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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Last night one of the Dumfries branches of the SNP held its first meeting since  Referendum. I had received a message via Facebook letting me know that people would be coming along with food donations for First Base. Would I be able to come along? Sure I would.

There were roadworks along the way which meant I was fifteen minutes late by the time I reached the venue. At first I couldn’t even get into the bloody room! I peered over shoulders to see a people packed room that was pushing health and safety boundaries. Later I asked an old hand how many usually turned up for branch meeting of the Dumfries East SNP. About ten. Twenty on a good night.

Last night it was a hundred and fifty.


The first hour was given over to allowing everyone a chance to have their say about what had happened. To get stuff off the chest. And then to try and find the road forward.

Even the most cynical of individuals would have been hard pressed not to be moved by the palpable feeling of hope in the room. Young and old, male and female, black, white, brown and yellow.

Just folk.

People were holding onto their completed membership forms and waiting to sign on the dotted line. Many had followed online instructions on how to cancel their direct debits to the BBC whilst staying within the law. Others told tales of the tearing up of their Labour Party membership cards. One had cut up his card into a ‘YES’ and sent it back to head office.

In the middle of the room was a huge pile of carrier bags which was clearly too much for the boot of my venerable old Volvo. The relief effort was going to require two trips. I had a word with the hotel guy and he was happy enough to hold onto the pile until the next day.

Once upon a time, piles of donated food used to be about to take the long journey south to famine stricken regions of Africa. Not this pile. This pile of bags will make a journey of less than half a mile across a small Scottish town where 500 people a month lack the means to buy supper.

What a desperate indictment. People’s instinctive reaction to our nation’s decision not to go it alone is to buy tins of beans and hand them over to the likes of First Base. All weekend Twitter carried images of an even greater mountain of donated food in Glasgow’s George Square.

Yesterday I emptied our collection bins in Morrisons and they told a similar story. On average they yield about £50 worth of food a week. Yesterday my boot was stuffed with £125 worth.

There was something poignant about the sight of the pile of carrier bags in the packed meeting room. Only a few hours earlier, George Osborne had told a room full of acolytes that he planned to make regular families £400 a year worse of should they be gullible enough to vote him back to power.

And the audience cheered him.

'Punish the Poor' has become the new black for people who deem themselves to be doing OK in life. A bit like voting ‘No’. In our brave new ‘I’m alright Jack’ world, people seem to love nothing better than the sight of poor people being kicked in the teeth. Last month a bunch of Middlesborough fans took a banner to the match referencing the fact that the latest version of ‘Benefits Streets’ is being filmed in their town.

‘Being poor is not entertainment.’

Oh really? Try telling that to bright young things in their ridiculous T shirts who cheered good old George to the rafters.

Well we had our chance to check ourselves out of Hotel George and find a better place to stay. And we opted for Hotel George.

So First Base will not be short of customers in the months and years to come. Dumfries is home to more than its fair share of poor people and they can now look forward to getting kicked in the teeth by George and his happy, clappy henchmen for the foreseeable future.

Last night a hundred and fifty people packed themselves into a relatively small room and collectively yearned for a chance to continue the fight. Hope and anger were abundant. Make no mistake, there were a lot of very, very angry people in the room last night. Conspiracy theories were doing the rounds. I have to admit that I find these rather hard to believe. Too much television has given us all a rather overblown respect for the capability of the dark powers of the British state. We see the likes of Keeley Hawes in Spooks complete with designer clothes and top end electronics and we shrink back in awe at her fearsome competence. In reality the security forces tend to be a complete joke. They actually admitted that they hadn’t really heard of ISIS at the very moment the men with the long beards and spooky videos waltzed their way across Iraq. And let’s face it, Iraq should be a place we have a handle on – it was sonly ten years ago that we invaded the bloody place.

These are the very same people who got caught trying to hide a microphone in a plastic rock in a Moscow park. Do we really think they could get their act together to such an extent that they were able to fix a Referendum without cocking it up? No chance.

Anger can be a good thing, but it becomes pretty pointless once it focuses on conspiracy theories care of Google. And here of course is the $64,000 question. We have hope, energy and anger in abundance, but how can it be harnessed? Will anyone out there be able to come up with a goal to strive for before all the hope, anger and energy evaporates like a post downpour puddle in the Sahara?

I hope so. Everyone hopes so.

The people at the top table last night seemed to be struggling. An agenda for the second part of the night was up on a screen where motions and resolutions were up for being seconded and passed. It was to be the nuts and bolts of party politics and a million miles from the joyous mayhem of the ‘Yes’ campaign. Will it be enough to provide a home for all the hope and anger and enthusiasm?
I hope so. Everyone hopes so.

One bit of news heartened me enormously. Our area was a bastion of ‘No’. Better Together romped home with a thumping two to one majority. This came as no kind of surprise. Everyone predicted it would be so and it was so. But not everywhere. The village of Moniave was a shining exception to the rule and it bucked the local trend completely by weighing in with more than 50% ‘Yes’. From a personal point of view, I was chuffed to bits to hear about this on two levels. Moniave was the place where I had done the majority of my own bit, firstly in a debate where I teamed up with Richard Arkless to take on two local Labour politicians and secondly when I had the great honour of sharing a platform with Tommy Sheridan.

Well it seems like the lads did OK.

There is a second really pleasing thing about the Moniave ‘Yes’. The village has an unusually high percentage of English immigrants who have migrated north to make their lives in Scotland. On paper it should have been a bastion of ‘No’. It wasn’t.

That snippet of news coupled with pile of carrier bags kind of made my night.

I didn’t stay for the formal part of the meeting. Instead I spent an hour outside in the smoking area soaking up the anger and the hope. I am not one of the 50,000 who has signed on the dotted line of active party politics. It’s not my thing. It never has been.

I don’t think I am alone in my weariness with our party dominated democracy. The joy of the referendum campaign was the way the parties were shoved to one side as regular people took control of the campaign. Maybe one day this might become the norm. Technology can easily allow democracy to go back to its original Greek roots when a crowd would gather outside the Parthenon and vote on how the railroad was to be run on an issue by issue basis. Yeah, yeah, I know. There were no railroads until George Stevenson did his thing a couple of thousand years later, but you get my drift.

Most of us have password access to our Amazon accounts which enables us to buy stuff, though sadly it is seldom one of my books! There is no reason on earth why we shouldn’t be given similar codes to vote on the great issues of the day on an issue by issue basis.

Did we really need 600 MP’s to take the decision to bomb the people of Iraq in our name last week? What would we have all said if there had been an online poll? Maybe a majority would indeed have decided it was a good idea to bomb the bejesus out of ISIS. However I am almost certain that the majority would not have been 10 to 1 as it was in the House of Commons.

No wonder the political class hate such a prospect. There would be no more lobbyists offering lovely non exec directorships on the boards of blue chip companies in return for the right kind of voting record. Instead the only people worth lobbying would us. All of us. Just like it was on September 18th. That is why 85% of us played a part in it. For once our opinion mattered. For once.

Here are a few questions that the political establishment would really, really hate to ask our collective opinion on.

Should the NHS be privatised?

Should the railways be re-nationalised?

Should Britain close down all the off-shore tax havens in sunny places where the Union Jack still flies?

Should we all have to stump up £1000 each for HS2?

Should we take another £400 a year off the 9 million poorest people in the country?

I think the answers to all of the above are not hard to guess at.

Will that day ever come? Sadly it is hard to see, but there really is no good reason why not. Of course the professional politicians will never tire of telling us that the people could not possibly be trusted to give the right answers to such weighty matters.

Anyway, I seem to have drifted off into a flight of fancy. It was great to see so many people in the room last night and it was great to see how much food they had brought along with them.

And it was great to see that so much hope had survived the despair of September 19. Now the parties so many have signed on the dotted line for have a huge responsibility to find a genuine direction for so much hope.

For what it is worth, I’m with Tommy Sheridan on this one. Let’s start by making Scotland a Unionist free zone next May. That would be a pretty good start in my book.
And then........?


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