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 6, 2014


So said Winston Churchill on the floor of the House of Commons in 1947. Famously. And how right he was. Over the last few months, I have done my share of spouting on about the glories of democracy from a variety of ‘Yes’ platforms. It is a common theme for all of us on the ‘Yes’ side of the fence. How could it not be when we once again find ourselves being governed by a bunch of old Etonians we never voted for.

Independence will mean that the five million people living in Scotland will finally have the chance to be governed by people we actually DID vote for.

The trouble is that they will still be politicians and they will almost certainly be a constant source of disappointment.

Last night I sat in front of the TV and I really wanted to find something to be positive about. Well, so much for that! As per usual we were treated to two hours of watching two undoubtedly smart and capable men behaving like a pair of spoilt kids in a primary school playground. Is this really the best that democracy can offer? By the end of the tawdry, pathetic spectacle I felt the same way that I always feel – I felt like putting a brick through the TV.

Except this time I was more angry than usual because this time I have been a part of  things rather than being a mere armchair observer. I have seen at first hand some of the thousands and thousands of good, decent people who are giving up their time and stepping out of their comfort zones to try and create something better.

The grassroots of the ‘Yes’ campaign is all about the dream. It is made up of people who yearn for a better place to live where the world doesn’t revolve around making sure that all the wealth of the land always flows into the over stuffed coffers of a tiny group of privileged individuals.

From what I have seen, people genuinely get it at the grassroots end of things. We see that this thing is all about what kind of country we can create for our kids, grandkids and great grandkids. It is a decision about the next three hundred years. It is about writing a new constitution from scratch like the Americans did in 1776. It is about stepping away from the festering corruption of Westminster and coming up with something better.

When people talk at the grass roots meetings, they adopt the tone of Kennedy. They sell dreams. They aspire.

Did we get any of that last night? Not a chance. Instead we got the usual nasty party political bickering. I could have screamed when Alex picked up a piece of paper and read a out a quote from Andy Burnham stating that we would have to drive on the right in an Independent Scotland. I mean, for Christ’s sake Alex. You know and I know that Andy Burnham is a Scouser. Fair enough, he is a deluded Scouser who is daft enough to buy a season ticket for Goodison Park every year, but that is by the by. Like most Scousers, Andy has a sense of humour. He likes to crack a joke or two, often at the expense of Koppites like me. You know and I know that the quote about driving on the right was a joke. Of course it was a joke. Not even a good joke. Not like the one about the Irish burglar who broke into the Everton trophy room.

So what the hell were you doing trying to twist his words like some petulant, argumentative thirteen year old making a case against being grounded for the weekend.

You were given twelve minutes to ask a series of questions about the way London rule has trampled over the rest of the country from hundreds and hundreds of years. Alistair Darling was there to front up for the corridors of power in Whitehall. It was you chance to call him to account for all the crimes committed over hundreds of years. And what did you do? You resorted to pathetic playground games. You tried to be clever and catch him out over complete and utter trivia.


It was your moment Alex. You had an audience of millions. You had your army of grassroots supporters who are doing all the hard miles knocking doors and manning high street stands. Everyone was waiting to be inspired by a vision of a better future than the miserable country we live in now.

It was your chance to climb out of the contemptible schoolyard world of party politics and do some inspiring.

Well, you completely blew it.

Here are some questions that you might have asked. I think these are the kind of questions that the grassroots of the ‘Yes’ campaign would have liked you to ask the representative of the London Establishment.

-          This week it is the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. In that appalling conflict, Scottish soldiers made up 10% of the British Army. In that appalling conflict Scottish soldiers made up 21% of the casualties. Can you explain why that was?

-          The people of Scotland contributed £200 each to help London to stage the 2012 Olympic Games. Why was it that the Westminster Government didn’t contribute so much as a penny to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow?

-          Last week Glasgow played host to over 50 countries who have chosen to become independent from London rule. You paint a very frightening picture about how bad things are for small countries when they break away from the warm embrace of London rule. Can you please explain why not ONE of those countries has ever begged to be allowed back into the fold?

-          In 1981, BP discovered what promises to be an enormous oilfield in the Clyde Basin. Michael Hesseltine confirmed recently that he banned BP from drilling for that oil. He decreed that it was more important that the nuclear submarines from Faslane should be able to use those waters for training exercises than for the West of Scotland to receive the kind of economic boost that Aberdeen has enjoyed. Do you think that was the right decision for the people of Scotland?

-          In the coming years every man, woman and child in Scotland will be required to pay £300 towards the cost of the Crossrail tube track across London. We will also be required to pay £800 each for the high speed rail track connecting London with Birmingham. Could you please explain how the £1100 each and every one of us is investing in these projects offers us any kind of benefit?

Of course he wouldn’t have answered these questions. Politicians never answer questions. They all must go to some appalling training school where they learn how to be truly annoying human beings. But at least you could have taken the opportunity to put him on the spot and call him to account.

You let an awful lot of people down last night Alex. I still cannot believe that you actually managed to lose a debate against Alistair Darling. And he was every bit as bad as you were.

Before the next one you need to get onto YouTube and check out the way other leaders striving to free themselves from London rule went about their business. Check out Michael Collins and David Ben Gurion and Kwame Nkrumah and Mahatma Ghandi. Then you could do worse than checking out some footage of Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

All of these guys painted big pictures. They didn’t nit pick. They didn’t try to score pathetic points. They sold dreams. Big ones. And you know what? People bought their dreams. In lots of the countries who turned out in Glasgow last week, people laid down their lives for the big dream of escaping from London rule. These leaders didn’t listen to spin doctors and focus groups and play it safe. They bared their souls and put everything on the line and inspired their people to take bullets and time in torture cells in the pursuit of freedom.

We don’t face the threat of secret policemen and trigger happy soldiers. All we need to do is to get over being so bloody scared. That’s your job Alex. It’s not about trying to be clever. It is about taking away the fear and instilling courage. 

Next time you need to step up to the plate and take a few risks. No more playing safe Alex. Give all those good people who are knocking doors in their ‘Yes’ badges what they deserve. They have found the guts to leave their comfort zone. It’s time that you did the same and left yours.


  1. Didn't see it. But Salmond has been left WAY behind by the campaign. That's for sure.

  2. I feel your pain Mark. And anger. You have been out there busting a gut and feel let down. I don't blame you. But I think the real problem is with the whole notion of a televised 'debate' it's mediated 'reality' and it was never going to work. They set it up as a 'fight' and they 'control' or don't 'control' it and it ends up a shambles. But it's possible to get something out of it...

    might give you more of an idea of what I'm talking about. I think the whole thing revealed that this is NOT about Salmond and the SNP it's about ALL OF US committing to change things to the way we want them. If we get the opportunity. Which I doubt we will, Big Brother after all, has been hanging around for a long time. So long we've stopped believing in him.