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.

Thursday, January 25, 2018


At the end of last week's edition of Question Time my phone pinged with a text message from an old college mate. He had clocked that Dumfries was due to host the show tonight and said he was looking forward to seeing me on the box. In fact news of the Beeb's flagship show coming to town had briefly swept across the social media a few months ago. Links were shared and I duly filled in the forms for Carol and myself without for a minute thinking we would be let anywhere near the sainted Dimbleby and his panel.

I texted my pal to inform him the chances of catching my ugly mug on the big screen were well south of zero. Both the TV and radio versions of Question Time have become something of a thing among the 'YES' movement over the last few years. You only need to watch or listen to any episode to realise the BBC will go to all kinds of lengths to ensure a nice fat majority of roaring Unionists in the room.

A couple of years ago I had a fuming dog walk whilst listening to a podcast of the radio version. The broadcast purported to come Dundee. You know the place. The so called 'YES' city where almost three quarters of the population support independence. Bearing this in mind, it seemed somewhat strange when a rousing chorus of boos poured through my earphones every time the word 'Independence' was mentioned.

I wrote a raging blog about it and an explanation soon appeared in the comments section. The show was aired from a small village a few miles out of the city and audience selection was sub contracted out to a true blue committee from the village hall. There was no bus service from the city to the village. Mr Putin must have been quietly impressed, as would 'Joey the Crip' Goebbels.

Well Dumfries is far from being a 'YES' town. In 2014 Dumfries and Galloway voted to carry on hanging onto Westminster's apron strings by a whopping two to one. So much for the efforts of the likes of me who had campaigned in the other direction. BBC Scotland laid on a live radio debate and I got an invite to team up with Mike Russell to put the 'YES' side of the argument. I wasn't entirely surprised to be the token 'Ordinary Joe' in the midst of three professional politicians. The guys from the local BBC actually asked me if I know of any fellow 'Ordinary Joes' who were willing to front up for Better Together. I didn't. It didn't seem like there were any to be found.

Over the years I have done countless comment spots for the local BBC. Sometimes they have wanted my take on a drug story or a crime story. Other times they have wanted to get the low down on local poverty and hunger. Whenever we have sent out a press release about something we feel is important, they have almost always given us air time.

All of which would suggest a seat in the audience for Question Time wouldn't be too big an ask. Well I guess in a Walt Disney world where impartiality and fairness rule the roost such a thing might be possible. Aye right. All of us who have been arguing for Scottish Independence over the last few years have long lost any kind of wide eyed innocence when it comes to the media in general and the BBC in particular.

Every game is rigged by guys who have been rigging games on behalf of the British Empire for the last four hundred years. They are old hands. Dab hands. Sadly for them, the Empire is a somewhat shrunken affair these days and Scotland is the last colony of any great worth. Little wonder they are hanging on with such frantic tenacity.

The written press drips out poison to order on a daily basis. The owners have clearly been given a crystal clear message from the corridors of Westminster power. If you want us to play nice with you, well we expect you to play nice with us. And basically that means a constant, unrelenting attack on Scottish Independence and all who sail in her.

My favourite recent example is the Unionist outrage over new Scottish mothers receiving a free 'Baby Box' care of the tax payer. There have been howls of outrage at hard working families being fleeced. In a series of brutal attacks, the Unionist papers claimed almost 30% of new Scottish mothers are not using the free cot and instead are choosing to buy a new one.

Now you best brace yourself here. These wicked baby boxes are costing each and every one of us Scottish tax payers £4 each. £4!! When a government does something so utterly wicked and despicable, thank god we have our magnificent men of the press to shine a light on it.

To get a handle on just how wicked and disgraceful this £4 we are paying really is we need to compare it to an example of true value for money. As subjects of London, we are required to contribute our fair share to any major investment which is deemed to be of vital 'national importance'. You know - Cross rail, Trident, Hinkley Point, the M25. That kind of thing. Basically anything which is south of Birmingham and costs a shed load. This is why each and every one of us is required to cough up over £2000 for HS2, a railway which is unlikely to come within 150 miles of our border. Now this is what you call real value for money. A copper bottomed investment for any Scottish tax payer. No wonder the press were so upset at us having to pay £4 each for baby boxes. Thank Christ these lads have our backs!

It has become painfully obvious the BBC have completely caved to Westminster pressure. They watch a succession of ministers beat a path to Rupert Murdoch's door to lick his shoes and wet themselves in terror. Please don't privatise us.... please don't take away our lovely licence fee.... please don't listen to that horrid little Australian gnome.... please don't take our lovely pensions away ... oh pleeeaaaaaassseeee..... We'll do anything.... anything you ask... you don't like those Scottish Nationalist types... fine... neither do we.. we hate the bastards.... hate them, hate them, hate them.... we'll show them.... just wait and see..... oh please don't take my pension away..........

So, no. I'm not surprised to be watching Question Time on the tele tonight. I have no doubt my name is on plenty of lists. The 'Enemy Within' lists. The mate who sent the text probably thought Carol and I would have been given the nod as managers of our region's busiest food bank. And if we had kept our mouths shut about Independence, I am sure we would have got our invitation to the ball. But the BBC are required to paint a very particular picture for the world to tune into tonight. And whenever the word 'Independence' is uttered the boos with shake the room. The demanded message will be duly delivered.

Nobody here wants IndyRef 2!! Everyone HATES the idea of Indyref 2!!! We all absolutely know our place here!!! We are poor and pathetic and weak and wretched. We are forever grateful to be given the chance to live our miserable little lives care of scraps from London's table. We are lazy and fat and thick and poor and we are each and every one of us smack addicts in the making.

Is that OK, sir? Really. Oh thank goodness.... and my pension.......

So London doesn't like me. I don't suppose I will lose any sleep. I still have my pals in Moscow when all is said and done. I haven't written many blogs over the last couple of months. And when I don't post anything new, visits to my page slow down to a trickle. And of course if my page goes quiet for too long, then it might not jump out as the first hit when someone types 'Mark Frankland' into Google. I can't say I have ever worried about this, but there are pals from the East who worry about it on my behalf. You see, every time my page is in danger of going to sleep it suddenly receives a flood of enthusiastic visitors from Russia. They come in their hundreds. They pick me up and dust me down and push me back into the limelight.

Rather alarmingly this puts me in the same camp as Trump and Le Pen and 'Alternative for Germany' and Marine Le Pen. It has been this way ever since the 2014 Referendum. Someone, somewhere deep in an FSB cyber farm, my name must have been put forward and accepted. I guess I was deemed to be a thorn in London's side and therefore worthy of some online support from Putin's merry men. No doubt one day this unasked for and rather unwelcome support will be used by Unionists to name and shame me as a fascist lackey of Putin's Russia. Well such is life I guess. Nothing I can do about it when all is said and done.

Oddly enough, I reckon the reason for this page receiving so much love from Moscow is exactly the same reason why I will not be in the Question Time audience tonight.

It's Trident of course.

London has no love for Scotland. The Tories in particular must sometimes yearn to ditch a place where so few people vote for them. But any such wishes are well and truly trumped by good old Trident. Those missiles are the very last vestige of British global power. London once ruled over an Empire over which the sun never set. Now the Empire is down to Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, the Falklands and an archipelago of tax haven islands. Without Trident, London would be a bit part player. The old drunken uncle with all those well worn tales of his youth who everyone avoids at Christmas.

If we won our independence and gave London an eviction order for Faslane and Coulport, it is pretty clear there is nowhere else willing to play host to the treasured missiles and thereby become number one on Moscow's thermonuclear hit list. Trident is the main reason why London will continue to hang on to us with such unholy desperation.

On the flip side of things, Moscow is well enough aware that just about every one of the missiles on a Trident submarine are targeted at Russian cities. Not surprisingly they are not over keen on this idea. So not surprisingly, they must kind of like the idea of an Independent Scotland kicking the nukes out. So they offer their online support to likes of me.

This week, the Army's top brass have been out and about telling us we might struggle to take on the Russians should they decide to attack us. Apparently we need to spent lots and lots more. Nobody seems to ask the question of just why on earth the Russians would have any wish whatsoever to invade us. We are surely their most useful ally. The City of London launders all their grubby cash and delivers it all starched and clean. We have made Mayfair and Belgravia available to them and their oligarchs' offspring are lovingly educated in our public schools. They are about as likely to pick a fight with us as a drug lord is likely to behead his accountant.

Oops. I shouldn't have said that. Vladimir might not like it. Sorry Vladimir. Just a slip of the tongue. Please forgive me. London doesn't like me. I really don't want to lose my friends from Moscow....

What a barking mad world we live in!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


A few days ago I had a chat on the phone with Iwona. She works for an outfit called Resource Efficient Scotland and on the surface of things, her job should be pretty straight forward. Her task is to make something happen which just about every man and his dog thinks should happen. Basically, she has an open door to push at.

We all get wound up by the stories on the news about all the millions of tonnes of perfectly good food which make their way into bursting at the seams landfill sites. Well of course we do. It would be ridiculous not to. In a hungry world, such waste is blatantly inexcusable. It is inexcusable when there are still countries where famine holds sway. It is inexcusable here at home in our country where over a million people a year need to come to places like First Base for their daily bread.

Iwona's task is to put the right people together. In the blue corner, we have a food company who is dumping edible grub into the skips out back. In the red corner, we have the places where the hungry come to eat. Simple, right?

Well it isn't, actually. Anything but I'm afraid. In fact it is something I think those of us involved in food banks probably need to explain. 

Just before Christmas Aldi sent out a Facebook Post inviting the likes of First Base to pitch up on Christmas Eve to collect any fresh stuff they hadn't sold. I reckon this message must have been forwarded on to me by at least fifty people. And of course it was really good of them to think of us. So did we pitch up on Christmas Eve to fill the boot? Actually, no. There would have been no point. By the time we re-opened the doors after the break, all of the food would have been past its sell by date and we would have been loading the van back up and looking for a dump willing to take the waste food.

This, by the way, is harder than you might think. The lads at the dump have been ferociously drilled to keep an eye out for anyone who is not bone fide Joe Public. Time and again I have to argue the toss when trying to get rid of First Base waste. Come on lads, we're a charity. A bloody food bank for Christ's sake. Surely you're not expecting us to pay? But they are expecting exactly that. To be honest, getting rid of waste is a whole lot harder than buying food.

Our problem when it comes to accepting fresh food with a short sell by date is pretty simple. I have no clue whatsoever how many people will come through our doors tomorrow. Our record busy day is fifty people. Our record quiet day is no people. It could be literally anything between. So if we accept fresh food and then have a couple of quiet days, I find myself dodging around town trying to persuade the lads at the dump to cut me a break and let me chuck stuff in the skips.

Then we have a problem which is more particular to First Base. The stretch of Dumfries and Galloway we try to support is basically huge. 3400 square miles to be precise. 3400 miles of drop dead gorgeous postcard country with pockets of poverty where all too many folk lack the means to buy food. If someone in Moffat, which is twenty something miles from Dumfries, receives a referral for one of our food parcels it isn't really worth the paper it is written on. A return bus fare from Moffat to Dumfries is a tenner and if the person had a tenner, well they wouldn't need a food parcel, right?

So over the last three years we have set up a network of over twenty pick up points where people can collect a food parcel. Thanks to the support of the Council, most of these collection points are local libraries. This makes a whole bunch of sense when you think about it. A library is open. It is staffed. The electric bill is being paid. It is known and it is accessible. To add a stock of food parcels to everything else they do adds zero extra cost. You could almost say it is a way to get two and two to make five.

It took a while for people to get their heads around the idea of going to the library for emergency food, but now all of the libraries distribute more parcels with every passing month. The food is in plain boxes and each box has enough to feed one person three meals a day for four days. But here's the thing. We have to be careful not to be taking up too much space so everything has to be seriously space efficient which means lots of dried food in packets - instant custard, instant mash, cup soup, savoury rice, noodles... you get the picture. It basically makes no sense to be carting water around the countryside.

And of course fresh food is completely out of the question. Every item in the box needs to have a long shelf life.

So fresh food would basically be no use at all for 50% of the food parcels we issue. We do have some fresh items available for the people who come to our main base in Dumfries. Every week we receive fifty loaves of bread from Greggs and seventy packets of sliced ham from Brown Brothers in Kelloholm. We also buy in packs of margarine. All three of these items have plenty of shelf life which means nothing ever goes to waste.

So I can understand why Iwona beat a path to our door. Of course she did. Surely an outfit handing out 5000 food parcels a year would be the perfect place to take some of the wasted food everyone is so agitated about.

I took her through all the logistical problems listed above and we had a chew at the fat. What if someone opened up one of the town's many boarded up shops an offered a range of fresh food for anyone to collect? Maybe, but the overheads would be hard to cover. There would have to be at least one member of paid staff. A vehicle. Fuel costs. An electric bill. A water bill. A phone bill. Fridges and freezers and food safety training. No chance of any change out of sixty grand a year.

And then of course there is the stigma thing. Would people be willing to be seen going into such a shop by their gossip loving neighbours? Not a chance. Maybe in a big city, but no chance in the small towns where so many take such delight in the troubles of others. It is the nastiness which is played out every minute of every day at the counters of Post Offices and Spar Shops. All too many of us would rather go hungry than suffer the thought of her from three doors down having a field day telling everyone how she clocked us going into the 'poor' shop.

But what if such a place sold food a heavily discounted prices? That would mean everyone in the community would use it and the stigma would be duly erased, surely? Maybe. Personally I don't see things working out all that well. The more savvy members of the community with cars would land up at opening time to get the pick of the litter whilst those without resources would be left to pick away at the left overs. And slowly but surely the new shop would eat away at the bottom line of the local shop where people go to top up the gas and electric and to buy all kinds of stuff not available in the community shop. Net result? The local shop closes and the community has yet another boarded up window.

Community kitchens where everyone can sit down together for a nice hot meal? Maybe, but the stigma still gets in the way.

For half an hour or so I felt guilty about being such a negative old sod, but Iwona's enthusiasm remained heroically undented. Where there's a will, there's a way, right?

And then all of a sudden, there it was. The two plus two makes five thing.

The opportunity? - lots of good grub is being chucked away and food businesses are having to pay for the privilege of chucking it.

The problem? - Cost and stigma.

So what have we got here? We've got food which needs the right home and we need to find a way of getting the food to people who need it without it costing anything. Is there a similar deal to be found to the First Base/library thing?

Well maybe there is, and it could possibly go something like this.

Up here in Scotland we do criminal justice and prisons much better than south of the Border. The reason for this is actually straight forward. Thankfully our Government in Edinburgh tends to develop policy on the back of evidence rather than pandering to the nastiness and prejudice of the Daily Mail. Almost all of our jails remain publically owned and therefore they have not descended
into the kinds of chaotic, privatised hell we see in England. More to the point, we have woken up to the fact that sending people to jail should be a last resort to be used only for hard core criminals.

Sheriffs have been issued with crystal clear instructions. If the crime ain't worth at least a year served in jail, then find another punishment - usually community service. This has the benefit of being a whole hell of a lot cheaper and it actually tends to work. If you lock someone up, you make them all but unemployable and things get worse. Community service gives them a chance to turn over a new leaf and to turn things around.

So we now have loads more people serving out their community payback hours. In fact there are so many, the guys in charge are struggling to find them things to do. They turn up in the morning to a place where there is a supervisor and a van. Then they head out to pay back the community for whatever they have done.

Think about it. A supervisor who is already being paid. A van which is already dieseled up and paid for. So the van could maybe head out on a milk run around food companies with waste food. Extra cost? Zero.

Then what? Well the Council has thousands of elderly citizens who it gives care to. It's free up here by the way. Another thing we do differently to England. But there are many, many old people to care for and less and less money to pay for the care. All too often the daily support visit is a hurried twenty minute affair. Which means we have thousands of our elderly living lives of aching loneliness and isolation.

Well maybe we could give them another point of human contact. A daily visit from the lads and lasses on the van. It would be a chance for them to get out of the house to pick out some items. And to have a chat. And to have the items carried in and put away. And is there anything else you need doing, missus? Coal in? Bin liner out? Any maybe in the fullness of time, cakes might be baked and tea brewed. A truly profitable human transaction where both sides benefit equally. The isolated, lonely pensioner gets some company and the sound of human voices. And the lads and lasses on the van? They get some self respect. Some self regard. They get to feel like worthwhile human beings who are actually treated as such rather than being written off as the Daily Mail's favourite scumbags.

Would it lead to more people using community service to turn their lives around? I reckon it would. After working in First Base for all these years, it is impossible to underestimate what treating people with respect can achieve.

Iwona liked the idea and I promised to pitch it to Rob Davidson, the deputy leader of the Council. So I called him up and duly pushed at an open door with well oiled hinges. I knew Rob would like it. When two and two makes five, what is there not to like? The only time it is deemed preferable to choose the two and two makes one option is when you are reduced to doing the bidding of the Daily Mail and all who sail in it. Thankfully Rob isn't a Daily Mail kind of guy. He is the kind of guy who would avoid its poison at all costs.

Of course he liked it. So I passed his details on to Iwona and bowed out. 

Will it happen? I certainly hope so. It is the kind of thing that can happen up here where new ideas do not have to slavishly pander to the dripping poison of the tabloid press. It is the kind of thing which makes me see just how much better things will be for all of us once we finally cut through the Westminster plasticuffs. 

For me this is what an Independent Scotland will be all about. It has nothing to do with blood and soil. Instead it all about becoming more and more Scandinavian. 

A place where two and two can become five.     

Thursday, January 11, 2018


I have spent the last few day consumed with jealousy. I guess every writer on earth must be feeling much the same. Why? Simple. In a nutshell it goes something like this:

Michael Wolff - oh you lucky bastard.

Just in case you have been living under a rock in the middle of the Kalahari desert for the last week or so, Michael Wolff is the lucky bastard who penned 'Fire and Fury'.

When his publishers brought forward the release date of the book to trump the 'cease and desist' efforts of Trump's lawyers, I eagerly hopped onto Audible to download a talking version and his words have been pouring through my headphones ever since. It took about ten minutes of listening for me to be well and truly hooked and duty bound to get onto Amazon to order up a copy for Carol.

And here is where the jealousy really kicked in. New book, only available in hardback. There are rules of thumb for this kind of thing. Cover price, £20. Amazon price, £10. Kindle price, usually about £7. Well that is how things generally pan out. Well not this time. Cover price, £20. Amazon price, £17. Kindle price £14. Bloody hell. A lousy £3 discount. But there was more to come. I whacked a copy into my basket and hit checkout only to be told there wasn't a book to be had and I would have to wait in line with God knows how many others whilst the print presses glowed red with the effort of keeping up with demand.

Like I said. Lucky bastard! Soon YouTube was full of pictures of midnight mobs milling around American bookshops. Never in the history of pen being put to paper has anyone ever made it so big by sitting on a sofa and not being noticed. So it's hats off I guess. And raging jealousy. At least the whole thing offers proof positive that there is plenty of power still to be found in the pen.

For a couple of years President Xchi Jinping of China was feeling a degree of heat. Hundreds of millions of his minions were showing signs of restlessness. Kentucky chicken and cheap TV sets were all well and good but they were starting get a craving for the odd pinch of democracy here and there. For a while Xchi started to reconcile himself to the idea. And then one by one, the electorates of the West started to collectively lose their marbles and a small grin appeared on the face of Mr Inscrutable. 

Come on guys. You're all telling me I should stump up some democracy. Really? Have you been watching that shiny new TV of yours? I think you need to realise what democracy gets you. It's called Trump and Brexit. Is that really what you want.....

And of course all those hundreds of millions of smart Chinamen recoiled in horror at the very idea of their country becoming a laughing stock and duly dumped the idea firmly in the bin. There is no talk of more democracy in China any more. They've got the message. They have seem how a totalitarian outfit can crack on and build a hundred new airports in the time it takes the British Government make its mind up about where to build one new runway. Not actually build the thing by the way.

'Fire and Fury' completes the case Xchi has been making for years. The dream of Aristotle has morphed into a surreal nightmare where millions of supposedly sane people choose to send an illiterate idiot into the job of being the most powerful man in the world.

Of course Trump's swaggering idiocy will always eat up every minute the media has available to put on our plate. Who would ever have  thought the President of the 'Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave' could manage to make Homer Simpson look like a smart and canny sort of a guy.

Are we any better? Hardly. We are just less spectacular when it comes to our car crashing. I suppose we never could keep up with Hollywood in that regard. In terms of complete, irresponsible incompetence we are right up there with the Donald and his cronies.

Check out this week's pitiful Cabinet re-shuffle. Downing St briefed out there were going to be more women around the table offering proof the Tories were better than a creaking shell company fronting up for a dwindling bunch of octogenarian racists and a bunch of tax dodging hedge fund types.

Things didn't take long to go well and truly south. Justine Greening spat the dummy and told her Prime Minister she could shove the Department of Pensions where the sun didn't shine and resigned. Which meant Mrs May had lost a comprehensive educated lesbian from Rotherham and a vital plank in her bid to portray the Tories as a modern and human.

Shit, shit, shit, SHIT........

We need more women! Any women. Just find me one. We promised to unveil a better look....... We promised a fucking photo!!!

Well boss, how's about this. We bin off the Immigration Minister and give the job to a woman. Then we spin a line. Something like this. Brexit means Immigration is big news, right? I mean fucking huge, yeah? So huge that the Immigration Minister needs to sit in on cabinet meetings. Yeah? See where I'm going here.... It means another pair of high heels in the photo opportunity....


I think I like it....

Anyone in mind.....

Not really. Who gives a shit really. It just needs to be a genuine female. Christ, I don't know. What about Caroline Nokes? She's a safe pair of hands. Quiet as a mouse and always does as she's told.

You sure about that. I don't want another Anna fucking Soubry....

No. She's fine. True Blue and loyal. Wouldn't say boo to a goose.

And she's a woman.

100%. To the core.

Sod it. Get her on the phone.... does she know anything about immigration?

I haven't a Scooby. She's from Kent so she's probably pissed of with too many towel heads hiding in the back of trucks.

Work experience?

She was Chief Executive of the Pony Club....

For fuck's sake.... anyway we're all out of time. Just get her on the bloody phone..


And so here we are. Hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals are living in a constant state of gnawing fear whilst the Home Office grinds slowly to a halt and in order to get enough females into a photo opportunity around the Cabinet Table we now have the former chief executive of the Pony Club as the person tasked with steering the post Brexit immigration policy. 

This pathetic pantomime is all too similar to the even more pathetic pantomime which gets played out every single day in the White House. Every time Trump Tweets out yet another burst of vicious bile we wonder how on earth 30% of Americans can continue to support him.

Well fair enough, but it is hard not to be drawn to the words pot, kettle and black. We Scots are supposed to be an instinctively canny bunch and yet 50% of us continue to sign on to the belief that it is a great thing to be ruled by these inept clowns in Westminster.

A couple of days ago Dr Philippa Whitford MP threw a statistic down onto the floor of the House of Commons which really shouldn't have been to hard for even the very stupidest voter to understand: in Scotland we have 4 NHS beds per 1000 head of population. In England they have 2.3 NHS beds per 1000 head of population. It's why our A&E waiting times are so much shorter. It's why our treatment is so much better. Why is this? Do we have a whole lot more cash to spend that they have south of the border? No. What we do is spend all the cash on the NHS rather than siphoning it into the grasping hands of the private sector.

This kind of story is replicated in almost every areas where we are allowed to govern ourselves.

And yet we still have 50% of our people blindly signing on the dotted line to be screwed by London for ever and ever amen. 

So we do not have any right to laugh at the Americans who continue to cheer lead Trump. We Scots of course are deemed far too simple and child-like to be allowed to make our own decisions about immigration. Immigration is a big boys issue which is way above our meagre abilities. Much better we leave this issue in the hands of the great Caroline Nokes MP, ex British Pony Club.

Holy bloody Christ.

So go on Xchi. I know you are duty bound to keep up the inscrutable Asian thing, but I think it would be OK if you let that small smile widen just a tad. 

We really are truly laughable.