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.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


This is about to be a very angry blog. A bloody livid blog in fact. It is ten o clock on a sunny Sunday morning and I had no plans whatsoever to feel this way. But I do and here’s why.

I woke up early, read the papers online, smoked, drank coffee and wrote 1500 words of my latest novel, ‘Toxic’. By 7.30, the sun was streaming in through the window to such an extent that I thought sod the writing. I collected up my two collie dogs and headed out into the early summer beauty of SW Scotland.

And all was pretty much well with the world.

I decided on five miles and mentally lined up three podcasts to accompany me. I kicked off with the ‘Anfield Wrap’ which is basically a bunch of Koppites talking all things Liverpool Football Club. Then for half an hour it was BBC 4’s ‘Friday Night Comedy’ which is always good for a laugh.

For miles four and five I chose another offering from Radio 4 – Jonathan Dimbleby and ‘Any Questions and Any Answers’

By the time I got to mile four of my walk, any semblance of my Sunday morning good mood had evaporated to nothing. Had I had access to a flight of F16 fighter bombers, I would have quite happily given them the co-ordinates for Broadcasting House, London, W1A 1AA and told them to give it the full ‘Shock ‘n Awe’ treatment. And then I would have sent along a few unmanned drones to use their Hellfire Missiles to mop up anything that had managed to survive.

Harbouring such destructive feelings toward the BBC is not a usual thing for me. I’m 53 years old and for the vast majority of those years I have paid my licence fee more than willingly. I like the BBC. I think the BBC is probably the best of British institutions. I have always liked the fact that oppressed people all over the planet tune into the BBC to find the truth their oppressors keep from them. And right up to this morning, I have always liked Jonathan Dimbleby and his ‘Any Questions and Any Answers’

So what changed? Here’s what. I will get the basics out of the way first. The show was recorded in a village ten miles out of Dundee so it was clear from the get go that the Referendum was going to play big.

The BBC acknowledged this fact by setting up a panel with two from the ‘Yes’ camp and two from the ‘No’ camp. Quite right too.

In the ‘Yes’corner was Keith Brown MSP and a guy with a concrete business called Laurie Clark.

In the ‘No’ corner were two Scottish Westminster MP’s – Margaret Curran from Labour and Michael Moore from the Lib Dems.

I will be honest, I don’t much like either of the ‘No’ guys, particularly Michael Moore. This is based on nothing much. I have certainly never met him and I know little about him.

On the other hand I have met Keith Brown only a couple of weeks ago. He invited me up to the Parliament in Edinburgh to hear about the First Base Veterans Project. I was favourably impressed and let’s face it, it can’t be a bad thing to have an ex marine who served in the Falklands in charge of looking out for Scottish Veterans.

So I started out pretty biased and there is nothing unusual about that. I cannot criticise the efforts of either of the ‘Better Together’ MPs. They did their level best to paint positive pictures and at no point did they descend into the kind of bullying arrogance that we have all become so accustomed to. When they were asked what they thought about the pathetic, patronising and insulting Lego based ad campaign from Project Fear, they called it pathetic, patronising and insulting.

So, fair play to both of them.

And both of the ‘Yes’ guys did every bit as well. It was a down the line, 50/50 debate. Well I saw it that way.  

So what about the questions which the BBC selected? Well, there was nothing wrong with them either. Was Obama right to stick his oar in? Are the people of Scotland being confused by so many conflicting sets of statistics? Was the Lego thing childish? Nothing wrong whatsoever.

So why am I dreaming of reducing Broadcasting House to a heap of smoking rubble care of an F16 air strike?

The bloody audience.

There are a few things about the campaign for Independence which are surely indisputable. The main one of these self evident truths is that it is going to be a very close run thing. The polls narrow by the week and if it isn’t quite 50/50 yet, it is certainly close to that.

All of the enthusiasm and passion seems to be on the ‘Yes’ side. All over the country new ‘Yes’ groups pop up every week. Most meetings now need extra chairs. The likes of Tommy Sheridan, Jim Sillars and Dennis Canavan are filling Town Halls and Community Halls that haven’t been filled in years. Obviously it is easier to generate this kind of energy when promoting the idea of ‘Yes’. ‘Yes’ is all about hope and change. ‘No’ means hanging onto a status quo which is never going to get anyone’s juices flowing. The ‘Yes’ campaign is gathering in an energetic, younger, more passionate type of supporter. ‘No’ attracts an older, quieter demographic who keep themselves to themselves. That is why there are virtually no ‘Better Together’ meetings and so many ‘Yes’ meetings.

We know this. ‘Yes’ is noisy and very visible. How many people do you see walking the streets with ‘No’ badges on their lapels? Or ‘No’ stickers in their car windows? Not many, right?

‘Yes’ is visible whilst ‘No’ is invisible. ‘Yes’ is noisy whilst ‘No’ is quiet. ‘Yes’ is younger whilst ‘No’ is older. ‘Yes’ fills halls and hits the streets whilst ‘No’ stays at home and watches the tele.

Surely nobody would argue about this. And in no way, shape or form does this offer any kind of guarantee that Scotland is about to vote ‘Yes’ on September 18th.

So what was wrong with the audience who attended ‘Any Questions and Any Answers’ last week?

Just about everything.

As soon as Michael Moore answered the Obama question, the roof nearly came off with applause. I very much doubt that Michael Moore has ever received applause like that in his whole life. I guess Margaret Curran will have got a few home town Glaswegian Labour supporters out of their seats in her time, but surely never to extent that the good people of that small village outside Dundee acclaimed her. Did either of them answer the Obama question with a JFK panache? Not remotely. They were competent and no more.

When the only non-politician, Laurie Clark, gave his view, there were a few muttered jeers and the tiniest smattering of applause you have ever heard.

This set the tone. The ‘No’ side were roared on whilst the ‘Yes’ guys were sniped at and jeered. I listen to ‘Any Questions and Any Answers’ most weeks and I have never heard anything like it. The only time I have ever heard anything remotely similar was the way the audience laid into Nick Griffin when the leader of the BNP made his one and only appearance on Question Time.

Someone at the BBC must have worked very hard indeed to secure t audience. Sure it would have been quite possible to engineer an audience that was split 60/40 in favour of ‘No’. If the polls are to be believed, them that would be an approximation of the way things stand. But it is an altogether different task to dig out 60% noisy ‘No’ people to drown out 40% of mouse quiet ‘Yes’ people. In fact, I think I am being far too generous when I talk in terms of 60/40. The way that audience sounded it was much nearer to 80/20.

At one point Keith Brown brought up the McCrone Report and how the secret of Scotland’s oil wealth had been hidden away for thirty years. He was hissed at and booed. Usually only politicians who say particularly nasty things about immigrants or gay people are hissed and booed in this manner. The audience reaction was beyond bizarre.  Just imagine a Liverpool audience jeering a local MP for mentioning the Hillsborough truths which were hidden away for 25 years. Or a Londonderry audience jeering a local MP mentioning how the 30 year rule had buried the secrets of Bloody Sunday. The way that audience reacted made no kind of sense.

Nothing will convince me that the audience wasn’t completely fixed. And for that, the BBC should be thoroughly ashamed. Not that they will be. Over the last few days we have watched the D Day vets return to the Normandy beaches where they saw their mates give up their lives to guarantee our freedoms. How dare a few grossly overpaid beaurocrats besmirch the memory of their sacrifice by such disgusting behaviour.

Somebody, somewhere ordered the hand picking of that audience. There is no other logical answer. There is no other plausible explanation.

And it makes me really, really mad.

Christ, we really do need to win this thing.


  1. The Any Answers presenter stated quite bluntly and matter of factly that Obama had stated that we were Better Together. I do not believe I have heard him say that or seen it printed in any publication.

    Radio4, home county home of propaganda,

    Blood boiling, furious. No comeback, no response.
    Referendum and Obama squeezed into last few minutes without any opportunity for reaction.

  2. Greetings Mark. Heard you speak at Ayr meeting. I'm the weeping Yank by way of explanation. Unlike you, I did not have my Sunday morning turned to shite by the obviously engineered broadcast you listened to. But I did get a severe cramping in the gut when I heard BBC's presentation of the Obama statement on the news. Basically, I was so mad I could have spit bricks! However, when I had calmed down and listened to STV and went online and listened to the ENTIRE fumbling bumbling obviously not heartfelt blurb by Obama, I realised that I had been caught out again by BBC new's triumphant blaring of the party line. So I did my OWN dissection of the statement. Here ya go:
    Have a better afternoon!

  3. I thought I was in the minority with those feelings that someting wasn't right. Dundee is very SNP friendly but there is a coterie of SNP haters amongst the Labour types. It must be something in the water. George Galloway displays the same tendencies. Also, listen to Jenny Mara on her campaigning tacks. However, I think the most despicable thing was that of the 30 minutes given to Any Questions we got a grand total of 7 minutes to phone in about Scottish issues. The BBC at its London centred worst.

  4. It won't be the first time I've heard a programme like that on the BBC. BBC Scotland aired an indy debate focusing on the younger voters (17 year old students) and they based it in a private school up north somehwere. The two Yes guys were absolutely hammered by everyone else in the room. It was an horrific misrepresentation!

  5. I was at the recording of the Any Questions programme with my daughter, we are both definite staunch yes voters, but for once I have to disagree with you about BBC bias. Let me put the venue in context, Monikie Memorial Hall is badly served by public transport and is closer to Monifieth and Broughty Ferry than Dundee. At the start of the programme Jonathan Dimblebey said that it is the venue that invites Any Questions and there lies the clue. My quesion was picked ( not aired, unfortunately) but I was sitting beside one of the steering group that runs the hall and she was definitely a NO supporter with bells on. I suspect that it was the hall committee that saw an opportunity and invite the like minded inhabitants from the surrounding area. Ladies who lunch and well-to-do men with loud voices complaining about Salmond and there was even a union jack t-shirts made up the bulk of the audience. We tried to speak to folks as they came to the hall and as we wrote questions, as you do at Yes gatherings but nobody was for chatting . It was evident that they all knew each other but they were not very open to anyone outside their "circle" ( and me in my smartest jacket did not cut it at all) The chap behind us was definitely from Better Together, he was talking about a meeting he attended. It was a very upper class set (perms and pearls and smart sporting jackets) not a mixed representation. The hall committee issued the tickets, but for the very limited advertising the hall was packed. funny..... It was not a pleasant experience, and as Yes was hosting a meeting in Forfar at the same time may have deterred some of the Yes support .

  6. Maybe the audience was not fixed.. maybe the BBC just fixed the sound track? It'd be a whole lot easier than fixing the audience; and near to Dundee too. Your 'avin' a lawwrrf BBC! If you can get 'canned' laughter you can get 'canned' clapping, cheering, booing and hissing. I hate the BBC with all my heart and soul. From the Jimmy Saville scandal to Dimbleby's shoe-in. The whole things reeks with their 'we are the chosen ones' attitude. Then there is other shoe-in, Sarah Smith, who really showed her true labourite colours last week over the Lally non-event. Sure, be a labour no voter, if you must; but don't then be employed by the BBC and pose as a neutral, non-partisan ajudicator, when you plain ain't. Look forward to seeing you at the anti-BBC protest at 2 pm. on June 29th, at BBC's Scotland's HQ, Pacific Quay! The BBC showed their contempt for the wee people by not even covering the protest against them, let's see if they can do that with many thousands there.