

    For me, being Scottish isn't about blood or ancestry, it's about a feeling of belonging. Wherever a person was born, if they feel they belong here they are as Scottish as I am.

  2. Hi Mark...trying to find an email address for you here...I read the same piece you did, and was likewise inspired by a need to prove it false...we established a group specifically for people such as ourselves - English Scots for YES, and we'd be honoured to count you as a member...