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.

Friday, April 8, 2016


Yet another election is a month or so away and once again there will be boxes for us all stick our crosses in. It rather seems like the elections for the Scottish Parliament will be something of a dull affair where the only question is just big the SNP majority is going to be. Certainly it all seems rather low key when compared to all the Trump fueled tumult going down in America. I guess what makes us different to most places in the world at the moment is the strange fact that most of us are by and large happy enough with the establishment. Of course the SNP are far from perfect, but when compared to many other ruling parties they have plenty to commend them.

All over the world the natives are getting very uppity indeed. The natives are heartily sick of the elites who have overseen the neo-liberal rampage which has reduced billions to being little more than slaves whilst a thousand or so gilded individuals have managed to squirrel away 13% of all the cash in the world into their offshore accounts. In the mid 1920's, the Italians were so pissed off with their ruling elite they decided Mussolini seemed like a good bet. Fast forward a few years and the Germans made a similarly catastrophic choice with Hitler. Now the very same impotent rage is driving millions into the savage embrace of the likes of Vladimir Putin, Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump.

Thankfully we seemed to have dodged this poisonous bullet up here in Scotland. IndyRef gave us the chance to have our own version of a Velvet Revolution. Fair enough we failed to storm the palace and tear down the Union flag. But once the dust settled, the '45' marshaled our strength and most of those who marched under the banner of Better Together have been cast into the wilderness. The Red Tories and the Blue Tories now vie with each other to see who can reach the gates of oblivion first. They strut and fret around the stage, and they do a pretty good job of shrieking like unruly kids whilst refusing point blank to look the truth in the face. Their race is completely run and Scotland is well on course to make like Northern Ireland. Have you noticed a Tory Party or a Labour Party over the water from Stranraer? Nope. They were there once, but not any more. They became history.

The future isn't all that hard to read. In the short term some kind of Scottish Tory party will emerge under a new brand name along the lines of the DUP whilst Labour and the LibDems will become echoes from the past.

And then when the first independent government is sworn in, the re-branded Tories and the SNP will be the two main parties.

All of which makes this coming election somewhat underwhelming. As Celtic have found over recent years, it is tough to fill the stadium when the title is in the bag before the season has even started.

However elections are about lots more than parties. They are about individuals. Candidates. Contenders. Over the years I have had much more to do with many of these individuals then I would ever have anticipated. Firstly as the manager of the First Base Agency and then of course as a campaigner for Independence.

It has always surprised me what a magnet First Base has been for our elected politicians. I guess they feel we are a box they need to tick. Look how compassionate and caring I am. Here are some pictures of me visiting the place where the heroin addicts and the hungry go. The front line holds no fear for me! Oh no! I am the very essence of a true man/woman/person of the people.

Yeah. Well. Let's just say that in this case a picture sometimes paints rather less than a thousand words. More like about three. Because the proof of the pudding is forever in the eating. Things have always followed a familiar path for us. Politician comes to call. Photos are taken, hands are shaken, Press Releases are released and promises are made. Then one of our clients finds their way into a nightmarish situation with the State and we ask the politician if they are willing to intervene on our client's behalf. And let's face it, many of our clients are hardly pillars of the community. Anything but. They are mainly the forgotten people at the bottom of the pile.

And at this point most of the politicians who made such stirring promises during their visit will head for the hills. All of a sudden phone calls are not returned and e mails disappear into the ether.

Most, but by no means all.

Over the years we have met many exceptions to the rule that is now fueling the campaign of 'The Donald'. We have had three party leaders round our table. Jack McConnell was brand new, as was Annabelle Goldie. Both talked straight and both listened. Both were scheduled in for a half hour flying visit and both stayed for over two hours. Fair play.

Tommy Sheridan came to call in the days before his SSP colleagues made like Brutus and stabbed him in the back. Tommy is old school, cut from the cloth of John McLean and the Red Clydesiders. Say what you like about him, but even his fiercest enemy would never claim he doesn't go out to fight for the little people. Tommy is one of the good guys.

Alex Ferguson who has stood down this time offered living breathing proof that not all old Etonians are like most old Etonians. He was always absolutely brilliant with our clients and I cannot speak highly enough of him. He will be sorely missed. If anyone had ever told me that I would vote Tory one day, I would have told them such a thing was about as likely as me buying a season ticket for Old Trafford. And going. And actually cheering. Aye right....

But I did vote Tory. Last time around. Except I didn't vote Tory. I voted Alex because he was everything a politician should be. If all politicians were like Alex there would be no room for any Trumps.

Similarly our local Labour MSP Elaine Murray has always gone out to bat for our clients when we have asked her to. Once again. Fair play.

I am particularly delighted to report that my mate from the Indy ref campaign Richard Arkless has proved to be an outstanding constituency MP. Every hour of every day, his office is fighting the corner of those who have been booted in the teeth by the Welfare Reforms. Good on you Rich. Keep the faith.

Which brings me on to Joan. As in Joan McAlpine MSP.

We shared a bunch of platforms in the IndyRef campaign and it didn't take me long to be impressed. All kinds of Better Together merchants attempted to give it to Joan with both barrels and each and every one of them regretted it. I know it is politically incorrect to go in for racial stereotyping, but let's just say that Joan is very much a red headed Scotswoman. Enough said? Probably. Probably best to shut up in fact!

We hear all the time that politicians are out of touch and they don't get it. Many don't, especially those who have taken the well trodden route of public school to Oxbridge to internship to safe seat. Well that absolutely ain't Joan. I guess in a way Joan and I followed a similar route to doing what we do today. Words. For me it was writing novels. For Joan it was journalism. Researching our words took us both into the world where the forgotten people get screwed over every single day. In the end I wound up managing a food bank whilst Joan wound up in the Scottish Parliament.

It only takes a nano second to tell if a politician is genuinely comfortable with what the media likes to call 'real people'. We have a standing open invitation to all of our elected politicians to come and spend an afternoon at First Base serving food parcels. Only two have accepted: Joan and Richard. She was completely at home that afternoon and it is fair to say she served one or two pretty colourful characters. She has gone out to bat for us in several different areas. She spoke up in the Parliament about our battle to secure permanent mental health treatment for our local Vets suffering from PTSD. She sorted out a Portacabin for the Clark's Little Ark animal sanctuary in Sanquhar who hand out food parcels for us. She has sorted us appointments with Government Ministers on three occasions.

Are there many votes to he had from going out to bat for a small place like First Base and the forgotten people who come to us for help? Not really. I am pretty sure Joan helps us out because it seems like the right thing to do rather than it being the chance of a cosy photo opportunity and an easy life.

But here is the clincher: the best reason I can give you for heading out and voting for Joan next month. At the back end of last year I went into our local jail to see one of my veteran clients. I am giving out no precise details whatsoever on this one because I don't have any great aspiration to wind up in the back of an unmarked van with a bag over my head. This was one of those darker than dark cases. It is supposed to impossible to wind up locked up for years on end without a trial here in the UK. It is supposed to be. But it turns out it isn't. The story my man had to tell was not dissimilar to the stories we hear from those who have taken a boat across the Med to Lesbos to escape the clutches of Bashar Al Assad and his merry men. Put it this way. If my man had managed to escape from jail and duly made his way to Lesbos to claim asylum, I am pretty sure asylum would have been granted.

We get this at First Base from time to time. Dark, dark stuff from the very darkest corner of the State. We don't touch these cases with a barge pole. They are dangerous. Toxic. You don't need a great deal of common sense to know that it is a really, really bad idea to mess with the State. This doesn't mean we don't talk to the people Of course we do. We just don't stick our heads up above the parapet.

What we can do is to take the case along to one of our Parliamentarians. But not with a great deal of hope. Because most Parliamentarians will run a country mile from this kind of dark area and too be honest, I don't blame them.

Some, but not all. Tommy never ran away from anything. When I took this thing along to Joan and asked how she would feel about me dumping it in her lap, I would have fully understood if she had said thanks but no thanks. And I wouldn't have blamed her.

But she didn't say thanks but no thanks. She didn't bat an eyelid. Red headed Scotswoman, right? As it turned out the lad in question decided even worse things might happen to him were he to enlist Joan's support and he decided not to proceed.

But Joan was up for the fight. In my experience, she always is. And in my book it is good to know that there is someone like Joan out there to have our backs should anything bad happen.

So in my book she fully deserves our votes. Fingers crossed you get enough Joan.


  1. Hear hear. Among the tax dodging, expense claiming rabble there are some bloody fantastic MEPs, MSPs and MPs.

    We're very lucky that many of them are ours.

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