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 6, 2015


It was only a little over a year ago when Scotland seemed to be on the brink of a new beginning. Just for a few weeks. A few amazing weeks when the sun seemed to shine every day.

There was no sunshine on September 19th of course. It was a grey day in every sense. And now we are back to business as usual. So much for all of those promises of life being better should we wake up to the fact that we are better together.

There seem to be an awful lot of Union flags in Manchester’s Midland Hotel this week. Interestingly enough, this grand old Victorian pile was once upon a time pre-selected by Hitler to be the Nazi HQ of a conquered Britain. A different sort of take on the whole Norther Powerhouse idea. I guess he would have instructed his interior designers to hang plenty of flags from every available wall as well.

The Tories are clearly very pleased and proud of themselves and they miss no opportunity to tell us all how proud we should be of our better together Kingdom.

Oh really?

A year on and it is very hard for 'Yes' supporters to resist the temptation of sayimg we told you so.

Britain is a hard country to feel proud of in the era of Dave and George.

Our reaction to the death of a quarter of a million Syrians, mainly care of Assad’s barrel bombs?

Drop more bombs of course.

Our reaction to the greatest tide of human misery and desperation Europe has seen since those days when Uncle Adolf eyed up a top floor suite in the Midland Hotel?

Pull up the drawbridge and lock the doors tight.

And all the while the poor get punished whilst the super rich get super richer. Tax on inherited houses worth a million quid? – Down. Tax credits for the poorest of working families? Down

A few months ago the United Nations released its five yearly report of the world’s drug crisis. They explained how the times they are a changing. Colombia’s time as bad guy number one seems to be over. Now there are new kids on the block.

The report summed up the state of play in the global narcotics trade rather succinctly.

‘Mexico is the heart: London is the head’

Better together in Dave and George’s land of racketeers and money launderers. We’ll wash your cash and sell you weapons with no strings attached. It’s what we do. It’s how we roll. Thirty years ago this Joe Strummer line appeared in the album Sandinista.

‘In a war torn swamp stop any mercenary and check the British bullets in his armoury.”

The big problem with a country where there is untrammelled nastiness at the top is that the self same untrammelled nastiness seeps all the way down to the bottom. The programme schedulers at Channel 5 have a good reason for giving their prime time over to a seemingly endless series of programmes designed to mock and demonise the poor. They have identified a market. In fact it is the very same market that Dave and George managed to tap into on May 7th.

A market made up of many of the same people who said No Thanks last September. I’m all right Jack so even though everything around me is crap, I will hang on to what I’ve got. Better the Devil you know…

For the first time in well over a hundred years there is a vast national debate about which people are the deserving poor and which are undeserving. The despicable underclass who are shirking and scrounging and not playing up and playing the game.

There is a chap who isn’t willing to grace the world with his name who writes long angry letters to our local paper every week explaining why I should be ashamed at myself for refusing to take time out to harangue the people who come to First Base to eat. He is disgusted at me for not taking time out to lay into the feckless for the bad life choices they have made. Week after week the letters page carries his angry, poisoned words. How dare First Base give these undeserving wretches a tin of beans for their tea!

At times I read his bile and wonder if the date at the top of the page is in fact 1873 and the front page dominated by the story of a British punitive column slaying an army of uppity natives in Bechuanaland.
My letter writing nemesis is adamant that the vast silent majority of Brits are well and truly on his side of the fence. Make the lazy buggers pay a heavy price for their dissolute lives! Starve the idle swine into finding a zero hours job! And let's all heed the sage worlds of our gallant and far sighted Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt who boldly announced that stripping the working poor of their tax credits will encourage them to work as hard as Chinamen.

Christ it’s depressing.

There was a nasty little meeting in Dumfries last week which epitomised the hideous world of Dave and George and the Daily Mail.

I received an e mail a while back. An electronic invitation. Some half forgotten group from some half forgotten quango from Tony Blair’s time was meeting up to discuss the provision of emergency food in the region. A talking shop? Probably. Jugs of luke warm coffee and market value biscuits. Did you see that programme on Channel Five last night…..?

Should we go? Probably. I put off deciding. To be honest I have had a lifetime’s fill of talk about working in partnerships to deliver support to service users at the interface of the third sector and the public sector. Endless earnest sentences stuffed to bursting point with the politically correct jargon of the day.

Should we go? Probably.

I put off replying. And then I forgot to reply. And then other events swept through my life and I forgot all about it. Which meant that I was somewhere else entirely when the time for the meeting arrived and there was no First Base representative to join in with all the interface talk.

So it was that Lesley got a call last Thursday afternoon. Where are you? The meeting has started? You need to come! And so it was that Lesley duly dropped everything and legged it across town to fly the First Base flag.

She hadn’t been in the room so very long when she wished she had left the summons to attend to be dealt with by the answer phone. The feeling of the meeting was that it was a great shame that there seemed to be an impass between First Base and Trussell Trust. Everyone got into a Geneva mood and decided it was high time for a peace accord to be announced. Come on Lesley. Shake hands! Bask in the kind of moment that Begin and Arafat once enjoyed on the White House lawn.

Talk about being put on the spot. Put in the spotlight. Come on Lesley. Shake hands! There’s a good girl now. You know it’s the right thing to do….

So she shook. What the hell else was she going to do?

And then the meeting moved along to the business of the day in the spirit of peace and harmony. Emergency food provision in and around Dumfries. No doubt the main item on the agenda would be how all the support agencies might collectively meet the needs of all the families who are about to lose £2000 a year as a punishment for not being paid enough.

Well. No actually. Instead the meeting was all about how to create a robust system to make sure the undeserving poor didn’t get a hold of food they didn’t deserve. It became very clear to Lesley that everyone had been watching Channel 5 on a nightly basis. A vast new database is required to identify the rotten apples and to make sure they get nothing until they spend a long time in front of the mirror and own up to the fact that they are basically wicked and worthless human beings.

It should be made very clear that there is no place for these kinds of people in Dave and George’s brave new world. They must be stopped in their tracks. They must be issued with a prescription of tough love. Because Dave and George cannot succeed in their historic task when the Voluntary Sector panders to the shirkers and the scroungers by feeding them when they are hungry. After all, we are learning NOT to feed seagulls and foxes, right? Urban pests.

Is the fact that one or two chancers talk themselves into a food parcel they don’t strictly need the biggest problem we face right now? Of course it isn’t. The problem is that we aren’t giving out nearly enough emergency food. We should be seeing lots more of the workimg families who Dave and George are hell bent on kicking in the teeth. We are seeing a steady increase. You know who they are the moment they come through the door. How? Because the first thing they say is ‘Sorry’. The next thing they say is that they never dreamed they woul ever have to come to a place like ours to put food on the table. And over the course of a five minute chat, it soon becomes clear that they really should have come to us at least six months sooner. Because the six months will have seen them fall into the suffocating embrace of the likes of Wonga.

Right now we are handing out 100 food parcels a week. The figure really should be at least 150. The reason why it isn’t 150? Simple. Stigma. The fear of being seen. The fear of the vicious gossip from vicious neighbours who spend their evenings hating the poor care of Channel 5. Vicious neighbours who spend their mornings hating the poor over their Cornlakes care of the Daily Mail.

Of course everyone doesn’t really hate the poor. If they did, there is no way in a million years that we would be receiving £50,000 a year’s worth of donated food. My letter writing pal has it entirely wrong on this point. The silent majority are the ones who hand in the tins of beans and soup. The problem is that the constant message of hate that comes from the Government and the media makes it seem like every man and his dog is a Channel 5 devotee, even though their viewing fugures hardly set the heather on fire.

It is bad enough when the likes of my letter writing friend jump on the band wagon. But when so called support agencies join in enthusiastically over coffee and value biscuits, it becomes truly depressing.

Better Together in Dave and George’s world where judging people is the hip thing to do.

The next day Lesley received a call from the Trussell Trust to rubber stamp the new mood of peace and accord. 

They have just given out a food parcel to Joe Bloggs. So. Should Joe Bloggs come in to us looking for food we need to know that he isn’t entitled to one.

We have known the Joe Bloggs in question for years. He is a thoroughly decent guy who has fallen on hard times. Really hard times. No money. No electric in the plugs and barely a shred of hope to make the next day worth living. A proud man reduced to roaming the streets hunting for docked out fags.

But he wouldn’t scam us in a million years. Not a chance. What conceivable right did they have to make such an arbitrary judgement about him? And to share it? And why had they come to such a damning conclusion which they felt compelled to share? I have no idea, though I suspect it must have been his appearance. When you go for months on end with neither electricity nor cash, your appearance tends to go downhill. And so it was that this particular book was duly judged by it’s careworn cover.

Judged to be one of those bad poor people. Undeserving.

Joe Bloggs didn’t come in to scam a food parcel. Of course he didn’t. But it’s the thought that counts, right?


  1. Another powerful piece which goes well with today's grey, damp, miserable weather.

    I would have thought that food banks had a duty to keep details of their clients confidential.

    I'm glad to say I stopped supporting Trussel Trust some months ago, after the shocking Mundell episode where the Sc*****d-wide manager proudly stood in front of a poster claiming that every town should have one. Surely no town should have one.

    I managed to find a small organisation attached to a Christian church in Dundee, and another group, which I have just discovered, with Muslim connections.

    Neither demands any participation in any religious activity, so no "Rice Christian" types here. Both seem to be run by decent caring people. My donations go to them.

    The UK has become an unpleasant place to live unless you are well off and callous. What is happening in Manchester is ever more frightening. May's speech today was despicable and will almost undoubtedly create racial tensions.

    We must grab any opportunity to leave this revolting rotting corpse of a state.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Sorry Mark, my tablet is being a dick, could you wipe the above comment, that isn't even a comment ffs.

  4. "They have just given out a food parcel to Joe Bloggs. So. Should Joe Bloggs come in to us looking for food we need to know that he isn’t entitled to one."

    Fuck me, when did it become a competition? If people need help, they need fucking helped.
    I'll be down your neck of the woods, this weekend going into Monday, I shall avail to drop by and donate some food, if that's okay?

  5. Always happy to accept any donations but be aware that we are not open on weekends.