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 26, 2017




I didn't watch Johnny Tranter's interview live on the Sun's website. Like I said before, the whole celebrity culture thing has always left me completely cold. But I watched it later. Well, obviously I did. It seemed like everyone in the world did.

The winter 2027/2028 was a strange time for me. My career was hardly taking off at the Hereford Times. My life was better than it had been in Blackburn, but not by much. I had a couple of friends, but my social life was hardly rocking. I was single and to be honest, rather jaded. More or less every Friday I drove home to Edinburgh and more or less every Sunday evening I was seriously tempted not to drive back south again.

By now the differences between England and Scotland were becoming vast. There was a Klondike feel to Edinburgh. The sky was full of cranes and everyone seemed to be going about their lives at a hundred miles an hour. Every weekend Julie was itching to take me to some new bar or club. And every weekend it seemed like she had some new guy lined up for me.
I kept applying for jobs on Scottish papers but the competition was ferocious. It seemed like everyone in the world was looking to beat a path to my home country. The economy was flying, unemployment had all but disappeared and building enough houses for all the incomers was proving to be a mighty task.

Things in England could not have been more different. By now almost all services had gone beyond the creaking stage and things were starting to fail. There were riots in prisons and at night just about every shop doorway was occupied by a homeless person. Unemployment was over 15% and youth unemployment was one in four. Crime was on the up and even the motorways were riddled with pot holes. Everywhere felt ground down. Everyone seemed short tempered. A prevailing mood of dismal, angry tension had taken permanent root.

People were angry about pretty much everything but their anger lacked a target. Of course, the Tory Government was generally loathed but after the car crash of the previous Labour administration, nobody was much in the mood to return to their particular brand of chaos. The decade old decision to exit the EU was generally held to be the starting point of England's downward spiral, and the negotiations to rejoin the EU continued to grind along. But nobody held out any great hope that a return to the European family would offer any kind of magic fix. The banks and businesses who had flown the coop in the early 2020's were not about to return anytime soon. The mass flight of young, skilled EU migrants had left England with yawning skills shortages and utterly incapable of competing with the high tech economies of Asia.

By now there was a general acceptance that immigration was no longer any kind of problem. In fact, people now saw it really hadn't been a problem in the first place. By the early months of 2029 the media and politicians had turned a full circle. Now the front pages were filled with stories of the emmigration crisis. The villains of the piece were the young graduates who skipped the country as soon as they had their degree in their hands. As life in England became more and more of a grind, increasing numbers of young people were voting with their feet and seeking new countries which could offer them the prospect of a better life. They were flying the coop in ever greater numbers. To Australia and Canada and New Zealand and Ireland.

But most of all, they headed north to Scotland.

In early March tensions tightened yet another notch. An ashen faced Prime Minister announced some news to the House of Commons which nobody was remotely surprised to hear. The proposed nuclear power station at Hinkley Point would not be opening. Not ever. The French and Chinese had finally run out of patience and withdrawn their support. He explained this development meant his Government had no choice other than to introduce legislation to re-nationalise the nation's supply of electricity. England had to face up to the fact it had a 25% shortfall in generating capacity and there was no prospect of filling this gaping hole in the medium term. Hanging onto the lectern in front of him like it was a life raft, he went on to announce a five year agreement with the Scottish Government. Power from north of the border would keep the lights of England burning but there would be a cost. Prices would rise by a minimum of 10%.

Up until this point, anti-Scottish resentment had been a relatively low level thing. The hike in electricity bills started to stir a deeper and darker anger. Now when I went north for the weekend, my parents would beg me to come home. They were worried for me. They couldn't understand why on earth I wanted to stay in England when things were going so spectacularly well at home. I tried time and again to explain my undimmed passion for my job. And I promised to keep applying for any position I could in Scotland. And when I drove back to Hereford on Sunday evenings I was always tempted to throw in the towel and do a U turn.

But I didn't.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm stubborn. I always have been. And when my mind is set on something, I am bloody dogged. I kept on saying to myself just give it another month Sam. If nothing comes up in the next four weeks, then maybe it is time to take some parental advice. So a month would pass and nothing would change and I would push the deadline another month down the tracks.

All the while I wrote about the nuts and bolts of a country on the slippery slope. A spike in burglaries. Nonexistent rural buses. Hospital waiting lists going beyond two years. Factories and shops closing down. People waiting in A&E for nearly two whole days. Epidemic levels of shop lifting.

Oh, I was busy enough. There are always plenty of stories to be found in terminal decline. But there was never anything which began to resemble the kind of big scoop which would turbo charge my career.

There was something else which was making work ever more miserable.

My Edinburgh accent.

I could see it in the faces of the people I interviewed. At times I knew what it must have been like for someone who had a German accent in Britain in the war. It was harder and things to get people to open up. And there was a different mood in the office. It wasn't anything I could put my finger on. Nothing overt. It was just there. A slight coldness.

I stopped going out. My social life shrank to nights watching films and eating comfort food. And running. When I ran, I was lost in the music flowing through my headphones. When I ran, nobody knew I was Scottish. I was just a woman jogging. Anonymous. Unworthy of attention.

After the hike in the electricity charges there was no point in pretending my accent wasn't seriously hindering my ability to do my job well. Luckily for me, the editor was a thoroughly decent man who clearly hated the idea of letting me go for purely ethnic reasons.

Well, you can probably guess how it was to be a Scottish journalist working in Hereford once Johnny Tranter had dropped his poisonous words of wisdom into the ether. The attacks started more or less straight away. All the anger which had been frantically seeking a focus suddenly had a big fat target thanks to a Frankenstein's monster of celebrity culture.
Scots were attacked on the street, in the supermarket and in pubs. Children were kept away from school. Houses were daubed in graffiti. Dog turds were rammed through letterboxes. RBS hurriedly engaged the services of guards to man the doors of its high street banks. When three branches were set alight in a single week, the security became 24/7. Smashing bottles of whisky on the floor became a popular supermarket trend and soon the 'Water of Life' disappeared from the shelves.

It took four days for the first person to die: a seventy two year old pensioner in Maidstone who had lived in England for fifty three years. There were a further five deaths in the next few weeks months which prompted an emergency debate in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister promised draconian measures for anyone involved in Anti-Scottish violence but it didn't stop a YouGov poll showing support for the EFP was running close to 20%.

By now I was getting calls from mum and dad every night and they were beside themselves with worry. My editor was more or less as bad. He refused to send me out into the field and confined me to office duties. He wouldn't even allow me to answer the phone. I felt like some kind of secretly harboured fugitive.

By early April I had more or less made up my mind to give up the ghost and head home.

And then my mobile phone rang. It was the BBC Today programme. Would I be OK to do an interview tomorrow morning? What is it like to be a young Scottish woman working in England in 2029? I told them of course and I duly did my telephone interview at twenty to eight the next day.

At ten o'clock my phone rang again. It was Newsnight this time. Could I come to London to take part in a studio debate? Tonight? We will send a car of course. And of course, we will put you up in a hotel. Would that be OK? Oh super.

Sam the TV star. I did pretty well actually. A rather handsome producer who was also very, very gay told me the camera loved me to bits.

Two days later I was an ITV special.

And then it happened. A call from the Guardian. Could I write a feature? You know, the fear of being Scottish in such a dangerous environment. Could I? You bet I bloody could. And I did. 2000 words. The big league. The comments section was a hell of an eye opener. Thankfully, 90% offered wholehearted support. A vast sense of shame was sweeping through the decent majority. Oh, but you should have seen the other 10% Wow! I was threatened with death in all manner of gruesome scenarios. The people at the Guardian offered to take the hate mail down but I told them absolutely not. Leave every word out there. Shine a light on it.

Two weeks after my broadsheet debut my phone rang again. This time it was Channel 4. They were making an hour long documentary feature and they wanted me to present it. Did I have an agent? No. I didn't. Was I happy to negotiate terms myself? I damn nearly said yes straight away like an over excited school girl being offered a free pony. Luckily my innate Scottish canniness kicked in just in time and I told them my people would be in touch.

My people were in fact my dad and he wasn't remotely happy to be given the job of being my agent. But he agreed in the end. Of course he did. I've always been able to twist him around my little finger. I think I mentioned earlier what a fierce lawyer my dad is when he chooses to be. He called back in the afternoon with news of a fee which made me gasp. I would have done it for a tenth of what he screwed out of them. Hell, I would have probably done it for nothing.

The hour long Channel Four special aired in April and all of a sudden my career was well and truly in the place I had always dreamed it would be. I had firm job offers on the table for the Guardian and the Independent. All I had to do was choose which it would be.

I handed in my notice to both the Hereford Times and my landlord and started flat hunting in London. I opted for the Guardian and started to wrap up my life in Hereford. Mum and dad more or less gave up trying to persuade me to come home. Instead they clung to the hope that my new successes in the English media would provoke offers from the Scottish papers. I wasn't sure what to hope for. Sure returning home had many attractions, but the unfolding events in Johnny Tranter's England were all any journalist could have wished for.

I found a flat in Kilburn and started to pack my stuff.

As the last weekend in April approached, the weather forecasters started to talk about a vast ridge of high pressure which would bring record temperatures. Once upon a time, such a promise would have made the people of England giddy with excitement. But this was 2029. The days of weather presenters getting all buzzed up by the prospect of a bit of spring sunshine were long gone. Now their faces were grave. The heatwave looked like it would last for a long time. As far as they could see. The coming summer might be even worse than the great heatwave of 2024. By now everyone knew exactly what this would mean. Long sleepless nights and one shower a week. Month after month of body odour and bad tempers.

At nine o clock on Friday evening, two officers of the Metropolitan Police stopped their car to demand a small group of mainly black young men line up against a wall and allow themselves to be searched. The group of mainly black young men were hot and bored and skint and unemployed. They were spoiling for a fight and they let the two officers know as much. The officers called in reinforcements and retreated into their car. The mainly black young men started to rock the car and beat at the windscreen.
One of the police fired a weapon through the windscreen and took away half of a head.

Within an hour the streets of Hackney were on fire. The riot raged through a night where the temperature never dropped below eighty degrees.
I read an article a couple of weeks later which talked about a punk rock song from the late 1970's. It was called 'White Riot'. The band was The Clash. The group was jealous of the way angry black youths could harness their pent up anger and rage and deliver a riot. Why not angry white youths? 'White riot, white riot, I wanna riot of my own...."

Well that was how it was on that last weekend of April 2029 when the temperature never dropped under eighty degrees. It seemed like every town in England had a riot of its own.

Hereford was no exception. I was out running when I heard the sounds of breaking glass and shouting. The journalist in me never thought twice. I had been deskbound for weeks on end and I was ready for some proper reporting.

When I arrived on the High Street there was a crowd of about 300 or so. They had already stripped an off license bare and the stolen booze was flowing. The police were woefully outnumbered and already two squad cars were ablaze. I started taking pictures on my phone when a lad with an acne coated face recognised me.

Fucking hell lads. It's that fucking Scottish cow off the tele....”


I ran. They chased. At first I told myself I would be fine. I ran three times a week and I reckoned they probably didn't. I would outlast them. They would get fed up soon enough.

But they didn't. They didn't manage to close the twenty yard gap between us, but I couldn't find a way to open the gap either. Still I was fairly calm. They were pissed and I was sober. I would have the greater stamina.

And then I hit one of the thousands of potholes and went down hard. An electric shock of pain told me something dire had gone wrong with my right ankle.

Christ, Christ, Christ.

Fear chewed through me as I looked up into their twisted faces. Fear like I had never known before.

The first kick snapped at the side of my head and I curled myself into a ball. More kicks. But it was too early for real pain. I was the frozen rabbit.

They were the murderous cats.

Was I aware of the sound of the approaching motor bike? Maybe.


The kicking stopped. I risked a glance. Six of them in a fighting line. The figure on the motor cycle was very still. Black leathers. Helmet with the visor down.


Then the motorcyclist dismounted. Slowly. In no kind of hurry. He pulled his helmet off. The face underneath was black and shining with sweat. I felt the anticipation in the fighting line of six.

The biker stretched his limbs like he had been riding for many miles. He reached into a zipped pocket, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit up.

At last he spoke. His voice was quieter than I was expecting. Soft. Like a late night talk show host. The accent wasn't local. London by the sound of it.

Tell you what lads, I think it might be a good idea if you just fucked off. It sounds like there's lots of fun to be had on the High Street. Yeah?”

Fuck off you black cunt.”

This induced a rather sad shake of the head. And a small smile. The stranger dropped his cigarette to the floor and ground it out.

Fair enough. I suppose we might as well get this thing done then shall we? Come on dickheads.”

With a collective scream they swarmed at him. I really didn't compute what happened next. One minute there were six of them throwing themselves forward. And then in what seemed like no time at all, four of them were down and screaming like stuck pigs whilst the other two were running like they had never run before.

The stranger reached down and gently pulled me to my feet.

You OK love?”

Not great actually. I think I've broken my ankle.”

He squatted and gave me a brief examination. “Yeah. Looks that way. Will you be OK to ride on the back?”

I think so.”

Do you live nearby?”

Yes. About a mile. Fenchurch St. Do you know it?”

Where the Railway Arms is?”

That's right.”

Yeah. I know it. Let's get you home. I reckon I will be able to fix you up as well as A&E. Better than waiting for two days, right?”

Yes. of course. Thank you.”

Don't mention it. I'm Wendel by the way.”

He offered a hand which I took. It was like leather.

I'm Sam.”





Sunday, September 24, 2017





Johnny Tranter.

Where the hell to start? I suppose the beginning is as good place as any. I won't pretend to be any kind of expert when it comes to the life and times of Johnny Tranter. When his face seemed to be a permanent feature on the front page of every tabloid newspaper or trashy celebrity magazine, I generally tried to make a point of avoiding reading a single word.
I genuinely couldn't care less who he was seen out with or what drug he had been caught taking or who he had scored against. I despise football and the national obsession with vacuous celebrities in equal measure.

So, no. I never gave a shit about Johnny bloody Tranter. Well. Not until everything changed. Not until he suddenly morphed into a very English fascist.

But I am getting ahead of myself here. I promised the beginning so it is to the beginning I will go. John Tranter was born in Stoke on Trent in 2004. He was the result of a one night stand which his mother couldn't really remember anything about. His mum had a lot of nights like that. Johnny's older brother Terry was also conceived in similar circumstances.

Johnny's Mum was a troubled woman. She had been taken from her own parents at the age of twelve and travelled down the well-trodden road from care to crime to single motherhood. Her time as a party girl only lasted a couple of years. Then her life became a drawn out misery of heroin and booze. Johnny and Terry spent more than half their boyhood years in a succession of foster homes. Terry miraculously emerged as a rather sensible young man who would become an electrician. Johnny was the flip side. He hit every stereotype target. Truancy. Fighting. Shop lifting. Vandalism. Boosting cars. Three times he served time in Young Offenders prisons. And yet through all these years of general mayhem, one thing set him apart from the bad company he kept.


And Johnny Tranter wasn't just good at football. He was borderline genius.

Stoke City had him in their academy at the age of twelve and over the next five years they refused to give up on him no matter how much of a pain in the neck he was. The bottom line ruled supreme. If only they could get a leash on him, then one day they would be able to cash him in for north of £50 million.

Before 20 February 2021 nobody outside of Stoke had ever heard of Johnny Tranter. In Stoke itself, he was something of an urban myth. A conversation to be had in Friday night pubs. The young lad in the under 18's who might just be a George Best in the making. Right bloody bad lad, mind. Been locked up three times. But shit hot.
After 20 February 2021, a whole lot more people became aware of Johnny Tranter.

Millions in fact.

Stoke were playing a home game against Manchester United who were a point clear at the top of the Premier League. The visitors cruised into a 2-0 lead and when Stoke's Croatian striker was crocked on the stroke of half time the sell-out crowd held little optimism.
A small stir went through the more knowledgeable fans when the tannoy announced the substitute for Miloslav Lucic.

Number 52. Johnny Tranter.

Johnny raced around like a hunting dog on crystal meth. He brought the crowd to their feet with a scything challenge which earned him a yellow card.

In the sixty-first minute he latched onto a hopeful through ball, brought it under control with the outside of his right foot, left the goal keeper for dead with a dummy and rolled the ball into the back of the net.

Stoke 1 – United 2.


73 minutes. Johnny won the ball fairly with a bone jarring tackle in the centre circle. He jumped to his feet like a ballet dancer and threaded a perfect through ball to the Stoke right winger who duly beat the United keeper with a low cross shot.

Huge howling ground shaking noise.

88 minutes. A corner to Stoke. A cleared header to the edge of the box and the waiting Johnny Tranter. A ferocious dipping volley into the top corner. And instead of running to the home fans, Johnny Tranter made a beeline for the visiting supporters flicking 'V' signs every step of the way whilst screaming obscenities which were not remotely hard to lip read. The United centre half, a man at least seven inches taller and a stone heavier than Johnny Tranter, stepped into his path to give him a piece of his mind. And then the big defender was down on the ground thrashing with agony and clutching a damaged eye.

Vast noise. More or less all-out war on the pitch. Johnny Tranter sent off and dragged off with a fist held up in triumph for the baying fans.

Final whistle. Stoke 3 – United 2 and a legend born.

The FA threw the book at him and banned him for 15 matches. Stoke said they were appalled whilst at the same time selling 5000 'Tranter 52' shirts in the five days after the match.

Johnny Tranter sold his story to anyone who would buy it. It seemed like everyone in the town had a story of their own to tell. Absence made the heart grow fonder. By the time he played his second first team game, he was already a celebrity. In the next four years he scored 62 goals for Stoke, got sent off 7 times and served three extended bans. Barely a weekend passed without his face appearing on the front pages. The reporters couldn't get enough of the nightclub fights and drunken rampages. In 2022 his mum sold her own story one time too many and died of a massive overdose.

Some wondered if such a terrible loss might make Johnny Tranter take stock and set his life onto a more even keel. It didn't. Instead, he dived into an ultra-destructive relationship with a singer who claimed to be the Queen of 'Hip-hop Punk' and went by the name Lucy X.

The love birds were photographed snorting copious amounts of cocaine in a London nightclub which was enough for the FA to hand down a six-month ban.

Johnny failed to keep up with the fitness programme the club demanded of him. When he played his first comeback game for the Under 23's he ruptured his cruciate ligaments in the twenty-third minute.

For a while, it seemed he might manage to recover and resurrect his career. But he didn't. Instead, he disappeared into a fog of drink and drugs. The tabloids didn't care whether he played football or not. His celebrity was already set in stone. He was always to be found on some reality TV programme or another where he invariably disgraced himself, which of course only made him bigger box office.

Lucy X died of a sudden and massive cocaine induced heart attack in 2027 and Johnny found a hundred different ways to cash in on his grief. By now he had developed a reasonably articulate laddish persona. Talk shows loved having him on to beep, beep, beep his way through the story of his fast lane life. He was never so happy-go-lucky once the love of his life had shuffled off her mortal coil. A smouldering rage was never so very far from the surface. In late 2027 he was sentenced to six months for assaulting an interviewer who had got a little too close to the bone.

He served three months. It was a period of cold turkey for the tabloids and the celebrity magazines. From the moment he was locked up they negotiated furiously with his agent to win the exclusive rights to undertake the first interview on his release. The Sun blew the competition out of the water and had everything set up and ready on the day Johnny Tranter was liberated. He stepped out of jail and into a waiting limo amidst a fury of clicking cameras and shouted questions.

Long before he sat down with the interviewer from the Sun, the social media was filled with all kinds of speculation. Some thought he had filled out. Hours in the prison gym maybe? Then there was his hair. The chaotic flowing locks were gone. The new Johnny was sporting a severe crew cut. Was it his choice or had the warders pinned him to a chair and shaved him? Many commented on his calm demeanour. There was no punching the air, no pushing photographers hard in the chest, only a closed and focused expression.
Had prison changed him? Broken him? Had he turned over a new leaf? Had he found God? Would he try to resurrect his career?

The Sun had decided to live stream the interview from a room in a nearby hotel. Hundreds of thousands of celebrity junkies logged on to hear what the nation's favourite bad boy had to say.

And yet despite all of the anticipation and hype, nobody had the first idea of just what a game changer Johnny's interview would be.

The cameras started to roll. Johnny was sitting on a hotel bed with a cigarette in one hand and a can of beer in the other. Immediately online comment started to flow. Just look how serious he looks. Look at his eyes. Have they disabled the smoke alarm? Look how still he is.

And he was still. Stone statue still. His dark eyes bored into the camera. Through the camera. People reported fear. At the eyes. At the new Zen Johnny.

Jake Tanner checked with his cameraman and got the ball rolling.

So. Johnny. You're out. How was prison?”

For fuck's sake. How do you think it was?”

I don't know. I haven't been to prison.”

No. Course you haven't. So I guess you're the kind of prick who believes all the shit your paper writes about prison. A piece of cake, yeah? Too soft. Too easy. Like being on holiday. Is that right?"

Well. I don't......”

No, you don't. You don't because you're a prick with a degree who knows nothing about anything. Tell you what Jake. Film that twat standing by the door. Go on. Put him on screen..."

Go on. It's OK.”

The camera swung round to reveal a hulking figure in a suit which looked at least three sizes too small. No neck. Wrapped and ready for the doors of a nightclub. Then the viewers were taken back to the man of the hour.

Shitting it are we, Jake? Need a minder? Worried Johnny's going to twat you like I did that other dickhead?"

Well, it's just...."

Oh fuck off. I know what you are. All of you." He angrily lit a new cigarette. "Prison was shit, Jake. This was my fourth stretch and every time it gets worse, not better. More over crowded, worse grub, more lock down, more fights. Does that make prison any different from everything else in this shitty country? No. It's just more of the same. It goes with the pot holes in the roads and unemptied bins and the poor bastards sleeping in doorways. It goes with the three-year hospital waiting lists and the foodbanks and the starvation level benefits. The prisons have gone to shit just like the country has gone to shit."

But you look well Johnny. Fit.”

A harsh, barked laugh. “Do I? How nice. Like my haircut do you? Maybe you've noticed I'm not twitching like I've got an electric cable up my arse? Few extra pounds? Bit of muscle? Well Jake, that's what time in the gym and no cocaine can do for a man.”

The interviewer was struggling to find the right tone for this new version of Johnny Tranter.

How did you spend your days?”

I read a lot." A bitter, mocking smile. "Just look at you for fuck's sake. Stop the press. Johnny Tranter can read! Well just because I barely went to school doesn't mean I'm thick. Maybe if I'd had a cushy life like you Jake, I might have gone to university as well and had my picture taken looking like a smiling twat on graduation day. But I didn't. I went into care and I played for fucking Stoke. Doesn't mean I can't read though. Doesn't make me thick as pig shit. Wanker."

What kind of....”

All sorts. Political stuff mainly. I knocked about with a few of the lads from the EFP. They pointed me in the right direction."

Jake felt ice water on his spine. This thing wasn't even close to going how it was supposed to go. The EFP? For Christ's sake.

I see. Have you always been a supporter of the England First Party or is this a new thing? A result of your reading?"

I was too off my face to be a supporter of anything other than what I was going to shove up my nose next. For the first time in years I have a clear head. Of course, I've always known how shit everything is. Course I have. I grew up in fucking Stoke, didn't I? I just never gave a flying fuck about any of it. Those EFP lads opened my eyes a bit. Got me thinking about things. Let's just say they got my attention."

And is this something you will be pursuing now you are a free man again?”

A slow nod. “Yeah. I reckon it is.”

So what do you see now you are looking at the world with new eyes.”

I see a country which is more or less completely fucked and it pisses me off.”

Who do you blame for this?”

Another stupid fucking question. Jesus. Who do you think I blame Jake? The fucking Government of course. Who the fuck else should I blame? Maybe you can enlighten me? After all, the shitty rag you work for seems to think these Tories are the dog's bollocks. Fuck the poor so long as the rich get a new yacht every six months. Right, Jake?"

The big man by the door shuffled a little. And behind the blank eyes there was a sliver of concern. Fair enough he had at least five stones on the guy sitting on the bed but even so.....

Jake carried on like a man walking head down into a raging storm. He already knew just how much his bosses were going to hate this.

Are there any policies of the Government which cause you particular concern, Johnny?"
This provoked a burst of mocking laughter. "Just fucking listen to you." Johnny adopted a mincing sort of voice. "........any policies cause you particular concern, Jake? Not policies. Not a plural. Just policy. One policy."

I see....

They should never have allowed those fucking Scottish bastards to have their independence.”

Oh. Right. Can I ask.....”

You paid for it. It wouldn't be fair if I didn't give you your money's worth. Right, Jake? So here's how I see it. For hundreds of years we held their hands and wiped their fucking arses. We were the foster carers and they were the kid from the shit home. For years we subsidised them and mollycoddled them. Fuck knows why. And then? Then these clowns in Parliament allow them to waltz away. Worse than that, we are now paying through the nose every time we switch on a light. Not that the likes of you are bothered are you, Jake? You don't have to worry about paying the leccy bill. All you need to worry about is whether it will be Barbados or Florida next winter. Well, it's different for people who live in places like Stoke. They don't get the chance to plan for fucking Florida or fucking Barbados. They just work all hours for absolutely fuck all and what bit of brass they have all goes up north to fucking Scotland."

For a moment Jake Tanner was lost for anything to say. He took a breath. He recovered some composure.

You seem very angry about this Johnny."

Course I'm angry. Every decent patriotic Englishman should be angry.”

Do you intend to allow this anger you have found to guide you now you are free?”

Another burst of derisive laughter.

Oh well done, Jake. Jolly well fucking done. I know what you want me to say of course. You want me to give you a bit of trash talk. About how if I run into some smug Jock bastard I will kick ten bells of shit out of him. Put him down. And keep him down. Well, I'm not about to say anything like that Jake because that would be against the law, wouldn't it Jake? And that kind of talk would only get me locked up again for inciting hatred, wouldn't it Jake? And only a complete dickhead would be stupid enough to say anything like that on a live stream being watched by so many people, right Jake? So instead I'll just say fuck you very much you public school twat. I think we're all done here. And you can shove your poxy limo up your arse. I'll find my own way."

And with that Johnny Tranter got up and left leaving a somewhat stunned Jake to do the wrap-up.

The viewing figures were off the scale. The nation took a gasp at this new frightening version of bad boy Johnny Tranter. Ten days later he addressed his first EFP rally in a vacant factory in Walsall. The organisers had crossed their fingers and hoped to get a couple of hundred. They had made plans about how they could make a clever film of Johnny Tranter’s speech which would make the audience look five times bigger than it really was. As it turned out their plans were not required. Over 3000 crammed into the dusty space. And after 40 minutes, Johnny Tranter had them baying for blood.

For Scottish blood.

It turned out the care home boy had the same talent for public speaking as he had once shown in flashes on the green lawn-like pitches of the Premier League.

For nearly a hundred years the English Establishment had boasted of its ability to stop potential Fascists in their tracks. England didn't do Fascism. Never would. MI5 and the Special Branch and the newspapers would see to it. Any potential leader who so much as flickered into the public eye like Nick Griffin would be turned into a laughing stock within a matter of months. Over blown public school types in expensive suits like Oswald Moseley or Nigel Farage were allowed more leeway. They were no real threat. They were deemed to be far too posh to incite a riot.

Nobody saw Johnny Tranter coming. He was just another celebrity treading the boards of reality TV. A bad boy footballer. A complete nothing. A council estate thug made good. A flash in the pan.

They missed him. He ghosted by them just like he had once ghosted by international defenders earning over £100,000 a week. One minute he was a busted flush in jail. The next minute he was packing out halls from Cornwall to Tyneside. And suddenly there were a whole lot of people buying the hate Johnny Tranter had to sell.

In June 2028 the EFP won 23% of the vote in a by election in East Lancashire and the ruling parties started out on a collective nervous breakdown.

A very English fascist had arrived on the scene and nobody had the first clue what to do about it.




Saturday, September 23, 2017




In truth, Angus decided to accept Suleiman’s invitation to meet when he was half way through reading the Newsweek article. Some things were just too intriguing to be ignored. Before checking the references he called up his constituency office and swore Jean and Mary to secrecy. Over the next day and a half he didn't mention anything to anyone. If this was to be a superbly put together scam, he wanted it to be as private as possible. The prospect of a year's worth of relentless piss taking didn't particularly ring his bell.

A beaming woman on the reception desk of the Balmoral directed him to Meeting Room Three on the second floor and his knock on the door was answered quickly by a warm smile and an outstretched hand. The Qatari had swapped his Saville Row finery for a pair of well-worn jeans and a pastel shirt.

Minister. I am so glad you were able to come. Please. Come in.”

Angus scanned the room and was encouraged by what he saw. A corner table carried a selection of cheeses and bread rolls. A coffee pot waited on a tray. A bottle of what looked like very old Scotch indeed hinted at very serious money. But not ostentatious money. Discreet money. Money with a touch of class.

Would you like to eat something now or would you prefer to wait?”

I'm fine for now. Maybe some coffee?”

Of course. Take a seat.”

Suleiman fixed two coffees and set them down on the low table between two comfortable leather chairs.

OK. Shall I start? I don't suppose you will want any small talk?"

Angus smiled. “I would rather not.”

Fine. I will start with one or two basics. I am Suleiman Al Khalidi, I am forty three years old and my country is Qatar. Most of what you read in the Newsweek article is broadly true. Only two of the facts are relevant and important to our meeting. I am indeed a close friend of our Sheik. We have remained close since school. And I do indeed do my very best to serve my country. I think this gives us something in common."

Yes. I hope it does.”

Good. Now. Our two countries. It seems to me we have many things in common. We are both small. We have both managed to free ourselves from London rule. And of course, we were both blessed with vast reserves of fossil fuel. However, here is where our two paths travelled in rather different directions. We achieved our independence from London before the oil boom and this enabled us to keep the huge revenues for ourselves. Sadly it took you rather longer and London was able to steal the lion's share of the revenue from your oil."

Angus smiled at an analysis he wholeheartedly agreed with. It might have been lifted from any stump speech he had given in either Indyref One or Indyref Two.

Suleiman returned his smile. “Would you mind if I briefly tell you a story which I think will throw some light on how we Qataris have tried to carve out our place in the world?”

I wouldn't mind at all. The floor is all yours.”

Good. I will go back nearly thirty years. Then as now, the Middle East was a volatile, precarious place. We were a tiny country with a population of less than a quarter of a million. We had many enemies who would have liked nothing better than to find a way to steal our wealth: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt. Vast countries with more power than we could ever dream of.

'So we needed a friend. A minder. A big brother who would make our enemies think twice before taking any drastic action against us. At this time the Americans had their main base in Saudi Arabia and it was causing huge tension. The House of Saud didn't want them to leave, but the internal pressures were becoming overwhelming. We saw a huge opportunity in this situation. If we could only persuade the Americans to move their main air base in the Gulf from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, then we would have found the big brother we so desperately needed.

'We went about managing this task in a rather unique way. We had a huge asset. Money. Lots and lots of money. So we decided to use it. We spent a billion dollars and built the absolute best air base in the world. It had everything. Superb runways capable of landing any plane. strengthened hangers able to withstand just about any blast. A control tower straight from science fiction. Fabulous quarters and recreational facilities for the personnel. Once the base was finished, we invited the Americans to come and have a look around. And we told them it was theirs for the taking. It was our gift to them. No money required. All we asked for was their protection.

'They accepted our offer. Of course they did. They didn't even think of looking our gift horse in the mouth. And for the last thirty years we have stayed safe. Our enemies tried to squeeze us dry in 2017, but they didn't dare to invade us. Without the protection of the American base we would have been absolutely helpless.

'So what is the moral of my little tale? What do I hope it says about my country? Well, this is how I see things. And I am quite certain the Sheik shares my view. We cannot protect our people with territory and weight of numbers. We have little or no hard power. All we have is our money and our brains. We must use both to their full potential."

Suleiman paused and took a careful sip of coffee whilst Angus waited for the pitch to continue. It did.

Two years ago the Scottish people had the chance to choose a lifeboat rather than staying on a sinking ship. They chose the lifeboat. They chose to face the danger of the stormy waves rather than the prospect of going under the water along with the rest of the UK. It was a good choice. A brave choice. The right choice."

I'm glad you think so.”

I do. Wholeheartedly. Of course, things have been difficult. London was never going to allow it to be easy. But you have found a future to aspire to. There are no guarantees of a happy ending, but at least you have found a way to put the destiny of Scotland into your own hands. I don't think anyone regrets this?"

Oh, there are a few. But most of our people are still on board. The way things are in England right now isn't exactly an advert for going back to the way things were.”

No. Absolutely not. Now. I think it is high time I got to the reason for this meeting. I am fairly sure what I am about to say will pretty much blow your mind. All I ask is for you to hear me out and then you can pick me to pieces. Is this acceptable?”

It is. Fire away. My mind is ready and waiting.”

Last year's climatic changes hit Qatar much harder than we admitted. It took all of our resources to survive. Every single crop failed and without massive air conditioning, human life would have been impossible. My country became a furnace. The Sheik gave me an assignment. I was to seek out the best expert opinion in the world. Were these climate changes here to stay? Would every summer in Qatar be as desperate as the one we had just lived through? What would be the consequences for our people and our economy? What I discovered was sobering. Terrifying in fact. I found scientific opinion to be unanimous. Our future was to live in a furnace forever. Never again would we be able to produce any of our own food. We would have to import more or less everything. The outlook for our economy was similarly bleak. The dramatic rise in both global sunshine hours and global sunshine intensity will turbo-charge the already booming solar power industry. Of course you know this better than me. It is your field."

Angus nodded. It was his field. Suleiman continued.

Demand for fossil fuels will not end altogether. But it will fall very dramatically and the price of both gas and oil will fall to a level which makes extracting them economically ridiculous. Without revenue from fossil fuels, Qatar has nothing. We will be nothing. A quarter of a million doomed people trying to live in an oven. I had no choice other than to tell the Sheik our future is desperate in every regard.

'He pondered my findings for several days and then gave me a further mission. He asked if I would be willing to undertake Project Noah. The clue is in the name of course. My people do not face extinction through a great flood. Instead we are destined to bake. The Sheik asked me to find my people an Ark. To find it at any cost."

Bloody hell. So no pressure then.”

Suleiman chuckled. “It is a rare pleasure to speak with someone who knows the true meaning of this kind of responsibility.”

I have an inkling of where you are headed here, Suleiman. Would you like me to share it?"

Please do.”

Is Scotland your preferred Ark option?”

It is.”

And as things stand you only have a single card to play. One chance to find a viable future for your people.”

Go on.”

Money. Your vast treasure trove. Except it really isn't so very vast after all. Because without any revenue from gas and oil, it will just keep going down every year until it will eventually run out."

It will.”

And then you will be completely screwed.”

We will be.”

So what do you have in mind Suleiman?”

Oh, I have lots of things in mind. Shall I run through them one by one?"

I think that would be a good idea.”

Let me refresh our cups first." Suleiman gathered his thoughts whilst pouring coffee. How he dealt with the next few minutes would determine whether or not his people had a future. He tried to clear his mind of just how impossibly high the stakes were.

OK. Here goes. Number one. We propose the Scottish Government issue £250 billion worth of 20 year Treasury Bonds at the same interest rate as German Government bonds. My government will buy them. All of them."

Campbell all but spat out his coffee. “Holy bloody Christ. That would put us in the black for years. Where's the catch?”

I hope the catch will not seem too bad. We would require every one of our people to become eligible for dual citizenship. We will require the Scottish government to allocate land and planning permission for the building of four new towns to accommodate those of my people who want to climb on board the Ark. All construction costs will be paid for by my Government. Such an undertaking will provide a huge boost to the Scottish economy. My Government will also commit to fully cover any welfare costs our people will require for the next thirty years. After that, we believe they will be fully integrated."

By now Campbell's eyes were gleaming. He spoke without even thinking of carefully choosing his words in a proper ministerial manner. "Four brand new towns of 60,000. Bloody hell Suleiman. We could use every one of the new renewable technologies. They could be the first fully self-sufficient towns in history. It would be beyond ground breaking. Go on."

You probably are not aware of this, but Qatar has always been rather secretive about the real extent of our sovereign wealth fund. Most analysts have guessed at a figure in the region of $800 million. Their guesses have always been on the low side. The real figure is actually around $1.5 trillion.”


Indeed. But what is having money worth if you have no place to live? Nothing. As I have already indicated, we are willing to spend a sixth of these reserves on 20 year Scotish Government bonds. We will need to reserve at least the same amount to cover cost of developing the four new towns for our people. If your people are agreeable to our offer, we will have solved the problem of finding our Ark. Which brings me to the next problem we must address. In time, what is left of our wealth fund will dwindle away to nothing and we will not be able to top it up with income from the sale of fossil fuel. Our small country has no other resources.

'As you are probably aware, we have made considerable investments in a number of diverse sectors for many years. Banks, motor companies, a football club. These investments are bearing us modest fruit, but not nearly enough. So. It is time for me to lay out our second proposal.”

So there's more?"

Oh yes. Much more. And I hope this will have particular appeal to you Angus.”

I'm all ears.”

The Arab sat back and set himself for the next section of his pitch.

Both of our countries have benefited from the most sought after commodity of the last few hundred years. I speak of fossil fuels of course. First coal. Then oil. Then gas. Maybe we have benefited more than you. But this long era is finally drawing to a close leaving a very big question on the lips of mankind. What will be the next oil? Well, before last year's drought the Sheik gave me the task of finding the answer to this question."

He certainly gives you some pretty stiff homework."

This is very true. Anyway. I am 90% sure in my own mind that I have found the answer. Would you like to hazard a guess, Angus."

The Scot smiled. “Water.”

Very good. Give that man a merit badge. Water. The last few years have shown man has the ability to find alternatives to fossil fuels. We are nothing if not adaptable. But we cannot manage without water. Water is an absolute requirement for human life. Without water, not one of us can survive for more than a handful of days. Access to dwindling water supplies will be the greatest cause of war in the next century. And as the world wakes up to the sheer extent of our utter addiction to water, we will also wake up to the fact we will have to start paying by the litre. Just like we pay for oil and corn and kilowatts of electricity and gold. Water will enter the global commodity market alongside all the other staple raw materials of life. It will become the most sought after commodity. It will become the new benchmark. A few hundred years ago everything revolved around silver and gold. Then it was gas, oil and uranium. The future will be all about water."

Suleiman stood and collected a large carry case from the corner of the meeting room. It was the kind of thing an architect might use for plans or an artist for a portrait. He cleared the low table and pulled out a large relief map of Scotland from the bag and laid it down.

Angus gave a low whistle. “Impressive.”

The wonders of 3D printing. So. I think when we both look at this we see different things. You see your country. Of course you do. It is what you have fought for. It is your home. But I see something rather different. Would you like to know what I see Angus?”

Fire away.”

I see the greatest water collection system on this planet of ours. For now I will merely point out three particular points on the map. I will start here. Loch Glass. A truly beautiful place. I have visited. Worthy of a postcard. But I am afraid I don't see Loch Glass for its postcard potential. I see a collection tank. A huge collection tank. Now, look at the area all around. The mountains and the lochs. The famous Highlands of Scotland. So many poems and songs and stirring tales. Heroism and tragedy. Soaring hope and murderous oppression. History and geography and literature and folklore all rolled into one. A mystical place. A beautiful place. But this is not what I see Angus. I see something rather different. I see this and this and this and this..."

He tapped the map with a well-manicured forefinger. And each time he tapped, he tapped a loch. Small lochs and large lochs and medium sized lochs and tiny lochs.

Imagine they were all connected together, Angus. Like an electricity grid. Imagine they were all connected by a vast system of underground pipes which could carry millions and millions and millions of litres of fresh Scottish water. Millions and millions of litres of fresh Scottish water which would flow for every second of every minute of every hour of every day...."

Suleiman was a preacher now. A prophet. A firebrand priest and imam all rolled into one. The thought of all those millions of litres of Highland water lit him up.

And he was speaking fast now. Almost breathless. Angus felt like he was on a rollercoaster.

OK. Next. Here.”


Invergordon. One of the world's finest deep water ports sheltered by the Cromarty Firth. A port capable of playing host to any ship. The greatest ships. Are you getting there Angus...."

The Scot focussed with a small frown. “The greatest ships as in the supertankers, yes?”

Oh yes. The supertankers. The biggest ships mankind has ever constructed. Have you any idea how much these ships can carry?”

Not really. A hell of a lot.”

Oh yes. A hell of a lot indeed. Two million barrels of oil. Which is 300 million litres of oil. These ships have made sure the lights of the world have stayed on for a hundred years. And now? Now their race is all but run. I know this and you know this. Qatar and Scotland still have plenty of oil to fill these ships but we have barely a customer left who wants to buy our oil. And those who do want to buy are not willing to pay a price which makes it worth our while to fill one of these magnificent vessels. The companies who own these vessels have been quietly writing them off for years. They no longer appear on balance sheets as assets. Instead they are liabilities. Funds are being set to one side to cover the costs of decommissioning."

Now Angus was smiling. “Which would mean, and I am speaking hypothetically here, the owners would be very open to offers from anyone to take such a huge potential liability off their hands.”

Absolutely they are. We have been quietly signing deals for the last six months. The ship owners think we are crazy. They think we are in denial. They think we are Arab fools who blindly believe the demand for oil will last for ever and a day. No doubt they are laughing at our folly.”

I dare say they are. And let me guess. So far the total amount you have paid for your new fleet of supertankers is a big fat zero.”

It is.”

How many have you managed to get hold of?”


Holy Christ. How much can one of these tankers carry?”

2 million barrels of oil. 300 million litres of water.”

OK. Take a city of a million. How much water is needed per day?”

It used to be an average of 500 litres per head. But things are changing fast since last year's global drought. Most experts expect the average per person usage to fall to about 100 litres per day."

Angus forced his brain into mental arithmetic mode. "OK. Let's see if I can get this. The water on one of these tankers would keep a city of half a million going for about a week. So it would need two tankers to keep the taps on assuming a week to get to Scotland and back?"

You're in the ball park.”

So the forty tankers you already have are enough to supply twenty cities of half a million? How many more ships do you think you'll be able to get your hands on?"

We aim to build up a fleet of a hundred. Enough for fifty of your cities. Enough for 25 million people. On average, people in Europe pay $4 a day for their gas and electricity. We expect the cost of water will soon be a little higher. Shall we say $5 a day? Which means in the very roundest of figures our fleet of tankers will be capable of delivering enough water to generate an income of about a billion dollars a week."

Angus was speechless. Suleiman smiled. "And that would only be the start of course. Over the next decades, we anticipate building many, many more tankers."

A silence settled. The politician saw no point in putting it off any longer and poured himself a tumbler of Scotch. He offered to fix a drink for Suleiman who gave a 'why the hell not' shrug. Once the drinks were fixed they sat back down.

So Suleiman, you have completely done my head in. You best tell me what you have in mind."

Of course. What I have in mind Angus is the greatest business partnership in world history. It will be a 50/50 partnership between the governments of Scotland and Qatar. We will commit a trillion dollars from our sovereign wealth fund and 100 hundred tankers. Your commitment will basically be the lochs and the mountains and the sea. But there is still more. Shall I continue?"

You bet.”

Once the collection system is up and running we will be moving endless millions of litres of water through a succession of lochs. We will basically be using gravity to move the water downhill all the way to Invergordon. So?"

Angus caught up quickly. “So there will be an opportunity to slot in Hydro Electric power stations every step of the way.”

There will. The collection system has the potential to generate vast amounts of electricity. Far more than Scotland could ever consume. Not that you have any great need for extra power. You are already well on the way to being self-sufficient. But a little bird told me you have a neighbour who might well be in the market for all the power they can lay their hands on. Ring any bells?"


England because...."

Because the Hinckley Point nuclear power station is never going to happen.”

Quite correct. My sources tell me they are already making plans for power rationing.”

Angus chuckled. “Your sources.”

Oh, I have some very good sources."

I bet you do. I'm sure you're not the only guys to have noticed England is about to be in the market for a whole shed load of electricity. Surely there will be others looking to get a piece of the action?"

Oh, there will be. There will be plenty. But realistically they wouldn't stand a chance of competing with us. Britain is still an island and it always will be. You are already hooked into the English grid. Believe me, we will be the only realistic show in town."

What is your projected income from selling electricity?"

25 billion dollars per annum.”

So. $75 billion a year from the water and the electricity combined, right?"

Close enough.”

Which we would split 50/50?”

Angus shook his head in something approaching wonder. "I can see why the Sheik has you as his 'go to' guy. This deal gets you and your people the whole thing. You are using your cash reserves to get yourselves a new place to live and a long term income which will allow you all to keep living the life you've become accustomed to."

And you will get a huge injection of cash which will stabilise the Scottish Pound on a permanent basis. Then you will get a huge annual income boost which will equate to £7000 per Scottish Citizen. I haven't even begun to go into the huge boost your economy will receive once we embark on building four new towns and all that pipework. We would be keen to see if the new tankers we will require can be built on the Clyde. Think of the jobs, Angus. Think of the wages. Think of the tax take...."

And now a slow smile spread across the Scotsman's face. He saw the future and he liked what he saw. He saw a future where his country would become the envy of the world. This was indeed a near perfect partnership for both parties.

Suleiman, you know and I both know I cannot say yes to all this on behalf of my country. But I can certainly say yes on behalf of myself. A resounding yes. So long as the small print holds up. So if you would like to shake my hand I can promise you I will fight like hell to make sure this happens. Good enough for you?"

More than good enough.”

And so the two men shook hands on a wet February evening in 2025 in a small meeting room in the Balmoral Hotel. As it turned out, Angus barely had to do any fighting at all. He took Suleiman's gift horse to the Cabinet two days later and the Scottish Government felt no need to look too closely into its mouth. A formal treaty was signed with great ceremony three months later while an astonished world looked on with complete amazement.

The next few years saw the Scottish economy grow more quickly than any economy on earth. The value of the Scottish pound soared. By 2028 over 200,000 Qataris had taken up their Sheik's offer of an Ark and upped sticks. The people of Scotland welcomed their new guests with open arms. Well of course we did. We have always been a canny lot.

Oh yes.

One more thing.

In 2029 my best friend Julie's dad became the new First Minister of Scotland.