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, October 21, 2014


This is an image that became pretty familiar across the length and breadth of Scotland in the wake of September 18th. The picture shows two members of our local ‘Yes’ campaign who bottled up their feelings of anger, despair and disillusionment and found a way to morph these emotions into something positive. They sent out word through the well established social media channels of the local ‘Yes’ campaign and appealed for the ‘45’ to show defiance by donating food to those in the local community who had nothing to eat.

The result of their efforts was £900 worth of donated packets and tins which required the services of a large volunteer trailer to be moved across town. In the same week, two local SNP branch meetings collected up a further £500 of food.

In the last three weeks a staggering £5000 of food has come in through the doors of the First Base Agency.

On the surface of things, what has happened is an appalling indictment of what the ‘No’ vote meant to so many. ‘No’ meant a whole lot of people in Scotland would continue to go hungry. ‘Better Together’ meant that those lucky enough to have a house and a job and a pension fund had decided they were best sticking together to make sure none of their stuff would be taken a away and given to hungry, poor types. I mean for goodness sake, how many widescreen TV’s do these wretched poor people actually need!

Even the most ferocious campaigner for the continued Union would surely have to admit that the events of the month following the Referendum has borne out most of what the ‘Yes’ side said. We’re once again bombing Iraq and UKIP has moved along from being a frightening bogeyman in the shadows to a clear and present danger. The only answer the Tory Conference could find to the abject bankruptcy of the country was to flay the poor even harder. The pound has weakened and the Stock Market has tanked and according to new research, we suddenly have 120 years worth of oil to go at.
Remember the bold Sir Ian Wood, Knight of the Realm and font of all wisdom when it came to the real truth about Scotland’s oil? In the days before the vote he sounded like Fraser in Dad’s Army. The oil is running dry!!! We’re doomed!!!!! In the days after the vote he released a profit warning to his City investors. Apparently his company’s maintenance services were no longer required by the hard nosed guys at Big Oil. Basically lots of them had fired his arse and he was about to hit the bricks. But wait! Just a couple of days later and the seventh cavalry rode over the horizon to save his sorry neck from having a tomahawk pushed through it. Phew. Sir Ian’s outfit were awarded 75% of the fracking rights across the Central Belt and the day was duly saved.

Who awarded the fracking rights to save Sir Ian’s bacon? The British Government.

Who’s bacon did Sir Ian save by lying through his teeth about Scotland’s boil reserves? The British Government.

You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

It’s what they call an Establishment stitch up.

Suddenly there is a new political reality in the frantic corridors of Westminster. Blue Tories and Red Tories are frantically trying to keep up with the world according to Nigel.
It is the new gospel - what Nigel says, goes.

Keeping up with Nigel has become the be all and the end all.

Nigel says we’ll solve the problem of too many East European immigrants by leaving the EU and adopting an Aussie style points system to govern who is allowed to come to our fair shores.

I can better that, screams Dave. We Red Tories will continue to let them in, but then when they get here we’ll lock them up in concentration camps in the Scottish Highlands and solve the balance of payments problem by extracting ransoms from their families. What’s there not to like! It’s just so super and perfect. Serco have already bid for the contract. They will provide lots of smashing zero contract camp guard work for the Scots as a reward for them voting ‘No’ and they have already engaged a team of consultants from the Islamic State to provide training sessions on how behead the detainees whose families refuse to cough up the ransom.

Red Tory Ed shakes his head and makes a nasal tutting sound. He reveals a killer counter to the Blue Tory ransom plan. Ed announces that ransom money is just a drop in the bucket and the Scots are worth so much more that lousy zero hours work as camp guards. The Red Tories will go much further and dust down an old playbook. He agrees with the arrest and detain in concentration camp part of the Blue Tory plan. But instead of merely ransoming the captives, the Red Tories promise something much bigger and better. Don’t ransom… sell!!!! The Red Tories are going to get Britain back into the slavery game! It’s win, win and win again. A boom for ship building on the Clyde. Lucrative overseas work for the Scots. The good old days will be back!

Over the last few weeks, Nigel has discovered and new and wickedly appealing string to his bow. Why is it that those pesky Scots have free prescriptions and free futher education and free care for the elderly?

Nigel knows exactly why.

And Nigel is about to tell anyone willing to listen why.

It’s because the Scots are all a bunch of subsidy junkies!

And who is paying the bills? The beleaguered rank and file of Middle England, that’s who.

The same beleaguered rank and file who are paying the benefits of the fifty million Romanian gypsies who are about to flood our green and pleasant land to pick our pockets and take our houses.

Nigel is all set to make the Scots into the new Romanians and he has the Barnett Formula well and truly in his sights.

In the world according to Nigel, the Barnett Formula is the vehicle which carries an extra £1400 a head up the M6 from Middle England to shirking Scotland.

Will the Red and Blue Tories be willing to point out the tiresome reality that the Barnett Formula is designed as a vehicle to send back most of the money that Scotland pays into the Westminster coffers? Well. Most of it.

Will telling that particular truth curry any favour among the disaffected millions of the South East of England? Not a chance. Nigel’s anti Scottish poison will soon become every bit as addictive as his anti everyone else poison.

So let’s face it. Handing in a bunch of food in the wake of the ‘No’ vote wasn’t such a bad idea after all. The 2015 election is going to be all about who can hate the hardest and Nigel will make sure that the Scots will become popular hate figures alongside the Romanians and the Somalis.

Yesterday the Joseph Rowntree Foundation predicted that Scotland is well on target to having one in four of its children living in poverty by 2020. This desperate assumption is based on things staying as they are now and the Barnett Formula remaining unchanged. Once Nigel has had his impact, it seems more than likely that will not be the case for much longer. By 2020, the extra £1400 a head Barnett sends north will be no more. Should that be the case, then we can forget the 25% of kids in poverty figure: should that be the case, it will be more like one in three.

The report was picked up by the news channels and a debate duly broke out. As per usual, lots of angry voices said what an disgrace it is that so many now have to rely on food banks in order to keep their bodies and souls together. Many pointed out that Britain is becoming more unequal by the day and the street level result of this inequality is the growing number of foodbanks. What is needed are more progressive policies to redistribute wealth and level out the playing field.

As someone who manages a foodbank, much of this talk is starting to get me pretty pissed off. More and more it seems that the tone of much of this talk suggests that foodbanks in themselves are somehow disgraceful. If people could for a moment climb down from their moral high horses, they might realise that foodbanks ARE wealth distribution at its most basic. Someone who has some spare food in their cupboard is more wealthy than someone with a bare cupboard. If the person with the food decides to give some to the person without food, they are re-distributing some of their wealth. If a third person decides to donate some of their time free of charge to make the transaction happen seamlessly, they are also redistributing wealth in their own way.

How many people in Britain would have starved over the last few years if there hadn’t been foodbanks to keep them going? I hate to think. But not a single person HAS actually starved. The Government deserves no credit whatsoever for this. The community has proved that it is simply not willing to allow people to starve and it has found a way to make sure that it does not happen.

This is what foodbanks are all about: they are a people based answer to a people based problem. It is voluntary wealth distribution.

Surely the foodbank phenomenon is a perfect case study on how problems can be solved. It seems to me that the incredible efficiency foodbanks have shown in the way they have met the crisis of the last few years is something of an anathema to many.

Old thinking says that the only way to even things up is to pass laws to take more money off people in the form of more tax. Then the Government of the day handles this money with jaw dropping inefficiency and by the time it works its way down the chain there is hardly any left by the time it reaches the place where people are hungry. Just imagine how many managers and workers the Council would require to hand out the 500 emergency food parcels First Base gives out every month. The mind boggles. I absolutely guarantee that their overheads would be at least ten times what our overheads are. There would be no volunteers involved and they wouldn’t hand out any more food than we hand out now. Instead they would simply spend ten times as much to achieve the same thing.

I know which answer I prefer. This is the key to the success of foodbanks. When someone comes in through our front door to donate a carrier bag full of tinned food, they do so in the certain knowledge that every single one of those tins will find its way to someone who really needs a bite to eat. When any government raids our salary before we get it, we have no such confidence. Instead we wince at the endless number of managers who demonstrate barely a shred of efficiency before riding off into a Spanish sunset care of their staggering public sector pensions.

It is high time we stopped seeing foodbanks as some sort of a disgrace. Instead we should start seeing foodbanks as offering a compelling case for the community keeping government completely out of the loop and sorting stuff out for itself. We rail about the lack of care the government gives to the elderly. Fair enough. But is it really so hard to knock the door of an elderly neighbour and ask if they want any shopping getting in? We rail about the government’s inability to crack the whip and control the feral kids who scare us all to death. Fair enough. But is it really all that hard to add these kids to the invitation list when we are organising our own kids’ birthday parties and sleep overs? We have it easily within our power to make things a whole lote better for a whole lot of people all by ourselves. Those of us running foodbanks haven’t needed any politicians to hold our hands. Instead we have simply got on with it and you know what, nobody has starved.

A better society doesn’t mean a place where there are no foodbanks because the government has taken more money from us so that they can take the job over and and do it inefficiently and badly. That isn’t progressive. That is just more public sector jobs for the boys. A better society means no more foodbanks because people don’t need them any more. In the brave new world of Nigel, such a place shows no signs of happening any time soon, so surely the best idea is to see if the foodbank solution can be found for lots of different problems.

It seems we’ve all waited long enough for politicans of all colours to come up with the an answer to the question of why a quarter of our kids are living in poverty. Maybe it is high time we took control of the problem ourselves and look for our own answers.

So here is how the spirit of the 45 can help to undo much of the damage that is headed our way as the Blue and Red Tories frantically scramble to keep their heads above water in the world according to Nigel.     

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