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, August 20, 2014


I had another first on Monday evening. This time it was being part of a panel of four in a BBC Referendum debate. It was on the radio, not the tele, and it was my friend and neighbour Willie Johnston in the chair rather than David Dimbleby.
I was cast in a role that has become familiar to me having watched Question Time over many years – I was token the non-politician. To be fair to Willie, he tried long and hard to dig out a non politician to represent the Union but as per usual, none were to be found.

Regardless of the outcome on September 18th, I will always feel both honoured and proud to have had the chance to play a part in what has been such an inspiring grassroots campaign.

‘Yes’ has been all about a hope for something better. From the place where I stand every day at First Base to hand out twenty or thirty emergency food parcels, it couldn’t be any clearer that we are all in desperate need of something better. Great Britain 2014 has become a truly miserable place for far too many of our fellow citizens. It has become a place devoid of hope where life opportunities are all but non existent for the vast majority of our people.

The abject bleakness of the lives so many at the bottom of the ladder are living has been something we have been describing for ten years from our small front line office in Dumfries. Over the last few months, we have felt much less like we are a voice in the wilderness. From all corners of Scotland, thousands upon thousands of ordinary people have stepped out of their front doors and taken the chance to make themselves heard. And despite the frantic efforts of the Establishment and their compliant media, these voices have been getting ever louder.

I have yet to hear anybody from the ‘No’ side making any kind of believable case that the Union is working right now. How could they? The Union has given us one of the most unequal and unhappy places to live in the developed world. It is a place where anyone earning under £63,000 after tax will have earned less in the last 12 months than a person who happens to own an average house in London.

Those without work don’t earn £63,000 a year. They earn about £3000 a year. That is our Union in a nutshell. A London home owner is earning the same money in a year as 20 unemployed people. By doing absolutely nothing. By having a few deeds under lock and key in the office of their solicitor.

Westminster will never solve this miserable status quo. Instead it has become abundantly clear that Westminster is hell bent on perpetuating the currant dismal state of affairs. Travellers waiting to board the Eurostar at the Gare de Nord in Paris have 25 giant photographs of Britain to look at before they embark on their journey. Here is Westminster’s chance to give a flavour of the land these tourists from around the world are about to visit.
Surely they will give a sneak preview of the magnificence of Glencoe. The Giant’s Causeway. The Albert Dock in Liverpool. The Snowdon mountain railway. The sparkling waters of Lake Windermere. Cheddar Gorge. Holy Island. The Angel of the North.........

Images of our so called Sceptered Isle......      

So are those the images a visitor is given to look at?

Are they hell.
On the wall of the terminal of the Gare De Nord there are 24 photos of London and one token photo of a village pub with a thatched roof in the Cotswolds.

As a Lancastrian with 53 years on the clock, I see no hope whatsoever that things will ever get any better so long as the Establishment in London continues to call the shots. The 1% will continue to flaunt their obscene wealth at Henley and Ascot and Wimbledon and the Royal Opera whilst the 99% see their standard of life slowly eroded.

September 18th offers us a once in a lifetime chance to find something better. It is certainly something worth going out and fighting for.

Sometimes the fight can be a genuine joy: these are ‘Yes’ events where all kinds of diverse people come together to share a common feeling of hope. But on other occasions being involved in the fight can be incredibly dispiriting.

All of the debates I have been involved in fall into the second category. Quite frankly, I have been disgusted by the antics of those representing the Union. I have not had the chance to debate with a fellow member of Joe Public who holds a genuine passionate belief that staying a part of the United Kingdom offers us all the best chance of leading the best of lives. Instead the Union side of the argument has always been put by people who are being paid huge salaries to represent out interests.

Imagine someone who is paid £65,000 and given a huge expense account and a free house in London to represent the interests of a large corporation like Coca Cola or Nike or Embassy. Imagine how their employers would feel if they failed to find a single upbeat thing to say about the company.

'Never mind how good Coca Cola is, let’s look at the consequences you will have to deal with if you choose to drink mineral water! You will become obese and  mentally ill and you will have your house re-possessed! You will get cancer and Aids and the Ebola virus at the same time! If you are stupid enough to choose mineral water, you are a deluded, idiotic fool and you will be doomed to a life of misery and penury forever and ever! And if things go wrong, you will need the might of the Coca Cola Corporation behind you, not some two bit mineral water outfit!'

They would be fired in a heartbeat of course. For £65,000 a year, Corporations expect a lot of bang for their buck. They want their mouthpieces to be upbeat and positive. Of course they do.

We all shell out in excess of £200,000 a year to cover the cost of Russell Brown representing the interests of Dumfries and Galloway in Westminster. He has carried out this role for 17 years and he is hoping to make that 22 years.

I have debated with Russell on three occasions now and I have been patiently waiting for him to come up with a single positive reason why we should vote to retain the Status Quo.

I am still waiting.

Instead he has painted a series of doom laden images of the desperate times that will await us all if we are foolish enough to vote ‘Yes’. Here is the list from Monday night.

-          We will not have a stable currency

-          We will have no lender of last resort

-          Our pensions will be under dire threat

-          Our borders will be insecure

-          We might well see a tide of immigrants

-          We will be excluded from the EU

-          Businesses will be crippled by additional costs

-          As a country of a mere 5 million souls we will be swept under by any coming crisis

-          Child benefit will be a problem for anyone living in Scotland and working in England

In a previous debate he told us that without the full might of the British armed forces Scotland would become vulnerable to Cyber attack. I asked him what exactly he planned to do if Russia of China were to launch a cyber attack against us? Would he be shipping 1 Scots out to Moscow or Beijing? Or was he really talking about threatening them with a pre-emptive strike from one of out Trident submarines?

He didn’t like that.

I have found the ugliness of the ‘No’ campaign to be thoroughly depressing. On Monday night when I took my seat, I saw that a few feet away in the second row a clutch of local Labour politicians had gathered in a malevolent huddle. Throughout the event they heckled and met any statement made by the ‘Yes’ side with overly loud mocking laughter. I haven’t seem people behave like that since school. Even opposing football supporters show more class than they showed. I simply couldn’t believe how rude and childish they were. Not one of them was under 50 years old, but if they had dared to behave the way they behave in a classroom they would have been given detention. They showed an absolute lack of basic manners and it was clear that they thought it was perfectly acceptable to interrupt and snipe and seek attention with their silly, overblown mocking laughter.

Had they been paid representatives of any company, they would have been fired on the spot for gross misconduct.

But they are not on the payroll of a company. We pay them. And this is what we get. Grown men and women behaving like the group of load mouth bullies at the back of the bus taking the piss out of anyone not in their silly little gang.

The nadir came towards the end of the debate. A questioner suggested that it had been a mistake to allow 16 year olds the chance to vote as they lack the life experience to make a measured decision. Willie sent the microphone over to three youngsters who said that they would be voting ‘No’ and most of their friends were doing the same. Then the microphone was passed to a young lad with a ‘Yes’ badge on.

I have met the lad a few times at various events and I have been impressed with his enthusiasm. He will soon be making his debut speech and he is understandably nervous about it.

So. There he was. 18 years old and all of a sudden he was speaking on the BBC. He had found the courage to put his hand up and speak on the radio in front of an audience of a hundred. In my book that is pretty good going for an eighteen year old. The gaggle of Labour politicians were sitting about six feet away from him. When he said that most of his friends would be voting ‘Yes’, they laughed as hard as they could at him. They got in his face.

They bullied him.

In fact, he dealt with it really well and castigated them for their unacceptable rudeness. Once again, it is worth going back to the classroom. Were a gang of eight to display that kind of ignorant, bullying rudeness to a fellow classmate, they would be sent to the Headmaster. There would be letters written to their parents. These however were not school pupils: they were fully grown adults and they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Picturing their twisted mocking expressions as they attacked the young lad still makes my blood boil. And it wasn’t just me. Lots of others came up at the end of the event to share their disgust.

Well if any of you are reading this, you know full well who you are and you know how you behaved to that brave and commendable young lad. If you had any decency about you, you would resign from public office.

But you won’t. Of course you won’t. You are a part of the only profession where utter rudeness and bullying are deemed to be acceptable.

Who won on the night? I have no idea. There seemed to be very few undecideds in the audience. Those who came along seemed to be firmly rooted in their respective camps. Will the listeners buy into Russell’s doom laden predictions for an Independent Scotland? I hope not.

We have a month to go and it feels like the tide is all flowing in one direction. The Establishment is suddenly afraid and their fear is making them angry and spiteful. They are convinced that they can still scare us into doing as we are told.

What an utter tragedy it will be if they get their way and get to keep their seats on the Westminster gravy train.

But I don’t think they will. And in the years to come when an Independent Scotland takes up its place in the world as a normal and successful country, I hope they take time out to remember all the pictures of doom and disaster they tried to frighten us with.

Here is a link to a recording the debate by the way.


  1. Fear of losing one's job will make some people do terrible things

  2. Remember that Russell Brown has never once in his live voted against a Labour whip. It's my personal opinion that as a man he's a reasonably decent human being - but as a Member of Parliament he's less use than a clockwork monkey. His masters wind him up and tell him what to vote; and if they tell him to vote, ooh, I don't know, to test depleted uranium weapons at Dundrennan, say - he'll do it.