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, August 26, 2014


Dear Alex

Well there’s no point in pretending. I was one of those who gave you a tonne of grief after the first debate. And I don’t regret that. Well. Maybe a little bit. Anyway. Having had a rant about how you let the grassroots down by resorting to petty party political squabbling, it is only fair to give you a major thumbs up for your efforts last night.

I cannot begin to imagine the kind of pressure you must have been under when you stepped out onto into that Glasgow goldfish bowl. Serious, gut churning pressure. The five footer for the British Open. The first serve at ten games all in the fifth set of the Wimbledon final. A penalty in a shoot out for the Champions League. Like they say on the other side of the pond, it was the bottom of the ninth.....

Years and years and years of hard work and slog to arrive at a very particular moment in time when everything is suddenly on your shoulders and nobody else’s. And when you arrive at such a moment of truth, it must be horribly apparent that there will be nobody in the world to blame if you screw up.

A lifetime’s work can go flying out of the window in the blink of an eye as the putt lips out or the serve goes long or the weakly hit penalty nestles into the goal keeper’s chest.

One minute you stand on the very cusp of greatness.

The next minute you are yesterday’s man. An occasionally played insert in the archive footage building up to the main event.

Christ, you must have been sick with yourself after the first debate. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the first time in your whole career that you have ever failed on that particular stage. All those times before when it hadn’t mattered all that much, you had always taken the day with ease. But when it really counted, you lost the winning touch. The Mojo went west.

And once you’ve missed one of those five footers….

And once you’ve double faulted on match point….

Once you’ve mishit a penalty…..

Oh yeah. It’s bloody hard to get back on the horse and step back up to the plate. Not Surprisingly, Churchill came up with a masterful quote which kind of sums it up.

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”  

Too right it is.

I guess you must have spent quite a while in front of the mirror yesterday taking a long hard look at yourself. The point of no return. The moment of now or never. Cometh the hour and all that.

Christ, you must have been nervous! Bloody terrified. But you managed not to let it show and for that you have my complete respect. Taking Alistair Darling to the cleaners was no more than you should have expected of yourself. But it still had to be done and you did it.

And if you hadn’t? Well that wouldn’t have born thinking about.

It seems that the media is frantically trying to tell us that even though you won, it still wasn’t the kind of game changer that was really needed.

Well, they would say that wouldn’t they? They’ll spin the thing for Better Together no matter what happens. If David Cameron were to call in an air strike on the Holyrood Parliament, the Daily Mail would still claim it is absolute proof of the PM’s unbridled love for the Jocks. You only bomb the ones you love and all that.

The ground level reality is a million miles from the propaganda of the press. I did a meeting in Portpatrick last week and all the guys who were out and about knocking doors were completely buzzing. They told me how everything has changed over the last couple of weeks. Those on the doorstep who a month ago said the dinner was on the table now want to stand and chat. And everyone is saying it’s going to be 'Yes'. And not just plain old 'Yes'. It’s 'Hell Yes'! 'Bring it on Yes'! 'Kick their sorry London arses Yes!!!'

The tectonic plates are shifting. The sound of a subterranean grinding is making its way up from the centre of the earth. Louder and louder and louder. This must be what a rebellion feels like. Growing from distant voices on the edge of town to a vast sprawling mob crashing through the doors of the palace.

They all will keep on pretending that ‘No’ is still going to win of course. Remember that PR guy working for Saddam Hussein when he gave a press conference saying the Americans had been stopped in their tracks whilst an Abrams tank appeared in the street outside the window behind him?

I think that is how it is now. Every day the momentum is getting ever greater. The grass roots didn’t need you to be Mandela last night, Alex. We just needed you to recover your nerve and put him away.

And you did.

You stepped right up the plate and it must have been a hard thing to do.

And you did it.

So hats off.


Now it’s on the rest of us to get out there and win this bloody thing.

Oh and by the way. If you are reading this from anywhere in the South West of Scotland, then try and make it along on Friday night to listen to Tommy Sheridan do his stuff in Moniave. One day you will really enjoy telling your grandchildren all about it. Telling them all about those heady days in the summer of 2014 when Scotland cut the cords and stepped out into the world.

One day you’re going to want to say those most treasured words of the old when talking to the young about mighty times gone by.

You’re going to want to say ‘I was there.’

So be there.

The Memorial Institute.



Wednesday, August 20, 2014


I had another first on Monday evening. This time it was being part of a panel of four in a BBC Referendum debate. It was on the radio, not the tele, and it was my friend and neighbour Willie Johnston in the chair rather than David Dimbleby.
I was cast in a role that has become familiar to me having watched Question Time over many years – I was token the non-politician. To be fair to Willie, he tried long and hard to dig out a non politician to represent the Union but as per usual, none were to be found.

Regardless of the outcome on September 18th, I will always feel both honoured and proud to have had the chance to play a part in what has been such an inspiring grassroots campaign.

‘Yes’ has been all about a hope for something better. From the place where I stand every day at First Base to hand out twenty or thirty emergency food parcels, it couldn’t be any clearer that we are all in desperate need of something better. Great Britain 2014 has become a truly miserable place for far too many of our fellow citizens. It has become a place devoid of hope where life opportunities are all but non existent for the vast majority of our people.

The abject bleakness of the lives so many at the bottom of the ladder are living has been something we have been describing for ten years from our small front line office in Dumfries. Over the last few months, we have felt much less like we are a voice in the wilderness. From all corners of Scotland, thousands upon thousands of ordinary people have stepped out of their front doors and taken the chance to make themselves heard. And despite the frantic efforts of the Establishment and their compliant media, these voices have been getting ever louder.

I have yet to hear anybody from the ‘No’ side making any kind of believable case that the Union is working right now. How could they? The Union has given us one of the most unequal and unhappy places to live in the developed world. It is a place where anyone earning under £63,000 after tax will have earned less in the last 12 months than a person who happens to own an average house in London.

Those without work don’t earn £63,000 a year. They earn about £3000 a year. That is our Union in a nutshell. A London home owner is earning the same money in a year as 20 unemployed people. By doing absolutely nothing. By having a few deeds under lock and key in the office of their solicitor.

Westminster will never solve this miserable status quo. Instead it has become abundantly clear that Westminster is hell bent on perpetuating the currant dismal state of affairs. Travellers waiting to board the Eurostar at the Gare de Nord in Paris have 25 giant photographs of Britain to look at before they embark on their journey. Here is Westminster’s chance to give a flavour of the land these tourists from around the world are about to visit.
Surely they will give a sneak preview of the magnificence of Glencoe. The Giant’s Causeway. The Albert Dock in Liverpool. The Snowdon mountain railway. The sparkling waters of Lake Windermere. Cheddar Gorge. Holy Island. The Angel of the North.........

Images of our so called Sceptered Isle......      

So are those the images a visitor is given to look at?

Are they hell.
On the wall of the terminal of the Gare De Nord there are 24 photos of London and one token photo of a village pub with a thatched roof in the Cotswolds.

As a Lancastrian with 53 years on the clock, I see no hope whatsoever that things will ever get any better so long as the Establishment in London continues to call the shots. The 1% will continue to flaunt their obscene wealth at Henley and Ascot and Wimbledon and the Royal Opera whilst the 99% see their standard of life slowly eroded.

September 18th offers us a once in a lifetime chance to find something better. It is certainly something worth going out and fighting for.

Sometimes the fight can be a genuine joy: these are ‘Yes’ events where all kinds of diverse people come together to share a common feeling of hope. But on other occasions being involved in the fight can be incredibly dispiriting.

All of the debates I have been involved in fall into the second category. Quite frankly, I have been disgusted by the antics of those representing the Union. I have not had the chance to debate with a fellow member of Joe Public who holds a genuine passionate belief that staying a part of the United Kingdom offers us all the best chance of leading the best of lives. Instead the Union side of the argument has always been put by people who are being paid huge salaries to represent out interests.

Imagine someone who is paid £65,000 and given a huge expense account and a free house in London to represent the interests of a large corporation like Coca Cola or Nike or Embassy. Imagine how their employers would feel if they failed to find a single upbeat thing to say about the company.

'Never mind how good Coca Cola is, let’s look at the consequences you will have to deal with if you choose to drink mineral water! You will become obese and  mentally ill and you will have your house re-possessed! You will get cancer and Aids and the Ebola virus at the same time! If you are stupid enough to choose mineral water, you are a deluded, idiotic fool and you will be doomed to a life of misery and penury forever and ever! And if things go wrong, you will need the might of the Coca Cola Corporation behind you, not some two bit mineral water outfit!'

They would be fired in a heartbeat of course. For £65,000 a year, Corporations expect a lot of bang for their buck. They want their mouthpieces to be upbeat and positive. Of course they do.

We all shell out in excess of £200,000 a year to cover the cost of Russell Brown representing the interests of Dumfries and Galloway in Westminster. He has carried out this role for 17 years and he is hoping to make that 22 years.

I have debated with Russell on three occasions now and I have been patiently waiting for him to come up with a single positive reason why we should vote to retain the Status Quo.

I am still waiting.

Instead he has painted a series of doom laden images of the desperate times that will await us all if we are foolish enough to vote ‘Yes’. Here is the list from Monday night.

-          We will not have a stable currency

-          We will have no lender of last resort

-          Our pensions will be under dire threat

-          Our borders will be insecure

-          We might well see a tide of immigrants

-          We will be excluded from the EU

-          Businesses will be crippled by additional costs

-          As a country of a mere 5 million souls we will be swept under by any coming crisis

-          Child benefit will be a problem for anyone living in Scotland and working in England

In a previous debate he told us that without the full might of the British armed forces Scotland would become vulnerable to Cyber attack. I asked him what exactly he planned to do if Russia of China were to launch a cyber attack against us? Would he be shipping 1 Scots out to Moscow or Beijing? Or was he really talking about threatening them with a pre-emptive strike from one of out Trident submarines?

He didn’t like that.

I have found the ugliness of the ‘No’ campaign to be thoroughly depressing. On Monday night when I took my seat, I saw that a few feet away in the second row a clutch of local Labour politicians had gathered in a malevolent huddle. Throughout the event they heckled and met any statement made by the ‘Yes’ side with overly loud mocking laughter. I haven’t seem people behave like that since school. Even opposing football supporters show more class than they showed. I simply couldn’t believe how rude and childish they were. Not one of them was under 50 years old, but if they had dared to behave the way they behave in a classroom they would have been given detention. They showed an absolute lack of basic manners and it was clear that they thought it was perfectly acceptable to interrupt and snipe and seek attention with their silly, overblown mocking laughter.

Had they been paid representatives of any company, they would have been fired on the spot for gross misconduct.

But they are not on the payroll of a company. We pay them. And this is what we get. Grown men and women behaving like the group of load mouth bullies at the back of the bus taking the piss out of anyone not in their silly little gang.

The nadir came towards the end of the debate. A questioner suggested that it had been a mistake to allow 16 year olds the chance to vote as they lack the life experience to make a measured decision. Willie sent the microphone over to three youngsters who said that they would be voting ‘No’ and most of their friends were doing the same. Then the microphone was passed to a young lad with a ‘Yes’ badge on.

I have met the lad a few times at various events and I have been impressed with his enthusiasm. He will soon be making his debut speech and he is understandably nervous about it.

So. There he was. 18 years old and all of a sudden he was speaking on the BBC. He had found the courage to put his hand up and speak on the radio in front of an audience of a hundred. In my book that is pretty good going for an eighteen year old. The gaggle of Labour politicians were sitting about six feet away from him. When he said that most of his friends would be voting ‘Yes’, they laughed as hard as they could at him. They got in his face.

They bullied him.

In fact, he dealt with it really well and castigated them for their unacceptable rudeness. Once again, it is worth going back to the classroom. Were a gang of eight to display that kind of ignorant, bullying rudeness to a fellow classmate, they would be sent to the Headmaster. There would be letters written to their parents. These however were not school pupils: they were fully grown adults and they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Picturing their twisted mocking expressions as they attacked the young lad still makes my blood boil. And it wasn’t just me. Lots of others came up at the end of the event to share their disgust.

Well if any of you are reading this, you know full well who you are and you know how you behaved to that brave and commendable young lad. If you had any decency about you, you would resign from public office.

But you won’t. Of course you won’t. You are a part of the only profession where utter rudeness and bullying are deemed to be acceptable.

Who won on the night? I have no idea. There seemed to be very few undecideds in the audience. Those who came along seemed to be firmly rooted in their respective camps. Will the listeners buy into Russell’s doom laden predictions for an Independent Scotland? I hope not.

We have a month to go and it feels like the tide is all flowing in one direction. The Establishment is suddenly afraid and their fear is making them angry and spiteful. They are convinced that they can still scare us into doing as we are told.

What an utter tragedy it will be if they get their way and get to keep their seats on the Westminster gravy train.

But I don’t think they will. And in the years to come when an Independent Scotland takes up its place in the world as a normal and successful country, I hope they take time out to remember all the pictures of doom and disaster they tried to frighten us with.

Here is a link to a recording the debate by the way.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


With just over a month to go until referendum day, the dates in my diary are beginning to thin out. The few months I have spent on the ‘Yes’ campaign trail have been nothing sort of a complete surprise to me. I never in a million years thought I would ever been a part of something like this. I feel greatly honoured to have been so. Win or lose, it has been a privilege to finally have the chance to play an active part in the democracy of the land where I live. For the first time in 53 years on the planet I have found finally something to truly believe in: something worth going out to bat for.

In a way, this can be seen as almost tragically sad and I think it shows the extent to which the endless pettiness, nastiness and mediocrity of party politics has all but killed our democracy. It seems to have become a broken system that treasures blandness over all else. Our leaders are required to be little more than cardboard cut outs. No longer are they allowed to be old. Their appearance is deemed to me much more important than their intelligence and their passion. They are allowed no skeletons in the cupboard and they have usually never lived anything resembling a normal life. They come from public schools and Oxbridge and they enter politics the day after they graduate.

How can anyone possibly be inspired by such grey people? Our democracy has evolved into a desperate wilderness where a man of magnificent flaws such as Winston Churchill would never stand a chance of making it to the top. He was an old, overweight, chronic alcoholic who had a god given ability to put his foot in it. He was the kind of unpredictable maverick our spiteful media now hates with a passion. They would have destroyed him with the cruel pleasure of a vicious eight year old pulling the legs off a spider.

This has been the true beauty of the ‘Yes’ campaign. It has risen far above the soul destroying sameness of party politics and become a place for everybody and anybody willing to share the dream of creating something better.

This is the main reason why one of the dates left in my diary stands head and shoulders above all of the others.

Friday 29 August, 2014.

The Memorial Institute, Moniave, Dumfries and Galloway.

7.30 pm

It is the night when I will achieve my biggest personal ambition in the campaign – I am going to share a platform with my friend Tommy Sheridan.

It will be night to remember for me and I hope it will also be so for everyone who comes along on the night.

It is probably worth starting with some background. A few weeks ago I represented the ‘Yes’ side in Moniave in a debate against Russell Brown MP and Elaine Murray MSP, both of whom are professional Labour politicians. My wing man for the might was Richard Arkless, a Stranraer businessman. It was only when I arrived at the Craigandarroch Arms that the back story to the event was explained. The whole thing had been arranged by Tim, the pub landlord. Why? Because every night the punters in his bar were debating the Referendum to exclusion of all else. So Tim took it on himself to arrange a formal debate in the pub. The night was brilliant. Seventy people turned up which represented over 10% of the population of the village. The night was warm and most people had a pint in their hands. Sparks flew and things got pretty tasty at times, but nobody got thumped. For me it was the very essence of what grassroots democracy is supposed to look like. People were fired up and engaged and nobody was pulling any punches. The word was that everyone who came along really enjoyed it.

Tim certainly did and he was immediately in the mood to arrange another date. I told him I knew Tommy Sheridan. How’s about I see if I can get him to come along for another debate? It was a done deal about a second after the suggestion left my mouth.

To start with everything took shape pretty quickly. Tim booked the nearby Memorial Institute which can seat 200. He got himself a licence to make the sure the audience won’t go under refreshed. He got a mate of his who has a bus company to lay on a coach to ferry people to and from Dumfries for £3 a head.

And then we both embarked on the task of securing some opposition from the ‘No’ side. How difficult could that be? Surely there would be plenty who would jump at the chance of a bit of grassroots street fighting against the man who has become the star of the ‘Yes’ campaign.

No chance.

The ‘No’ side kept on saying ‘No’ until last week Tim received an official e mail from ‘Better Together’ explaining that they have a cast in stone policy of never sharing a platform with Tommy Sheridan.

Unbelievable. So much from democracy! Here it is by the way

Better Together Speaker Requests  
t:  0141 332 4634

Dear Sue,
Many thanks for your email, like many organisations on the Yes side, we do not share a platform with Tommy Sheridan.  

I guess it must be the whole going to prison thing. It is amazing how many people who have challenged the British state over the years have found themselves in jail for all manner of charges. Check this out for a list of utter wickedness – Mahatma Gandhi, Jomo Kenyatta, Charles Stuart Parnell, Jawarharlal Nehru, Kwame Nkrumah…. the list rather suggests that taking on London rule can land you behind bars!

So it was on to Plan B. I will be the warm up guy and then Tommy will have the chance to give a full length speech before we both answer questions from the floor. No matter what anyone might think about Tommy and his politics, few would be churlish enough to disagree with the fact that he is one of the very finest public speakers of his generation. For a while it seemed as if the art of great oratory was in danger of disappearing. The media gave up on showing full speeches. Instead they cropped them down to twenty second sound bites which could be easily slotted into the endless loop of the 24 hour rolling news channels.

The game changer was Barrack Obama. Here was an orator of the old school who demanded more than a lousy 20 second sound bite. So Barrack put his speeches online and millions upon millions logged on to hear the whole thing. And so it was that Barrack followed in the footsteps of Gladstone and Churchill and Kennedy by using his speaking brilliance to defeat all before him.

The ‘Yes; campaign has offered a similar platform for Tommy. The last time I looked, his most popular YouTube speech from a meeting in Kirkcaldy had been watched over 140,000 times. I guess that the sum total of all of his online speeches must have risen over a quarter of a million by now. Nobody else from either camp has come close to such a figure. Why is this? Well of course Tommy is a maverick figure with a whole bunch of charisma. And of course he exhibits the kind of genuine burning passion that we hardly ever see any more. But probably the main reason for his speeches receiving such a jaw dropping number of YouTube hits is the fact that he is seriously bloody good at it.

In my experience, getting the chance to watch somebody who his genuinely world class at what they do live is very rare. Most of the times when I have been lucky enough to witness sheer brilliance in the flesh it has been through watching sport. I saw Johan Cruyff give a master class at Anfield in 1976. I was at Old Trafford in 1984 to witness Viv Richards make his unforgettable 189. I followed Seve Ballesteros around a gale swept Royal Lytham in 1988 when he scored a 67 which beggared belief. Outside of sport? Watching Tommy Cooper doing his stuff was some experience.

Well, I would put a Tommy speech in the same kind of bracket. From a purely technical point of view, he has the lot. So it really doesn’t matter if you are a ‘Yes’, a ‘No’ or an ‘Undecided’, you should come along simply to watch one of the very greatest exponents of the art.

And it is a very fine art.

I have been delighted to watch the way Tommy has become the sell out star of the ‘Yes’ campaign. Everywhere he goes he fills every seat in the room. To date something like 15,000 people have turned out in halls across Scotland to listen to him. Oh and how the Establishment must hate it! They really must have thought they had managed to get rid of him for good when they packed him off to HMP Barlinnie. Well, unlucky guys. He’s back. It is impossible to say much about the whole perjury thing as it is very much a live case and good old Andy Coulson is due to be shipped north from prison in England to be questioned about his part in it all.

Hindsight surely must make most people question the chain of events that took Tommy from being a thorn in the side in the Holyrood Parliament to a disgraced convict in Bar L. I think I am safe enough in pointing out that the thing came down to whose word was to be believed.

Was it Tommy, a member of the Scottish Parliament?

Or was it the News of the World headed up by Andy Coulson?

Let’s just say that I never had any problem in remaining firmly in Tommy’s corner and I am very optimistic that my confidence will be proved to have been well placed.


Back to Moniave on 29th August.

Things kick off at 7.30 and it looks like all seats will be taken. For the last few months, First Base has been receiving hundreds of donated bread rolls every week from the Little Bakery in Dumfries. The owner, Kerr, is a huge ‘Yes’ supporter as well as being a prize winning baker of pies. He is creating a unique ‘Indy’ pie for the Moniave night and everyone who comes along will get one.

So there you go. A Tommy speech, a packed village hall with a licence, and a free ‘Indy’ pie. Surely grassroots democracy doesn’t get mush better that! There will be a bus to ferry people from Dumfries and back for the sum of £3 a head, so book yourself a seat if you fancy a few beers. It leaves Whitesands at 6.30pm and returns at 11.30pm. You can call Tim on 01848 200205 if you want more details.

I hope to see you on the night.    

Saturday, August 9, 2014


When you think about it, a big part of growing up is learning how to see through propaganda. From the very get go of our lives, we are bamboozled by all kinds of misinformation. Early lessons tend to be some of the hardest as we come to terms with the fact that our parents have sold us a line about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Then we have to learn the tough lesson that most advertising is a big fat lie. Remember those times when your eyes would be seduced by a poster on the wall promising the biggest, juiciest burger you have ever seen only to be  presented with a shrivelled up excuse of thing? Remember how fantastic lots of toys looked on the tele ads and how desperately disappointing they were when you opened them up on Christmas morning?

My first official encounter with the nuts and bolts of the dark art came at the age of 15 in a shabby Blackburn classroom where my history master talked Stalin and Goebbels and the era of totalitarian propaganda. I was fascinated and had enough faith in my teacher to buy into the idea that this wasn’t the kind of thing we Brits would ever do. Did I buy into it with the kind of blind fervour a Hitler Youth fanatic would have shown? No. I can’t say that I did. By the age 15 I was already pretty cynical.

Then came Joe Strummer and Paul Weller and The Clash and The Jam and a reasonably rebellious youth and I was probably pretty cocky about being the kind of guy who would see through the propaganda of Maggie and her minions.

But I was wrong.

I discovered just how wrong on a summer holiday road trip to Eastern Turkey in 1981. From Calais to Konya, it seemed like there were posters of the slowly starving Bobby Sands on every vacant wall. I had been brainwashed into fully believing that Bobby was just another Irish nut job who deserved contempt. With hindsight I find it astonishing to see how duped my younger self had been. How could anyone fighting a terrorist campaign against US be seen as a freedon fighter? Well they could and Bobby Sands was.

Over the last 33 years I have become ever more cynical until I now find it hard to believe a word that comes out of any mouthpiece of the Establishment. I saw the lies they told about the City of Liverpool when it tried to stand alone against Thatcher’s wrecking ball. I saw the lies they told about the North when it became a police state in the time of the Miner’s Strike. I watched a quarter of a century of lies in the wake of Hillsborough.

Lies and propaganda. Propaganda and lies.

And now with 18 September drawing ever nearer, we are once again in the midst of vast swathes of misinformation and disinformation.

And opinion polls.

Propaganda is all about persuading people that what is plainly obvious and in front of their eyes is in fact not obvious at all. No Germans had ever met any of the evil looking hook nosed Jews depicted in Joseph Goebbels posters. Of course they hadn't. Nobody looks like that in real life. The Jews they had actually met looked and talked just like they did. And yet a barrage of propaganda persuaded them to disbelieve the experience of their own lives and buy into the evil visions of the Nazis. It was a hell of a selling job that laid the groundwork for Auschwitz when you think about it.

So what has that got to do with opinion polls about the coming referendum vote? I think quite a lot actually. No matter how many public meetings are packed out by the 'Yes' campaign, the major polls hardly ever move. No matter how many people wear ‘Yes’ badges or put stickers in the their cars, the major polls hardly ever move. Think about conversations you had six months ago. Things were very different then for anyone on the ‘Yes’ side of the argument. It was a perfectly normal thing to met lots and lots of people who would tell you they were in the ‘No’ camp and had no intention of moving anywhere.

Does that happen any more? Not to me. And doesn’t seem to be happening to anyone else I talk to either. Instead everyone seems to be having a very different experience. How many people have you heard say that everyone they talk to seems to be supporting ‘Yes’? I bet it is lots.

More and more people are also hooking onto trying to wrack their brains to see if they know anyone who started out as a 'Yes' voter only to move to the 'No' camp after checking out the facts. Have you heard anyone say something like this - 'My heart was telling me to vote for Independence but now I have taken a careful look at the facts, my head is telling me I have to vote 'No'. I bet you can't think of anyone. I certainly can't. Nobody ever knows anybody who fits this particular profile. But we all know plenty of folk who are taking the journey down the opposite side of the road from 'No' to 'Yes'.

But still those national polls never move an inch. 'Yes' is always a mile behind. 'No' is always a shoe in. And I think more and more people have got to wondering where on earth all these 'No' voters are to be found. They certainly aren’t wearing badges or fighting their corner in the pub or the works canteen. Are they in fact a vast hidden army? Or are they a figment of somebody’s hopeful imagination? Maybe they are like that supposed army of evil hook nosed Jews who Doctor Goebbels warned his fellow Germans about?

And yet despite everything, the propaganda still works and it still works on me.

Two days ago I picked up a tweet from Stuart Carroll reporting that a poll of voters in the South of Scotland showed that 'Yes' was a mile ahead. 48% Yes. 39% No. The poll was undertaken by Survation and it turned out that it was paid for by the Sunday Mail. My first instinct was to assume it was a skewed SNP poll and probably wildly optimistic. But then…..
All week, regional polls have been appearing from all areas of Scotland. ‘Yes’ is well ahead in the Highlands. ‘Yes’ is well ahead in the North east. ‘Yes’ is well ahead in Glasgow.

And then I had what is a pretty obvious thought. How would the poll have looked if it had been the first poll I had ever seen? Well, I guess it would have looked pretty well exactly like I would have expected it to look. Why? Because as I go about my day to day life it feels like ‘Yes’ is miles ahead. Everyone I seem to talk to seems to be revved up to vote ‘Yes’. In fact, had I never seen any other poll, I think I would have been slightly surprised by the fact that ‘No’ was scoring 39%. It doesn’t feel like 39%. Go on. Think of 10 people you know. Are 4 of them about to vote ‘No’? I bet you find it hard to name four. See what I mean?

All of which makes me feel petty certain that the national polls from the national newspapers are nothing more than desperate propaganda. Will it work? I doubt it. In fact, I think it will have the opposite effect to the one the 'No' commanders crave. It will make everyone voting ‘Yes’ even more determined to turn out and keep fighting. People will wonder just who the hell are the six out of ten people who are still determined to vote 'No'? They will assume these people must be from somewhere else because round here it seems like everyone is on the ‘Yes’ side.

I am confident that this will be yet another piece of failed propaganda which will backfire in the faces of those who have commissioned it.

We used to be told that the world was flat and we would burn in hell if we missed church. We used to be told that black people were genetically inferior to us and it was our God given mission to round them up as slaves. We were told that the Hillsborough catastrophe was caused by bestial, drunken fans who urinated on the dead. We were told that Saddam Hussein had the wherewithal and desire to hit us in 45 minutes flat. We were told that Jimmy Saville was a borderline saint and a charity hero.

In the end most big lies tend to fall apart. The lie of the national polls will be shredded on September 18th.

Oh and by the way. The South of Scotland is supposed to be the great Unionist heartland.....

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


So said Winston Churchill on the floor of the House of Commons in 1947. Famously. And how right he was. Over the last few months, I have done my share of spouting on about the glories of democracy from a variety of ‘Yes’ platforms. It is a common theme for all of us on the ‘Yes’ side of the fence. How could it not be when we once again find ourselves being governed by a bunch of old Etonians we never voted for.

Independence will mean that the five million people living in Scotland will finally have the chance to be governed by people we actually DID vote for.

The trouble is that they will still be politicians and they will almost certainly be a constant source of disappointment.

Last night I sat in front of the TV and I really wanted to find something to be positive about. Well, so much for that! As per usual we were treated to two hours of watching two undoubtedly smart and capable men behaving like a pair of spoilt kids in a primary school playground. Is this really the best that democracy can offer? By the end of the tawdry, pathetic spectacle I felt the same way that I always feel – I felt like putting a brick through the TV.

Except this time I was more angry than usual because this time I have been a part of  things rather than being a mere armchair observer. I have seen at first hand some of the thousands and thousands of good, decent people who are giving up their time and stepping out of their comfort zones to try and create something better.

The grassroots of the ‘Yes’ campaign is all about the dream. It is made up of people who yearn for a better place to live where the world doesn’t revolve around making sure that all the wealth of the land always flows into the over stuffed coffers of a tiny group of privileged individuals.

From what I have seen, people genuinely get it at the grassroots end of things. We see that this thing is all about what kind of country we can create for our kids, grandkids and great grandkids. It is a decision about the next three hundred years. It is about writing a new constitution from scratch like the Americans did in 1776. It is about stepping away from the festering corruption of Westminster and coming up with something better.

When people talk at the grass roots meetings, they adopt the tone of Kennedy. They sell dreams. They aspire.

Did we get any of that last night? Not a chance. Instead we got the usual nasty party political bickering. I could have screamed when Alex picked up a piece of paper and read a out a quote from Andy Burnham stating that we would have to drive on the right in an Independent Scotland. I mean, for Christ’s sake Alex. You know and I know that Andy Burnham is a Scouser. Fair enough, he is a deluded Scouser who is daft enough to buy a season ticket for Goodison Park every year, but that is by the by. Like most Scousers, Andy has a sense of humour. He likes to crack a joke or two, often at the expense of Koppites like me. You know and I know that the quote about driving on the right was a joke. Of course it was a joke. Not even a good joke. Not like the one about the Irish burglar who broke into the Everton trophy room.

So what the hell were you doing trying to twist his words like some petulant, argumentative thirteen year old making a case against being grounded for the weekend.

You were given twelve minutes to ask a series of questions about the way London rule has trampled over the rest of the country from hundreds and hundreds of years. Alistair Darling was there to front up for the corridors of power in Whitehall. It was you chance to call him to account for all the crimes committed over hundreds of years. And what did you do? You resorted to pathetic playground games. You tried to be clever and catch him out over complete and utter trivia.


It was your moment Alex. You had an audience of millions. You had your army of grassroots supporters who are doing all the hard miles knocking doors and manning high street stands. Everyone was waiting to be inspired by a vision of a better future than the miserable country we live in now.

It was your chance to climb out of the contemptible schoolyard world of party politics and do some inspiring.

Well, you completely blew it.

Here are some questions that you might have asked. I think these are the kind of questions that the grassroots of the ‘Yes’ campaign would have liked you to ask the representative of the London Establishment.

-          This week it is the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. In that appalling conflict, Scottish soldiers made up 10% of the British Army. In that appalling conflict Scottish soldiers made up 21% of the casualties. Can you explain why that was?

-          The people of Scotland contributed £200 each to help London to stage the 2012 Olympic Games. Why was it that the Westminster Government didn’t contribute so much as a penny to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow?

-          Last week Glasgow played host to over 50 countries who have chosen to become independent from London rule. You paint a very frightening picture about how bad things are for small countries when they break away from the warm embrace of London rule. Can you please explain why not ONE of those countries has ever begged to be allowed back into the fold?

-          In 1981, BP discovered what promises to be an enormous oilfield in the Clyde Basin. Michael Hesseltine confirmed recently that he banned BP from drilling for that oil. He decreed that it was more important that the nuclear submarines from Faslane should be able to use those waters for training exercises than for the West of Scotland to receive the kind of economic boost that Aberdeen has enjoyed. Do you think that was the right decision for the people of Scotland?

-          In the coming years every man, woman and child in Scotland will be required to pay £300 towards the cost of the Crossrail tube track across London. We will also be required to pay £800 each for the high speed rail track connecting London with Birmingham. Could you please explain how the £1100 each and every one of us is investing in these projects offers us any kind of benefit?

Of course he wouldn’t have answered these questions. Politicians never answer questions. They all must go to some appalling training school where they learn how to be truly annoying human beings. But at least you could have taken the opportunity to put him on the spot and call him to account.

You let an awful lot of people down last night Alex. I still cannot believe that you actually managed to lose a debate against Alistair Darling. And he was every bit as bad as you were.

Before the next one you need to get onto YouTube and check out the way other leaders striving to free themselves from London rule went about their business. Check out Michael Collins and David Ben Gurion and Kwame Nkrumah and Mahatma Ghandi. Then you could do worse than checking out some footage of Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

All of these guys painted big pictures. They didn’t nit pick. They didn’t try to score pathetic points. They sold dreams. Big ones. And you know what? People bought their dreams. In lots of the countries who turned out in Glasgow last week, people laid down their lives for the big dream of escaping from London rule. These leaders didn’t listen to spin doctors and focus groups and play it safe. They bared their souls and put everything on the line and inspired their people to take bullets and time in torture cells in the pursuit of freedom.

We don’t face the threat of secret policemen and trigger happy soldiers. All we need to do is to get over being so bloody scared. That’s your job Alex. It’s not about trying to be clever. It is about taking away the fear and instilling courage. 

Next time you need to step up to the plate and take a few risks. No more playing safe Alex. Give all those good people who are knocking doors in their ‘Yes’ badges what they deserve. They have found the guts to leave their comfort zone. It’s time that you did the same and left yours.