I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


For one reason or another, I've had a bit of hospital time over the last few weeks. I have had some time of my own up here in Dumfries whilst family members have been in hospitals in the North West of England. And bloody hell, talk about compare and contrast....

There are always two ways of looking at things. There are the statistics thrown in our faces by politicians and the media. And then there is what you see with your own eyes. There are endless arguments about the stories and fairy tales which get spun out of statistics. But when it comes to what you can see with your own eyes, well it's a slam dunk.

Last month I was gearing up for my annual tobacco buying road trip down to Belgium. As in twenty hours of driving. And there was a thing. My leg was swollen and once upon a time when I was a stressed out corporate type I had a deep vein thrombosis. Was the swollen leg a warning of some kind? 

It was half past seven in the morning and I was due to set out for Belgium at five in the afternoon. Should I play sensible? The prospect of a massive coronary on the A1 persuaded me discretion was probably the better part of valour.

I called up the GP surgery and asked if there was any chance? There was. Pitch up at 10.15 and wait. So I pitched up and waited. For fifteen minutes. The Doc tutted a bit and asked if I smoked and kept on tutting. Then she asked how much I smoked and she tutted some more. She reckoned it was best to put the trip off. A scan and an Xray were deemed to be prudent.

The scan was booked for four days later. The Xray a week after that. So it was I made my debut in our brand spanking new hospital on a bright breezy morning where the view from the front door stretched forever and then some. The outside of the new building is a tad on the boxy side, but the inside makes you feel like you've been teleported to Berlin. I'm no kind of architecture boff, but it wasn't hard to gasp at the spectacular use of light. Gardens between the wings and the café actually had a terrace and lawns. Christ. More like NASA HQ than a hospital.

My appointment was for 10.20. And at 10.20 the woman behind the desk called my name. By 10.35 I was back in my car and lighting up a fag I wasn't even craving so hard.

Another week and this time an Xray. Appointment time 11.00 and at 11.04 the woman behind the desk called my name. This time I was in and out in less than 10 minutes.

It was like being a super rich Wall St type with the best health insurance money could buy. It was bloody jaw dropping. And I duly celebrated by taking a 950 mile road trip to save £15 a pouch on baccy.

Time passed and I told this tale to my brother in law in England. He shook his head at me like I was painting pictures of Martians landing on the Tesco car park. He's not a doctor going sort of guy. In January he had picked up the phone for an appointment for the first time in six years. Of course sir, let me check, OK, I have a slot in six weeks time.....

Two and a half hours plays six weeks..... Stuff the statistics. Reality tells a different story.

The last week or so has seen more of the same. Another family member is in a hospital in the North West and we drove down to visit. I might talk about chalk and cheese. I might talk about Romania and Switzerland.

Christ. Where to start? Maybe with the air of quiet doom wrapped around every brick. Slowly rotting wings, closed down one by one. Grimy windows offering glimpses of stacked up junk. Weeds growing through cracked paving stones. Drifts of cigarette butts outside building entrances. A lift with walls of scrawled, scratched graffiti. Old scrawled. Months and years of it. 'Abused by staff' scratched into the grimed paint. Obviously cost cutting meant there was nobody to provide a new lick of paint. Instead someone had tried their level best to over scratch the word 'staff'. But it hadn't really worked out.

Dead plants, their pots overflowing with litter. A sign on the door said the visitor's toilet wasn't working. And the sign was obviously as old as the graffiti in the lift. The staff toilet doubled up as a storage room for plastic chairs and somewhere along the way the toilet seat had gone west.

Outside the spring sun splashed the moors into postcard prettiness and the rows of terraces seemed quaint rather than desperate. The last of the mill chimneys remembered the days when the town once joined with the people of India in paying all London's bills.

No wonder the poor sods voted so overwhelmingly for Brexit. When you are forgotten you feel forgotten. Maybe if they had a Parliament of their own, then they wouldn't see their taxes shovelled into Crossrail and HS2 and instead into a hospital looking like the one we have in Dumfries. 

But they don't. They have London rule shoved down their throats. Like a strapped down hunger striker getting a plastic tube shoved down his gullet. 

And here's the thing, this stuff doesn't just stop with hospitals and getting to see a GP. It runs through prisons and the probation service and the police and a hundred and one other areas where we now do our own thing.

And nobody seems to be asking why. When I was doing my thing during the 2014 Indyref, I mugged up before various debates with Better Together's Westminster finest. And fair enough, we do spend a bit more per head on the NHS up here in Scotland. But not that much more. Not in a million years enough to explain the chasm that has opened up between up here and down there. 

I don't pretend to have any answers. It's not my field and it never will be. Gut feeling? Well maybe the answer might be found in the recent Carillion thing. We don't do much privatisation up here, thank God. Down South and it is everywhere. And if you take a pile of cash and open it up to greed and a corruption, well there won't be much of a pile left once the boys on the Carillion board have had the chance to fill their pockets.

You really would think this would be a thing our Government in Edinburgh would shout from the roof tops about. Well, you would wouldn't you?

But they don't. Instead they are as meek as Indian Maharajas back in day cowering at the feet of their colonial masters. The unwritten rule is to never criticise the English. Be nice to the English. Bow and bloody scrape to the English. Well I don't feel any obligation to stick to these timid rules for the simple reason I was born English. All my family are English. The first forty years of my life was English. And I had to watch my English dad live out too much time at the end of his days in nasty, festering English hospitals. And I worry about my mum and mother in law ever needing any kind of care from the non existent English care system. And I worry about my nephews and nieces ever needing A&E. I and my own family might be lucky enough to be New Scots, but we have left plenty behind and it isn't so very hard to feel their pain: especially when they find themselves in hospital.

So here's the thing. This well kept secret isn't going to last forever. And human beings don't tend to change so very much. When things get really bad, we up sticks and move. War in Aleppo? Get out of Dodge and into Lebanon. War in the Democratic Republic of Congo? Uganda looks like a good bet. Highland Clearances? Let's roll the dice and check out New York City. People will always be drawn from places which are crap to places which are a whole lot better.

It's called migration and it is as old as the hills. Sometimes you need a passport and lots of paperwork to get out of Dodge. And if you are living in the North of England and at your wits end, there is an overwhelming bunch of paperwork to get through before you will get anywhere near Australia of Canada or New Zealand.

Or maybe you might opt for an easier route. The one we took. A hundred miles up the M6. Past the blue and white sign at Gretna. No visa required. No proof of bank account or job. No criminal record checks or health forms.

Park the car, find a place to stay and you're good to go. Five minutes of form filling and you're in the system. A New Scot. No more prescription charges. A healthcare system to leave you open mouthed. Free tuition. Free care for the elderly. Air that tastes like air. And if your skin is brown, the chance to walk the streets without waiting to be told to 'fuck off home you Paki bastard.'

It is isn't so very hard to see what is about to happen next. In fact my gut tells me it is happening already. After hundreds of years of Scotland seeing its young up sticks and leave for better prospects to be found in all corners north, south, east and west, the tide is starting to turn. Sure London isn't about to allow us any say when it comes to people coming here from the rest of the world, but there isn't a thing they can do to stop internal migration.

Most people up here don't see this. Most people up here don't know they're born. Nobody in Edinburgh is about to tell us just how crap things are getting in the North of England. And nobody in the media is about to tell us how crap things are in the North of England. You can find out for yourself if you want to. Take a road trip to any Northern town. Follow the signs to the hospital, stick a few quid in the meter and check it out. I promise you. You'll be shocked.

As this migration from England to Scotland starts to pick up pace, it will certainly present challenges and opportunities in equal measure. Scotland has land and resources coming out of its ears. The only thing we lack is people, particularly hungry young people. If thousands of these very hungry young people become disgusted enough with the spreading Brexit ugliness and racism and decide to up sticks and head north, then in my humble opinion we should embrace it. You can bet your bottom dollar not one of them will be joining forces with Better Together 2 in when Indyref 2 comes around.

Last week I attended an anti-poverty bash hosted by the local Council. The nearest thing we have to an Anti-Poverty Tsar is Wendy and I mentioned all this stuff to her. She asked me to put my thoughts down on paper for her. I hope a blog page does as well as paper.

It's all yours, Wendy!      


  1. Thanks Mark. It's true that many Scots have no idea just how much of a lifeboat Scotland is offering relative to elsewhere in the UK.

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  3. Mark I love your posts they are REAL and tell it like it is , no bovine excrement just facts . If we could overcome the lies and misinformation excreted by the bbc and the msm we would be independent now

  4. I think that the level of service in the NHS varies from shire to shire in Scotland though, compare the waiting times of those in the centre of Glasgow to those down in dumfries and its also like night and day!

    Good article though, the thing to take away from it is , use your own perception to make an informed reasonable judgement before digesting any of the state sanctioned propaganda!

    My dad is due in for a foot operation in Falkirk District , I shall see how quick his turnaround is , also Ive heard nothing but great things for our children's hospitals! We Scots just need to ensure no one steals the culmination of hard work and sacrifice that was required by so many hard working Britons for the last 70 years to provide something like the NHS !

  5. The son of a mate of mine recently dies. She was devastated to find that the crematorium couldn't fit his funeral in for a week and a bit.

    Around the beginning of April another friend's granddad, living in Coventry, died. My friend was at his funeral Monday past. Between 6 and 7 weeks later.

    This funeral has been hanging over the family since the start of April.

  6. Excellent article thanks Mark.

    First off hospitals, I was just walking past the Western General in Edinburgh yesterday, and remembering when quite a few years ago, my GP gave me a slip of paper to go there for a check up. 'Phew' I said, 'so glad it's nearby'. It was at that time being run down, by a Labour government at Holyrood. The GP told me that there were plans to close the hospital down completely. I could not get my head around that at all. Now that would have left Edinburgh with one half functioning, new PFI ( ie debt ridden hospital with nowhere near enough capacity) hospital for half a million people! Now, the Western general is a great facility, has been expanded and is also an important research centre. It is crucial to Edinburgh and surrounding areas!

    The new hospital at Ayr, was funded by the SNP government, not using PFI but using a not for profit system, though still using private companies, (no doubt having been forced to tender by the UKgov).

    I had the misfortune to be discussing the new hospital with a no voting nurse working in Ayrshire 2-3 years ago, who insisted the new hospital must be being built using PFI. I bet they are not so scathing now the state of the art hospital is open.

    Re, the migration, yes spot on. i am meeting loads of young people who have just moved to Scotland, and they love it! All kinds of people, some of the young people have jobs some are self employed. I spoke to a guy at a local charity shop recently, he is from London. So we discussed Scotland, independence and the SNP, and in just 10 mins he told me that he has many friends from England moving to Scotland right now. One couple he knows who had never been to Scotland, viseted last month and said, 'yes, we really are moving to Scotland next month!'. He said that the Britnat flag terrifies him because to him it always meant BNP. He hasn't been back over the border for years he says!

    I hail from NE England, and around the time of the indy ref, friends and family sadly were mostly scathing, some ridiculed me and the SNP not just one came out with, 'I divint like that Alex Salmond mind'. The media did a great job of demonising Scotland and still does south of the border, ask anyone in Engalnd and they are 100% sure that thy subsidise Scotland so they hate hearing that health, education etc is better, because as far as they are concerned it's their posckets emptying to fund that 'utopia' for the people of Scotland. Little do they know that in fact Scotland is England's gravy train. It's sad, but if that is the attitude, well there is nothing we can do.

    The Scotgov ie SNP have been too forgiving and feart of being labelled anti English. Their voice is not loud enough for sure, but be in no doubt, they have the measure of things.

    A friend who is Scottish told me once, 'slowly slowly catchy catchy monkey'. Not something I was familiar with when I lived in England, but it makes sense!

    Having lived in Scotland for almost 30 years, it's definitely improved in the last ten years. I hope that the people coming to live in Scotland vote for independence next indy ref, I suspect most of them will!

    THanks and all the best.

  7. As a rather too frequent visitor to Ninewells Hospital here in Dundee - that's under Tayside NHS, which has been having its own management problems - I talk quite often to staff at all levels about morale, conditions and the state of the service.

    The people I talk to admit they are under pressure, they are finding things tough, and as one consultant put it, "We're still fine on emergencies, but on the run-of-the mill stuff we're falling behind - waiting times are getting longer". That's about as near verbatim as I can recall.

    Part of the problem is caused by Brexit - it is becoming more and more difficult for non-UK medical staff at all levels to cope with a hostile Home Office, and either have immigration problems themselves or are having to choose between their job and a spouse who is not being let in.

    As a university teaching hospital, there are many medical students from outwith the UK who studied here, some of whom might have reasonably expected to stay on to work at Ninewells or elsewhere in the health service. However... the Home Office...

    Staff from other EU countries recognize that they are much more welcome here than down south (anyone sane understands that every society has its quota of sh*itheads). However, they also know that Westminster refuses to let go of its obnoxiously hostile, one-size-fits-all immigration regime, regardless of how ill-suited it is to Scotland's needs.Independence or no independence, they feel they cannot make proper plans,especially when there are children to think about.

    The nursing staff are still low-paid workers, of course, but do they get some comfort out of knowing that they are a bit better off than their counterparts in England&Wales.I don't know enough about the situation in Norniron to comment.

    I think that's all I know that anyone might find interesting in relation to the subject under discussion - thanks for the article, Mr. Frankland - and I hope some actual NHS Tayside employee will let us know if I've got anything distressingly wrong.