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.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


A couple of days ago the leader of the free world decided the time was right to make good on one of his key campaign promises, namely to 'bomb the shit out of ISIS'

Well, he sure came through. Go Donald!

So exactly how much shit did he manage to remove care of his MOAB strike? Well one thing is for sure, it was an almighty big bomb. It was in fact the biggest bomb dropped by anyone since 9 August 1945 when Harry Truman dropped his 'Fat Man' atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Put another way, last week the Donald dropped the third biggest bomb in history.

I guess the main motivation for his MOAB strike was to rubber stamp the decision of all of those retired coal miners and steel workers to put a John Wayne style tough guy into the Oval office. No more pussy footing around. No more Mr Nice Guy.

The great thing with ordering up the third biggest human made bang in history is just how easy it is to do. You just give the nod to the four star guys and hey presto the job is done. You get your Cillit Bang moment in front of the cameras. Bang and the bad guys are gone!

It is a much easier promise to keep than all of those other pesky promises. You know the ones, building a wall and repealing Obamacare and locking up Hilary and banning Muslims. Poor old Donald has discovered the hard way just how many things are easier said than done. 

So, when all else fails, drop a big bomb. 

Finally he got the chance to bask in the glory of the cameras. He could barely hold back the tears as he pronounced just how proud he was of his wonderful military. And why shouldn't he be? They flew a plane through skies devoid of any enemy aircraft and hit the 'Drop' button when the onboard computer told them to hit the 'Drop' button. What's there not to be proud of? This wasn't some piece of cake walk in the park like Iwo Jima or Khe Sahn.

Then he fixed on a determined grin of satisfaction at what had been 'another successful event'. Well of course it was. He had sent 36 Isis bad guys into the next world.

Well. Allegedly.

Fair enough, as corpses go these were certainly at the top end of the market in terms of cost. $444,444 per dead guy is a tad on the steep side, but this was about more than money. It was something for all the diehards from West Virginia to the shores of Lake Michigan. A chance to yank a beer from the fridge and raise a toast to their guy. Way to go Donald. Way to go.

Was it really another 'successful event' ? Was it a tried and trusted way of clearing bad guys out of a deeply buried tunnel complex? Well, sadly there might be a couple of problems on this front.

No army in the world has more experience of dealing with bad guys in deep tunnels than the Americans. For ten years they tried everything under the sun to find a way to win their underground war against the Viet Cong.

Most particularly, to find a way to clear out the tunnels at Cu Chi. This huge sprawling rabbit warren was to be found in the so called 'Iron Triangle'. Twice the Americans threw the kitchen sink at the Cu Chi tunnels. In January 1966 they launched Operation Crimp. Wave after wave of B52 bombers dropped thousands of tonnes of bombs and 800 soldiers tried for weeks on end flush out the VC.

They got precisely nowhere.

Well, if at first you don't succeed....

In 1967 General Westmorland launched Operation Cedar Falls which was the kitchen sink and then some. There was more carpet bombing. There were great columns of bulldozers. They pumped in hundreds of thousands of litres of noxious chemicals. They pumped in hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of poison gas. Oh, and this time they sent in 30,000 troops.

And once again they got absolutely nowhere.

In the end they found the solution. It was an old school, low tech solution. They gathered together a bunch of the bravest men imaginable who volunteered to become the 'Tunnel Rats'. These guys went down armed with nothing more than a torch, a knife and a revolver and they cleared the tunnels one by one.

Up close and personal.

If Donald had been serious about actually clearing the ISIS tunnels, this would have been the only way to actually do it. Ask for volunteers and send them in. And it would have taken many weeks. And it would have been utterly brutal. And there would have been a lot of coffins landing Stateside wrapped in the Stars and Stripes. And of course everyone would have wondered if such a painful cost was really worth it. And maybe all of those good old boys in Ohio and Michigan might have got to wondering if their guy was actually any good at all.

But of course Donald wasn't much bothered about a few ISIS guys making like cavemen. What he craved was a good news day. Some attention. A pat on the back. He wanted to feel like one of those Presidents in the movies. Firm chin. Determined eyes. He was clearly tired of being painted as a draft dodging neurotic basket case wearing way too much make up. Those Holywood Presidents don't have any problems handling stairs and germs and the creepy crawlies at Camp David. He just wanted to be like the movie guys, right? I mean come on, give the man a break.

As I was splitting wood yesterday afternoon, I got to thinking about the cost of Donald's showboating. According to Twitter the third biggest bomb in history had cost $314 million. Surely not. I mean, high tech weapons are expensive, but $314 million seemed bloody ridiculous. A few minutes on Google proved my instincts to be correct. The whole MOAB programme had cost the American tax payer $314 and the bang they got for their buck was 20 bombs. Which when you think about it is a pretty serious amount of bang.

So the actual cost of the bomb was about $16 million. Then there was the fuel and the wages and the guys to write the press releases..

Is $16 million a lot for the biggest economy in the world? We have so many huge numbers thrown at us it gets hard to know what actually is a lot of money and what isn't.

Maybe the best thing to do is to take a trip through the looking glass to a place where there is sanity.

Cue the through the looking glass Donald stepping to the lectern to make an announcement to his people. He tells them about a bunch of ISIS bad guys in some Afghan caves. He explains the best thing to do is to drop the third biggest bomb in history on their heads and hope for the best. So will it work, my fellow Americans? Sadly, it probably won't. You see, we've been here before. In Vietnam. In Cu Chi. We bombed the shit out of Charlie's tunnels and barely gave him a headache.

So here's the thing.

If I am going to spend $16 million of your tax dollars to deliver the world a message about America, maybe I might have a few better options. Check out these numbers guys. And remember, these are your tax dollars I'm looking to spend here.

To fully inoculate a new born baby in Africa costs 40 bucks. So for $16 million we can immunise 400,000 babies.

Big number, right?

It costs a hundred bucks to cure someone of Aids. So instead of bombing the shit out of ISIS today, I could sign off on saving 160,000 people the trouble of dying from HIV.

So, OK. Another big number.

Or maybe we can take a look at the whole issue of fresh water. It costs $8000 to dig a well in a place where there is no fresh water. On average each of these new wells caters for 2000 people. So let's go. $16 million is enough to dig 2000 wells which will provide four million people with fresh water.

Now guys, that is a HUGE number.

So here's the thing. Y'all know I'm a Twitter guy. Go to my handle and each of these options is available on my online poll. It's your money so you can choose. Let me take you through it one more time. You can have 400,000 immunised babies, 160,000 cured of Aids or 4 million drinking fresh water.

Your call. Give me the nod and I'll get it done. I figure it's time for the rest of the world to see us in a better light. Like they used to, right? We've probably bombed the shit out of enough people already. And if we're honest about it, it really hasn't got us very far. So maybe its time to spend the cash smarter?

I mean, come on guys. As a businessman I really can't sign off killing bad guys at $444,444 a pop.

Cue exit Donald and the press corps looking on with gaping mouths.

But of course this is the kind of thing which could only ever happen beyond the looking glass. Isn't it strange how completely insane it seems when we take a moment to consider sane options?

Like my fellow Scouser John Lennon once said .....


Thursday, April 13, 2017


It's April now which means The First Base Agency has stepped into our fourteenth year. The beginning of a new year is always a good time to sit back for a moment to do some reflecting. Pretty Zen, right? Well, being here at all is no mean feat. The years since the financial crash have been particularly cruel for the voluntary sector. Many small charities have gone the same way as any number of High Street shops. When I look back all the way to 2003 when we first opened our doors, it is sobering indeed to see just how many small charities have folded. Being alive and kicking is something to celebrate I guess, though there seems little sign of life getting much easier.

If you have received the link to this blog via an e mail, it is more than likely you are one of the many people who supported one of our online fundraising campaigns in the last year. I think updates are in order.

We launched our first campaign in the autumn and it was very much a frantic plea for help. When I hit the 'Publish' button and sent our virtual begging letter out into the world, The First Base Agency was set on a course to completely crash and burn in January. Well, the every existence of this blog shows we managed to make it. The Just Giving page raised just over £13500 whilst a further £7000 came in separately. It means we will see another 100 emergency food parcels head out of the door this week. And next week. And the week after.

And then?

Next winter feels ominous. Thus far the devaluation of the pound since the Brexit vote has been contained. But not for long. The big supermarkets can only stamp their feet and screw their suppliers for so long. In the end Maggie Thatcher's great truism will once again be proved right: you can't buck the markets. A weaker currency means dearer food. And if you live in a country where 60% of all food is imported, a weaker currency means much dearer food.

So what does this mean in practice? Let's say a guy on the dole gets by on keeping body and soul together on £4 a day's worth of groceries. £28 a week, right? By next winter his food bill will be up by 15% - £4.40 a week. So £4.40 doesn't seem so very much if you are gainfully employed and pulling in a reasonable salary. But if you are getting by of £60 a week or so of dole money, £4.40 is a big deal. It means you lose 15% of your disposable income. Seven days of food costs the same as eight days of food. It is all part of the seemingly endless drip, drip of constant poverty. It is just another push in the back in the direction of the cliff edge. It means we will more than likely to be busier than ever.

How are things looking for First Base now? Not bad as things stand. We have several funding applications pending and we are optimistic one or two might come good. If things go to plan, there will be no need for us to be once again holding a frantic begging bowl come the Autumn. Here's hoping....

This was our 'HELP!!!!!!' page

In December we launched our second funding campaign. This time the goal was to raise enough money to provide some heat and light to a client who had been sanctioned for three months and was facing 90 days of cold and dark. We changed his name to Donald and wondered if there were 80 people willing to chip in a couple of quid each.

We crossed our fingers for £160.

We received almost £8000.


To say the response knocked us into next week would be a pretty major understatement. Obviously we were able to get Donald sorted out and then we established the 'Donald Fund'. This is now available to anyone in our area who has either had their benefits sanctioned or have been left completely penniless as a result of some kind of paperwork cock up. Once a client is sent along to us by Citizens Advice, we check out their paperwork to make sure they meet the criteria of the Donald Fund. If a person is looking down the barrel of a 30 day benefit sanction, we will pay £3.50 a day - £105 - onto the meter. And before you ask, no we don't hand over any cash. We go along with the client to a paypoint and thereby we make sure every penny goes exactly where it is supposed to go.

In the first four months of the Donald Fund we have helped out 27 individuals and families to the tune of £1427 – an average of £357 a month. One very ill lady comes to mind as an example of how the Donald Fund can make like the 7th Cavalry. She was in her seventies and her health was dire. An admin cock up meant her benefit payments had dried up for two weeks and all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't do a thing about it. When I arrived at her house I found her wearing three coats and a woolly hat. She was camped out in the living room under every blanket she owned. The night before had seen the temperature fall to minus five. I guess the DWP would have said it was only a couple of weeks for goodness sake. Well two weeks can be an awfully long time when you are old and ill. 

She was absolutely adamant £20 would be more than enough. I did my level best to argue otherwise but she was having none of it. I'll tell you what, she might have been quite old and very ill but she could still put her foot down. So twenty quid it was! She promised to call if there were any more delays.

There was no call. £20 was enough to see her through. Without the £20 of warmth care of the Donald Fund, the only solution would have been an ambulance and a week in hospital. Utter madness, but there is little sanity to be found in the Government's austerity programme.

Hopefully as every month rolls by we are proving the Donald Fund is an efficient way to meet moments of genuine crisis. Our hope is to make applications to various sources of funding to keep topping the fund up. Hopefully we will be successful in this. I will keep you posted.

The page

Our next appeal was to try and save a lovely Nigerian family from being thrown out onto the streets in the weeks before Christmas. Once again we changed their names, this time to Florence, the mum, Abigail, her 19 year old daughter and Thomas, her 10 year old son. Our goal was to collect enough cash to cover their rent for three months and once again the response of the public was truly amazing.

We generated enough to keep a roof over the family's heads for a year. So how are things looking now? Cautiously optimistic. The up front fees for the family to apply for 'leave to remain' in the UK are horrendous. £3000, Which of course might as well be £300,000 for a family who receive no benefits and are not allowed to do any paid work. Luckily they have been able to apply for a fee waiver so long as they can prove they are absolutely destitute. We had to write a letter on their behalf confirming we were keeping the family in food and power as well as covering the rent. However the £3000 was not the only problem. They also had to pay a non negotiable £500 each NHS fee. Luckily we had enough in the pot to cover this for them.

Florence showed me the form they had filled in for the 'destitution' waver of the £3000 application fees. At the top of the form were the letters ECHR. As in European Convention on Human Rights. As in the very thing Winston Churchill put in place as the smoke of the Second World War cleared. As in the thing the Brexiteers just can't wait to scrap as soon as they can. It looks like Florence and her family might just be in the nick of time. Without the protection of ECHR, they would not have stood a chance. I guess they would have already had a three o clock in the morning wake up call from a bunch of Home Office goons. Right now they would be locked away in a detention centre waiting to be deported.

And the rent? Well we have fingers crossed. The Home Office is hardly a well oiled machine right now. Any number of EU citizens are frantically applying for permanent 'leave to remain' in the UK which is stretching the system to breaking point. If every EU citizen currently living here were to make an application, it would take the Home Office 142 years to clear the backlog. This basically means the fate of this lovely family still hangs in the balance. There seems little doubt they will indeed be granted leave to remain under the rules as they stand. Basically Thomas was born here and he has been here for over seven years. As a ten year old, the ECHR guarantees his right to have a mother in his life which means the Home Office is not allowed to deport Florence. At some point Thomas will have the opportunity to ask a judge if can also have his sister Abigail in his life and we can only hope the judge acts like a decent human being and grants his wish.

Abigail is doing all she can to put together a portfolio to prove she is a worthy member of the community. The fact she has a place at university waiting for her to train to become a midwife is not guaranteed to be enough. She is now one of our volunteers and she spends a day a week with us. She also helps out our local MSP Joan McAlpine on Thursday afternoons. She has also more or less completed her training to become a Citizens Advice adviser. Surely even the most ardent Brexiteer would grudgingly admit this is a young lady who has what it takes to be a thoroughly worthy citizen. Then again....!

The page

Our last fundraiser was for Clark's Little Ark, an animal sanctuary up in the old coal mining village of Sanquhar. A couple of weeks ago we were able to present them with a cheque for £2000 which will be enough to keep the animals fed for another 12 months. One or two people have wondered why on earth we have been raising cash for an animal sanctuary. The answer is pretty simple. Clark's Little Ark is every bit as much a sanctuary for people as it is for animals. Struggling families get the chance to give the kids a free day out. Support workers have a place to take clients with disabilities or learning difficulties. Young tearaways can leave the classroom for a while to drain away their anger. Local 'dafties' get to serve out their community service hours doing something which makes them feel like worthwhile human beings.

Clark's Little Ark issue 200 of our food parcels a year. For First Base, they are the perfect satellite collection point. Nobody gets judged. Nobody is made to feel uneasy. Nobody is gossiped about.

It has been a great pleasure to have been able to help them out. Thankfully our fundraiser generated a reasonable amount of local publicity and with a following wind things look promising for the future.

If you are one of the hundreds of people out there who supported one or more of our recent fundraising efforts, I hope you are pleased to see your generosity has made a genuine difference. First Base is still alive and kicking. Every week people at rock bottom get their lights switched back on. Florence and her family are sleeping in a bedroom, not a doorway and the animals at Clark's Little Ark will continue to be fed and watered for the foreseeable future. Not a single penny has been spent on on a fancy head office with the right kind of London postcode and the paint continues to flake off our walls.

Once again, thanks for your support. We will continue to strive to be worth it.    

Friday, April 7, 2017


This has felt like a real game changing week for the cause of Scottish Independence. At long last we seem to be getting onto the ground we need to be on. I remember clearly giving talk after talk back in 2014 where I tried to sell the idea of 'Brand Scotland'. How we need to pay attention to what the rest of the world thinks of us. How we need to sell what we have to offer with all the vibrant enthusiasm of a Mumbai street hawker. How we need to stop being constantly obsessed by the way those south of the border are looking at us. At our aspirations. I can't say my message always played all that well!

Well here's how I see it.

Every time some second rate hack steals a minute or two of limelight to sneer and mock the very idea of an independent Scotland, we allow our hackles to rise up. Smug right wingers like Julia Hartley Brewer or Katie Hopkins are presented as having some kind of huge influence on events and we duly react as if they actually have a degree of importance.

Well, they haven't.

They barely deserve to be classified as bit part players. At some stage we were always about to wake up to this tawdry reality. These are low grade click bait who are paid to pander to the worst instincts of retired people in Slough who are spitting angry about a Sikh family moving in three doors down.

I guess as a white settler who headed north to Scotland to escape the growing race hate in my home town of Blackburn, I tend to see what is going down in England more clearly than some of my fellow YES travelers. The poison has been there for years. The Brexit vote was merely the pin which popped the balloon and allowed it to seep out into the light. For many years the tabloid press has been patiently stirring this toxic pot whilst slowly but surely bringing it to boiling point.

There has been a clear agenda for the last few decades as London has been sucking the blood of the rest of the country. Every year 49,999,000 English people get a little bit poorer whilst a thousand or so of the gilded rich sail off into their British Virgin Island sunsets. The big worry of the one percent has always been that this monumental act of larceny might become a thing with the the 49,999,000 who are being so royally screwed over. So the tabloid editors who have been tasked to find a way to get the public to look in the opposite direction to the scene of the crime have always been on the look out for new and different people to blame. We all know the list. The miners, the Scousers, the IRA, benefits claimants, immigrants, Islamic nutters, the EU and now, of course, the pesky Scots.

There is no escaping the fact that this nasty undertaking has by and large gone pretty well. After all, me and my fellow Liverpool fans were successfully blamed for something we didn't do for almost thirty years as a result of our being branded as part of the 'enemy within'.

I recall an extraordinary stat from the 2014 campaign which demonstrated the breathtaking reality of the UK's 'London First' policy. The average spend on transport per head of population in London in 2013 was over £3000. In the North East of England it was £40. The Geordies really should have been marching south with their pitch forks. Instead they allowed themselves to be brain washed into blaming foreigners for the abject poverty of their region. The extent of the brain washing only became apparent on June 23rd when the North East proved to be very much at the top of the xenophobia charts.

Job done.

We Scots have been up to much the same thing for the last couple of decades. We blame London, not foreign people, for most of our ills. The big difference is that we are absolutely right to do so! Potholes on the roads of Hartlepool have nothing whatsoever to do with Polish nurses. The fact that the income from Scottish oil was used to build the M25 DID have absolutely everything to do with London. It was London's motorway. It was London's call.

Because we have rightly looked to London not foreigners as the main reason for many of the things wrong with our country, we have turned into a much nicer place. We haven't been duped into blaming the blameless. Nobody up here blames immigrants for so many people needing foodbanks. Instead we blame the Department of Work and Pensions. As in the very people who have actually caused so many among us to need a foodbank for their daily bread. Polish nurses have never taken the food from anybody's table. Well, I'm pretty sure they haven't.

In a nutshell, up here we see the real perpetrators. We see who they are and where they are. We have not been deflected. As a result we have become a better place to be. It is no accident UKIP can't get a toe hold up here. Or the BNP. Those charged with keeping the grubby secrets of the super rich have known this for years. The Daily Mail never runs the same headlines up here as they do in their English editions. They know there is little appetite for racist poison north of Gretna Green. Instead they focus on being cheerleaders for Ruth Davidson.

In 2014 it seemed to me we should have spent more time shouting from the rooftops about how every different we are from our southern neighbours. I understand why we didn't. We instinctively realised any criticism of England would soon be spun into us being mouth-frothing IRA style separatists. Fair enough. I get it.

Brexit has taken away any need for such roof top shouting. The rest of the world is waking up to the clear difference between England and Scotland. The rest of the world is very much aware of the extent to which we have become chalk and cheese. Which brings me to the collection of events of the last week.

A big one for me was the news that several mainstream Polish newspapers encouraged their countrymen in England to up sticks and head north to Scotland. Why? Because it is a nicer and safer place for them to be. And the papers didn't just encourage them to migrate north. They went further. They encouraged their fellow Poles to claim their right to vote in Indyref 2 and to do their bit to launch an independent Scotland out into the world.

Then there was the German MEP who is known to be a close ally of Angela Merkel going out of his way to say any Scottish application for EU membership would be fast tracked.

Then there was the Spanish Foreign Minister who for the first time went out of his way to go very public about Spain having no intention whatsoever of vetoing any Scottish EU application.

Then there was Nicola's smooth American tour played out to packed out rooms. Smiling faces and optimistic thoughts all round. It would have been a good look at any time. The fact she was doing her upbeat stuff in the States at the very same time as Theresa May was peddling yet more bombs to the Saudi royal family only made the gulf between London and Edinburgh seem all the wider.

And all the while the tabloids were screaming like spoilt kids, mainly about how Britain can give Spain a proper kicking whenever we like. You want a say on the future of Gibraltar? Oh really. Tell you what Pedro. Try this one on for size. Let us quote you some wise words from the good old boys of Millwall football club – come and have a go if you think you're hard enough.

Get in!!!

EN – GER – LAND!! EN – GER – LAND!!! EN – GER – LAND!!!

Bunch of garlic munching toss pots....

Look. We've got Michael Caine. Who've you got you sad bastards? Manuel from Fawlty Towers?

Andrew Mitchell, Cameron's overseas aid wallah returned home from a visit to Yemen with a few troubling questions. He had been to a school bombed flat by the Saudi air force. The British tax payer had stumped up hundreds of thousands of pounds to build the school. Then the British government had trousered hundreds of thousands of pounds for the not so smart bombs the House of Faud used to send the school back into the stone age. Andrew asked where was the sense in any of this? All our gallant PM wanted to talk about was Easter eggs.

Oh, and old school blue passports.

Our tabloids enthusiastically followed Ruth Davidson's lead and started to spit feathers about Nicola ignoring her 'day job' and flying the Saltire across the Pond to America. Maybe she should have hawked a few smart bombs. Go on Nicola. Go and get yourself a proper day job. You don't go to foreign countries to make nice. You go to foreign countries to sell top dollar military hardware. Capiche?

And at the very same time Liam Fox heroically flew the flag for each and every one of his fellow proud Brits in the Philippines. He did the regulation beaming photo call with their psychotic President and gushed on about how we share so many values. Like executing drug addicts? Really Liam?

The good news is the the rest of the world is noticing all of this. Slowly but surely more and more people from all corners of the planet are taking the opportunity to make nice about Scotland. They are beginning to see us as a beacon of hope in the darkening world of Trump and Putin. We might not be all set to become the next shining city on the hill, but I reckon we can aspire to be a shining village. Brand Scotland has never enjoyed such widespread recognition. And acclimation.

Nobody beyond our shores has the slightest interest in what the likes of Ruth Davidson or Katie Hopkins have to say about anything. They couldn't care less. Instead we are seen as a brave little country determined not to be dragged down into the xenophobic swamp by our big bully neighbour.

And they like it.

We need to live up to their expectations and stop listening to anything the Unionists have to say. It is time to act like a people who know our time is coming and the 300 year long era of 'London First' is all but done.

As the support of the world swings behind us, the petulant ranting and raving of the dummy spitting right wing press will seem ever more pathetic. If you doubt this, just take another look at the cartoon at the top of this blog. Unlike the image below, the cartoon from the top of this blog was not from the 1930's. It was from the last week.

It really was.

The Mail printed the cartoon because they seriously believed lots of their English readers would like it. Find it funny. Make their Cornflakes taste just that little bit better. Oh how priceless! Look at this Harriot! Those jolly chaps at the Mail are comparing refugees fleeing for their lives to monkeys. Bloody classic.....

They print this filth to sell papers. Just like they accused me and my fellow Liverpool fans of urinating on the dead to sell papers.

It saddens me to see the likes of Nigel Farage are leading England down such a dark path. Every day I thank my lucky stars to have got out of Dodge in time. What appears on the front pages of the British press does not go unnoticed abroad. The fact that our second best selling rag compared boat people to monkeys won't have gone unnoticed.

Thankfully most of the world now sees very clearly this is an English thing. Thankfully they now see just how different we are to our Southern neighbours.

Thankfully the rest of the world is more and more on our side with every passing week. And that is a really, really big deal.

When I bang on about Brand Scotland next time around, something tells me everyone in the room will get it.   

This WAS the Daily Mail in the 1930's. Oh for the good old days!

Monday, April 3, 2017


Image result for gandhi salt march
So here we are. We have had our vote in our very own Parliament and we've won it by 69 to 59. We have followed all the rules and we have ticked all of the right boxes. We have been polite. In fact we have been absolutely as nice as ninepence.

Excuse me London. It's Scotland here. I wonder if you have a moment. You see, we have just had a vote. In the Parliament. Our Parliament. And by a majority of 69 to 59 our elected Parliamentarians have made a decision.

We would like another Independence Referendum please. Here is our letter. We've checked all of the spelling and everything. 

So can we?


Not now. Now is not a good time. We're not saying never. Just not now. In case you hadn't noticed, we have rather bigger fish to fry. So maybe it would be a good idea if you stopped being such a bloody nuisance and got on with your own frying. I do believe Mars bars are a particular favourite of yours........?


No, there are no buts. We're in charge in case you hadn't noticed. Do as you're bloody told.

Oh Lord. After all the excitement of the vote and those pictures of Nicola with her shoes kicked off and......

But there is no 'and...'. We asked nicely and they said 'No' with a trademark sneer. 

Excuse me, but haven't you seen the poll? Here. Have a look. It says 61% of Scots believe the decision about a second Referendum should be made in Edinburgh.

Oh do shut up. 

So what next? There is talk of cards up sleeves. Maybe there are. Or maybe we have been firmly put back in our box.

Is this a new situation for a small country living under the thumb of Whitehall? Maybe we might be able to find some inspiration? Well this is where we are kind of lucky. You see, this isn't any kind of new situation. Countries have been dragging themselves away from London's clutches for over 200 years. Some were huge like America and India. Others were our size: Ireland and Israel. Some were home to black and brown people who didn't speak English. Others were full of white people who did. They came in all shapes and sizes and one way or another they all made it. Surely we can find some clues about what to do next if we have a dig through their old playbooks.

To be honest, the lessons of history are hardly crystal clear. Some ploys worked and other ploys were an absolute disaster. Getting really, really mad and kicking off doesn't tend to be such a good idea. The Boers tried it in 1900 and 30,000 of their women and children wound up dying in Kitchener's concentration camps from disease and starvation. The Irish went for broke in Easter 1916 and ended up with a bombed out Post Office and some great rebel songs but no freedom. 

In 1954 the Mau Mau decided it was time for no more Mr Nice Guy. They arrived in the night at isolated farms in the Aberdare Mountains of Kenya and started slicing and dicing white settlers with their machetes. London went predictably mental and a couple of years later over half a million Kikuyu were banged up in disease ridden concentration camps.

The lesson to be learned? Oh that is simple enough. If you pull out an old Lee Enfield rifle, London will send in the tanks and start rounding up your people and putting them in camps. It's probably worth remembering the grand opening of the Long Kesh internment camp was only forty or so years ago.

So kicking off and going full on William Wallace isn't the best idea. But putting up and shutting up is an equally bad idea. So is there a middle way? 

Absolutely. In spades. The middle way is all about taking London to places they really, really don't want to go. We need to take them to places where they feel really, really awkward and unsure of what to do. 

And to do this we need to take a few leaves out of the playbook of the absolute master when it comes to this kind of stuff. Of course I am talking about the great Mahatma Gandhi.

Lets head back to the mid 1930's. This was very much the time when the British Empire had reached its high water mark. It was the time when the whole sun never setting thing was all the rage. And of course India was the Jewel in the Crown. Lots and lots of promises had been made over the years. Only twenty years earlier London had said if the Indians would volunteer to dig our trenches in Flanders the King would be well disposed to take a proper look at their Independence claims. To be honest, it didn't go so well. The Indian troops came home with Spanish flu and over 20 million wound up dying. And all the talk of being favourably disposed to granting Independence.....?

Now is not a good time.

Ghandi knew only too well kicking off and getting violent was a truly lousy idea. The Indians had tried it 80 years earlier in 1857 and it hadn't turned out well at all. As the dust settled on the Indian Mutiny, London embarked on a blood soaked decade of revenge which would have made Hitler purr with pleasure. Unsurprisingly the exact records of just how many million Indians London killed by way of payback have been mislaid. It was certainly more than ten million.

The Mahatma was a peace and love kind of guy. So he did himself some out of the box thinking and came up with an idea of pure genius. In the mid 30's Indians were not allowed to produce their own salt. To make a bit of salt could land you in jail. Why? Because there were vital votes to be had in those Cheshire swing seats and the salt mines needed the massive Indian market to be viable. 

So Ghandi wrote out a press release. He said he would be walking across Gujarat to the sea and once he reached the sea he would make some salt. At first nobody took much notice. But as the miles rolled by, more and more people joined him and by the time he reached the coast he had 20,000 in his wake and the world's press were waiting to take the pictures for their front pages. He became a rock star all over the world.

All of a sudden London found itself between a rock and a hard place. Of course the cheeky little wog was breaking the bloody law and needed a jolly good thrashing. Obviously. But on the other hand there were an awful lot of reporters kicking around....

What to do? In the end London did exactly what Gandhi wanted them to do. They decided to crack the whip. They locked him up along with thousands of his followers whilst the world press took lots of pictures. It didn't take London long to wake up to the fact they had been well and truly played. They let Gandhi out and changed the salt making law but it was all too little, too late. He had shown them for what they were and it wasn't a good look. And within thirty years the sun had well and truly set on the an Empire which was supposed to have been good for another thousand years.

Others have dipped into Gandhi's playbook with great success. In 1955 at the very same time as hundreds of thousands of Kenyans were festering in the British concentration camps, a dignified lady called Miz Rosa Parks took the Washington Government to a place they really didn't want to go. Rosa was the smartly dressed black lady who took a seat in the white section of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Over the next ten years the press from all over the world took pictures of American policemen beating the living daylights out of peacefully protesting black citizens. It wasn't exactly the image America Plc was looking to beam out across the globe. Within ten years the new Civil Rights laws were on the statute books and burning crosses was no longer deemed to be an acceptable thing to do.

So what can we do? Right now. How can we take London somewhere they really, really don't want to go? Well it seems very clear we need to leave the claymores in the cupboard. As a white settler myself living in rural isolation, I very much hope Nicola doesn't choose the Mau Mau machete approach! The last thing we want to do is to give Theresa May an excuse to build herself a 21st version of Long Kesh in Falkirk.

We need to find a way to be civilly disobedient in a way which will make London squirm. I have a couple of ideas I think the Mahatma would approve of.

How good would it be if the Scottish Government unilaterally declared its intention to take in the 3000 refugee kids London has U turned on. By the way this isn't my idea, it belongs to Lesley Riddoch. You see, we are absolutely not allowed to do this. Showing humanity and decency is not a devolved power. Just like the Indians were not allowed to make their own salt. And were we to do it, London would once again find itself between a rock and a hard place. What are they going to do? Send a detachment of the paratroopers to arrest Nicola and her Cabinet? Take us to the European Court of Justice? The right wing press would of course call us every name under the sun for being traitorous swine. And the rest of the world? Oh I am pretty sure the rest of the world would be very much on our side. 

Just imagine how much Theresa May would hate it. Would she find a way to show a bit of class? Or would she choose instead to pander to the Daily Mail and make a complete mess of it? 

So we ask the question once again. Can we have a referendum please? And if London continues to dig in the heels and and tell us to bugger off, then we will have to crank up the pressure another notch. This one is my idea.

The Government in Edinburgh makes an announcement to an increasingly fascinated world. No longer will we allow any nuclear bombs to be transported on Scottish highways. Police Scotland will therefore be instructed to set up and man permanent roadblocks outside the bases at Faslane and Coulport and no vehicles carrying nukes will be allowed through. 

And if a few hundred protesters choose to turn up to give the boys in blue a helping hand, then all the better.

Over to you Theresa. What do you do? Stick or twist? Send in the SAS to clear the way? Go all out and invade us? Or maybe you might find the easiest thing to do is to back down and start wiping the egg off your new Thatcher face?

It's time to up the ante guys. It's time to make their lives a misery.