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, March 27, 2018


Monday morning. Usual routine. Greggs for fifty loaves of bread and then up the Nith valley for seventy packs of sliced ham from Brown Brothers in Kelloholm. There are two ways of making this particular journey. You can fume your way north behind tractors and trucks and curse the lack of overtaking opportunities. Or you can take the second option which takes half an hour or so longer and is worth every second when the morning is sparkling bright. 

A morning where the views are longer than long. A morning when it is easy to understand why Scotland is the most popular tourist destination on this choked up planet of ours.

Usually my back road drive gives me the chance to clear my had of clutter and sort of free wheel the miles. But yesterday there was a nagging feeling. An itch. The all too familiar feeling of waiting on the phone. And when is all said and done, what is there to like about waiting on a phone to ring?

Regular readers will know we had our fight to win a share of the Council's anti poverty money on Saturday. Many regular readers will know this for a stone cold fact for the simple reason many regular readers of this blog turned up to give us their vote. I couldn't believe how far some of you travelled to gives us your support. Bloody amazing to be frank.

The bare bones were as follows. There were twenty five charities vying to win the support of 350 voters. A lot of talking! When we packed up our stuff at the end of the day, we really didn't know how it had gone. Sure, lots of people said lots of supportive things and lots of people told us we had been their first choice. But would there be enough of them? Impossible to say. It was very much our first experience of being at the sharp end of the democratic process.

Colin, the Council guy in charge of running the thing, promised he would let us all know one way or another on Monday. So there I was. Edging around the pot holes and watching the sparkling sunlight bounce off the waters the Nith. And waiting on the phone.

Well it didn't ring all the way up the Nith valley. And it didn't ring al the way back down again.

But when I got back to First Base and cracked open my e mail account there was a message awaiting. Ahh. So the moment of truth wasn't going to come through the phone after all. No point putting it off. When you take off a plaster the best bet is just rip it, right?

My eyes scanned the screen and the key words jumped out at me.

'I am pleased to inform you........'

A wave of relief. No air was punched. No high fiving. Just relief. And only at that very moment did I realise just what a bitter pill it would have been if we hadn't made it. 15 years and tens of thousands of food parcels. It would have been tough to take if our local community hadn't deemed us worth the nod.

But it didn't happen. We got the nod. And it is certainly high time to say a huge thank you to everyone who turned out to give us the nod.

Well the relief passed and yesterday I spent several hours sawing, splitting and stacking timber. And I got to thinking just how absurd all of this is. For eight years now the most inept and brutal Westminster government I have ever known has been sticking pins into poor people because the Daily Mail demands it. And for the last eight years the likes of First Base have been scrambling to try and alleviate the misery Whitehall has caused.

And still they have the front to put on their pious faces and play the part of being the grown ups who are determined to put the country's finances in order. And for eight years their serial incompetence has seen the national debt double whilst hundreds of thousands of Brits have been thrown into lives of abject misery.

Remember the Bedroom Tax? Thankfully we don't have to suffer the infamous Bedroom Tax up here in Scotland. Thankfully our Government in Edinburgh has seen it for what it is - gratuitous nastiness that costs way more than it ever saves. Casual cruelty served up on a silver platter to satisfy the vicious needs of angry old people who read the Daily Mail and hate just about everyone.

Anyway. I digress. The Bedroom Tax was supposed to save £100 million a year. In practice it must be costing at least twice that as the tax payer picks up the tab for tens of thousands of families being evicted and parked up four to a room in run down B&B's. One star guest houses have never had it so good. You don't need to worry about TripAdvisor when the local Homeless Department ensures your 'No Vacancies' sign never has to be taken down.

What do you call it when you try to save £100 million and instead you spend £200 million? Complete ineptitude. That's what you call it. And all the while the likes of First Base have to fight to keep the poor sods the clowns of Whitehall have screwed over afloat.

HMG has recently been trying to clean up the various nuclear power stations which have run their course. Now this is complicated stuff, right? Complicated as in a half a century's worth of hyper toxic radio active waste. Not the kind of job you would really want to leave in the hands of serial cock up merchants. So they asked for companies to put in their tenders whilst trying to fix the game to make sure the cheapest bid won the day regardless of which bid offered the safest bet. Well of course they blew it. Can you seriously imagine these idiots managing this kind of complicated corruption successfully? Aye right. The cheap and cheerful outfit won the bid and the better, more professional outfit lost out and were understandably pissed off. In fact they were so pissed off they took HM Government to court and duly rinsed them. The cost of this particular ineptitude? You got it. £100 million. Oops. And now the cheap and cheerful boys are slowly but surely going bust and by the time the radioactive dust settles the whole thing will have cost us billions.

And for what? And in a desperate attempt to get even close to balancing the books they will once again heed the Redtop clarion call and continue to slam the poor. Over and over and over again. And all the while the bitter and twisted septuagenarian readership of the Daily Mail will revel in the suffering because that it is what they do. And all the while the likes of First Base will scratch and scrape for every penny whilst we make like King Canute and try to hold back the tide of Westminster uselessness.

And on and on it will go. A Groundhog Day of grinding poverty played out in a world where less than a hundred people own half of everything

But I digress from the main purpose of these words. On Saturday we had a win. And this particular win will mean we can help out 500 or so people over the next year who have had their lights turned out care of the DWP. Who have had their heating switched off care of the DWP. Who have been royally screwed by the DWP.

It is a win thanks to you guys. Saturday's win means King Canute can brace his knees and carry on with holding back the tide duties.

Not for the first time in this blog I'm going to look to 'Apocalypse Now' for a wind the thing up quote.

 Willard:   “It was the way we had over here of living with ourselves. We’d cut them in half with a machine gun and give them a Band-Aid. It was a lie—and the more I saw of them, the more I hated lies.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Imagine a reality TV style voice over. You know. Kind of deep and super serious. Maybe some semi ominous music in the background.

".... the battlefield...... The Usual Place, Dumfries.....

...... The battle.... 28 charities are going to fight it out for £96,000

..... only five can prevail....................... "

And then there would be a montage of grim faced charity managers, all primed and ready for the fight for their lives.

OK, OK. I know. Calm down Frankland. And I fully accept this picture might well be wrong on all kinds of levels as I am not a person who watches any kind of reality TV.

So I best dump the voice over and the music and get back down to earth.

Last Saturday First Base had our first brush with local democracy in a council meeting hall in Gretna.

"..... 15 local charities..... £58,000 of lifeblood funding... only four will be left standing...."

So how did it go? Well it was bloody cold. 160 people cast their votes to decide who would get a share of the cash. Everyone had the chance to make five choices. Their favoured charity got 5 points, the next favoured 4 points, and so on all the way down to one point. So each voting slip had a total of 15 points which meant a grand total of 2400.

The last vote was cast just before three o'clock and we all had to wait on tenterhooks until yesterday morning to see if we had made it.

My phone rang a little after nine and Colin from the council put me out of my misery. So how did we do? I guess the best way to describe it is bloodied but unbowed.

We got 257 votes. Just over 10% of the total. Enough to put us into fourth place. I kind of figured anything in the top five would be enough for us to get what we had applied for.

Not so.

The top three bids amounted to £52,000 which meant there was only £6000 left for fourth place. We had bid for £12,000 so it wasn't exactly a win, but it certainly wasn't abject defeat.

I asked how far we were adrift for third place and the answer was something of a jaw dropper. Third place had 260 points. As in three more than us....


Just one more person! Brutal.

I absolutely must mention the magnificent men and women of 'Annandale YES' in these dispatches. Ten of then turned out to support us and their votes absolutely got us over the line. Thanks guys.

So what does it mean? Well, just over half of the money we were asking for was for emergency power for people in Annandale and Eskdale who are so completely stone broke they can't afford any heat and light.

We're going to have to scale our plans back a bit. What we will be able to do is offer £250 a month of emergency power per month via the Citizens Advice office in Annan. How will it work? Simple. If any of their clients are living in the cold and dark as a result of being rendered completely penniless due to having their benefits 'sanctioned', we will call the client and arrange to meet them at a paypoint to get the lights back on.

We would have loved to have been in a position to offer this service all across the region, but we're going to have to cut our cloth accordingly. As they say in my old Lancastrian stamping ground, summat's better than nowt.

So now it's time to rally the troops, fix up the walking wounded, oil the guns and march our battered forces onto the next battlefield.

The Usual Place, Dumfries at 11 o'clock next Saturday morning.

I guess it's going to be something of a bun fight. When punters arrive at one of these 'Participatory Budgeting' events, they are encouraged to make their way around all of the stalls, hear what the charities plan to do to alleviate local poverty, and then to cast their votes accordingly. To be honest, it didn't really work out this way at the event last Saturday. I guess about a third of the punters did the rounds. The majority made a beeline for one of the stalls, said their hellos, voted, and headed back out into the biting cold of the 'Mini Beast from the East'.

I have no doubt it will be the same story again this Saturday. If a voter gives each of us 5 minutes to make our case, it will take them two and a half hours to make it all the way around the room. Ain't never going to happen, right? 

If we are going to make it through this thing, we are going to need a whole bunch of our supporters to turn out and get us over the line. So if by any chance you are in and around Dumfries on Saturday maybe you could spare a few minutes to call in to the Usual Place to give us a helping hand.

And if we are successful? Well if we make it, we will have about £10,000 worth of emergency power available for the good people of Nithsdale - From Kirkconnel all the way down the river to Dumfries. 

It really is impossible to overstate just how soul crushingly miserable it is to face weeks on end living in candle light and eking out freezing cold hour after freezing cold hour. It's a truly brutal punishment for being a few minutes late for an appointment at the Job Centre or not being able to read and write well enough to keep up with their harsh regime. Well, with your help we can get the heat and light back on for these people.

We have been doing this for over a year now thanks to the money we raised via a spectacularly successful online funding campaign. In an average month we help out about 30 people to the tune of £30 each. I probably should make one thing completely clear. We DON'T hand out cash. We accompany our clients to the paypoint to put the cash straight onto the meter.

I guess I'm done here.

The Usual Place, Dumfries

Saturday 24 March

11 am to 3 pm

We're really going to need all the help we can get. Please share this far and wide. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Our local Council are kicking off a pretty interesting experiment this month. They have allocated £240,000 for local projects who are trying to tackle poverty.

So. OK. There's nothing particularly new in this of course. And as the region's main food bank we have obviously thrown our hat in the ring.

To start with the process of putting our name forward was pretty routine. An online application form with all the usual the questions. Who are you? How are you governed? What do you do? What do you hope to do? Where will you do it? How much is it going to cost?

Answering such questions is meat and potatoes for any front line charity in the world. And to be honest, most of the time it pretty much sucks. We all do our best to make a difference as the tide of poverty inexorably rises. We have a whole bunch of brilliant volunteers who give up their time and energy for a simple reason - they want to make a difference. They want to make things better for the people in their community who have drawn the shortest of short straws. You can maybe imagine how hard it is to encapsulate all of this into a digital box where you are told in no uncertain terms not use more than 200 words. Or else.

And once you have done your level best to paint a picture of what you do, a decision on whether or not you are worth funding is made purely on the basis of the 200 or so words you have squeezed into the digital box.

At First Base we get lucky about one time in six. Is it frustrating? You bet it's frustrating. It makes you want to smack your head against the wall.

Well, to their great credit, our Council have acknowledged this and they have changed things up. They will not be making the decision as to which projects will be chosen to try to stem the rising tide of local poverty. All the Council are doing is checking applications met the required criteria.

And the final decision? Well they are leaving that to the people. To you. To us. To the community. Dumfries and Galloway are going all Scandinavian and passing some power down to the people.

So how is it going to work? Quite simply, actually. Over the next month there will be four public meetings held across the region. The likes of ourselves will be given a table to lay out our wares and the doors will be opened to the public at 11 am. For four hours we will get the chance to try and persuade people we will make a genuine impact on local poverty and then the members of the public who come along get the chance to vote. The doors close at 3 pm.

These are the three meetings we will be attending.








So now I guess you can see where I am coming from in the title of this blog! We really hope you might be willing to spare an hour so to come along and hopefully reward us with your vote. Right now I am viewing this new Council idea with great positivity. I guess it might be hard to feel the same if we wind up pitching our heads off and not getting any votes. 

However, if we fail to win enough support for our applications to be successful, well it will be much easier to live with than being rejected by some faceless group of people playing God on the basis of 200 words in a digital box.

OK. I now need to say what we plan to do if we are successful.

Right now our emergency food parcels are available to collect from a network of 24 'pick up' points spread all the way across the region from Langholm to Castle Douglas. By the end of this week this list will have grown to 26 once the customer service centres in Eastriggs and Lochmaban receive their first deliveries.

A couple of months ago we received funding from the Scottish Government to also provide emergency sanitary ware. 

If we manage to persuade to persuade the public to vote for us at the coming events, we will be able to provide important extra support.

1. We will make sure all our collection points carry a supply of emergency dog and cat food. This is more important than you might think. All too often people will feed their pets before they feed themselves when they find themselves in crisis.

2. We will make sure all our collection points carry a supply of basic toiletry bags - soap, shampoo, toothbrush and paste, deodorant, a face cloth, a razor and gel.

3. The big one. We will extend our 'Donald Fund' across the whole region. Some background is needed here. In December 2016, I met a guy at the counter who had just been had all his benefits sanctioned for three months. He was struggling with pretty much everything. It was clear to me in a matter of minutes he had severe learning difficulties and he was in no way capable of keeping up the Job Centre's tough regime of thirty plus online job applications a week. He had run out of power and he was facing the grim prospect of eking out three winter months in the cold and dark.

I awarded him the name Donald and told his story in a blog. We set up a JustGiving page and asked if people might be willing to chip in a couple of quid to get his lights back on. Our target was £160. Over the next few days over £8000 came in and we were able to set up the 'Donald Fund' to help out others in the same dismal boat. 

The Donald Fund is available to anyone who has had the their benefits sanctioned. It is also available to anyone who for some reason is receiving no money whatsoever, usually as a result of a DWP cock up. On average we help out about 20 people a month and the average award is £25. Those we help need to bring along their Job Centre paperwork and we never hand out any cash. Instead we go along to a Paypoint and put the money straight onto the meter.

So far we have only been able to offer this service out of our main base in Dumfries. To date we have used up £6000 of our original funding. If we can win enough votes, then we will not only be able to top up the fund, we will also be able to make it available from all of our 'pick up' points across the region.

We think this will make a huge difference. We have already seen this time and again. It is impossible to overstate just how soul destroying it is to have to live in an unheated, unlit home. The days last forever. The hours last forever. The cold eats into the bones. The endless boredom is spirit crushing. No wonder some commit a crime and wait to be caught: prison comes a blessed relief.

If you are able to come along to any of the events, we will be more than happy to tell you more about our plans.

However, I need to make something clear before going any further with this. We have held long and in depth discussions and come to a pretty major decision.

No babies will be kissed. Baby kissing is a bridge to far. And if an unwillingness to kiss infants means our bid fails..... well I guess we're just going to have to live with it.


Time to wind this up. If you can spare a weekend hour to come along and vote for us, please do. And please share this around to anyone you know who might be willing to come along to help us out.

One more time...








Sunday, March 11, 2018


The room looked much the same as it must have looked in 1998. Or even 1898. Leather seating. A gleaming hardwood balcony. Walls adorned with pictures of men and women who had added their voices and thoughts into seven hundred years of history. The air carried the faint smell of oldness. Times lost and gone and more or less forgotten.

The burgundy benches were sparsely populated. Professor Virat Singh of Edinburgh University hadn't been enough of a draw to put many bums on the leather. The hall was maybe a third full, but this was nothing unusual. The real audience would be found far beyond the old hall. All over the world virtual students of the university might have been tuned in via their headsets which made them feel like they were actually there in person. Many there were millions. Maybe a mere handful.

A female professor who looked like a twig wrapped in tweed introduced the Cambridge Union's guest speaker for the night. She listed all his books and achievements and made sure the audience was aware he was also one of them. Magdalene College 2016 to 2019. A first in History. Enough for a scholarship to Harvard and an eighty year long academic career.

And his topic?

'These islands have had a disproportionate impact on the history of the world'

And so with no more ado...

The old man stood and scanned the sparse audience. And he introduced himself with a small smile.

"The last time I was in this room was eighty years ago. 2018. I was twenty. Which of means I am now 100 years old. When I was born in Preston Royal Infirmary, I might have expected to achieve the average lifespan of the day. 78. Well of course things have changed. As a well paid professional, I have been able to take advantage of every one of the medical miracles of the last hundred years. And now? Now my doctor confidently predicts I will be around for at least another thirty years. We'll see I suppose..."

He quickly ran through the story of his life. Coming back from Harvard to a disintegrating post-Brexit Britain. A Britain which soon became 'the Rest of the UK' as first Scotland and then Ulster opted for the lifeboats rather than going down with the English ship. He painted sepia pictures of the mayhem of the Corbyn years and the unstoppable rise of the England First Party.

After a sip of water he recalled an appearance on Question Time when he went toe to toe with the leader of the EFP over the economic benefits of immigration. And then being stopped dead on the pavement three days later.

"Who the fuck do you think you are, you Paki bastard. Paki scum..."

Three months in hospital. A broken arm. Four cracked ribs. Major head injuries. A punctured lung. Touch and go for a while. Borderline. Fifty, fifty. And the men in the trademark leather jackets never brought to court.

And as he had slowly eased away from death, he had made his mind up to get away from the swirling darkness.

North to Edinburgh. North to the sanctuary of Scotland.

"You may be surprised to hear this is the first time I have been back to England in seventy five years. I took a long time to agree to tonight's invitation. I have learned there is no shelf life to fear. But never mind. I am here. And so are you."

And with another sip of water he moved into his topic

"These islands of ours have much to answer for. For hundreds of years our Empire was a truly brutal thing. We dominated the slave trade. We came close to committing the perfect genocide in Australia. We oversaw famines in Ireland and India which did for more souls than even Stalin managed. When we arrived in West Bengal in the late Eighteenth Century, India was home to 23% of the world's GDP. When we left in 1947, the figure had fallen to less than 3%. It was grand larceny on a scale never seen before or since. Of course over the last eighty years, many of the countries we robbed blind have enjoyed a feast of revenge eaten cold. People tell me what goes around, comes around. It will seem extraordinary to your generation, but when England left the European Union there were still deluded idiots who took to the TV screens and seriously expected the countries we had looted would want to forgive and forget and beat a path to our door....... Oh dear."

A couple of late comers took their seats with small apologetic waves. Professor Singh acknowledged them with a smile.

"However in the midst of all the brutality and theft and oppression and appalling self satisfaction, people from these rain drenched islands managed to turn the history of the world on its axis three times. And more to the point, it was mostly for the good."

And now as he reached the heart of his address, he speeded up a little. He reached back to the days before Dickens and the men who worked out how to harness the power of steam. Trains and ships and printing presses and vast factories. The Industrial Revolution which eventually delivered an average lifespan of many, many years more than 35. The Industrial Revolution which created vast cities and started to shrink the world. The Industrial Revolution which made possible the battle of Paschendaele and the gas chambers of Auschwitz Birkenau.

"Like I said. It was only mostly for the good. The machines of the Industrial Revolution turned mankind's dark side pitch black. But we must never forget the affordable books and the libraries. And the spread of education which slowly but surely led to votes for all and a degree of equality. It wasn't factories which created the vast inequalities of the 2020's and the rise of the EFP, Brexit's bastard child. It might be said it was the lack of factories. But I get ahead of myself....."

And now he took the sparsely populated room back to the dark days of 1942 when Hitler's U boats were making a decent fist of starving Britain to death. The Enigma code and the mathematical geniuses of Bletchley Park who eventually cracked it and thereby won the battle of the Atlantic.

"Defeating Hitler was of course a truly great thing. But it wasn't the main thing. The main legacy of the men and women of Bletchley Park wasn't the demise of the hideous Austrian corporal. The main legacy was the invention of the computer which changed the world even more profoundly than the steam engine."

Another sip of water. Another cautious glance around the room.

"So. Let me take you back to the spring of 2032. I watched things unfold from the safety of Edinbugh, which at the time was the most buoyant city in the world. Things south of the border were going from bad to worse to even worse again. The two main parties were falling apart. The late 2020's saw a succession of huge financial scandals. Both the main parties were as bad as each other. It seemed as if every MP in the House of Commons had an offshore account. The people were seething mad and abject poverty was a fast spreading virus. An election was called for 16 June 2032 and all the smart money was on the England First Party smashing through much like Hitler's Nazi party had done a hundred years before.

"And then a Press Conference was called by a brand new party. They called themselves the Sanity Party. Five of them sat at the table. In front of the cameras. Nobody would have cared about the two university professors. Well of course they wouldn't. Nobody would of cared about the single professional politician who had once been a junior minister. Instead it was the last two members who grabbed the attention of the media. Once was a tech billionaire who Forbes judged to be one of the five richest men in the country. And the fifth was film star who had cut his teeth in English TV dramas before heading across the Atlantic to become a global superstar. He was often described as the 'thinking woman's crumpet'. He was a man adored by public and advertisers alike. He put bums on seats. He guaranteed the Sanity Party its air time. And of course he did all the talking.'

'Their message? Oh that was simple enough. Everyone's lives were being ruined by the corruption of politicians. Corruption and ineptitude. These vain, preening men and women were clearly incapable of creating a life worth living for the people of England. And the solution? The solution was the Sanity programme. The Sanity Party would hand the business of day to day government to a computer. Ten simple manifesto promises would be fed into the programme and the computer would do the rest. The computer would never be corrupt. The computer would never be distracted by a sex scandal. The computer would care nothing about short term popularity. The computer would never sleep or take time off. The computer would absorb and process a billion times the amount of information any human being could ever absorb. A computer would be beyond the reach of corporate money. Instead, it's only focus would be on delivering the ten point manifesto of the Sanity Party.'

'The media met the new party with derision and contempt. And once again the pundits second guessed the mood of electorate and got it completely and utterly wrong. Every Sanity Party video went viral. Every public meeting was standing room only. And over six extraordinary weeks, support for the broken old parties and the hateful new fascists drained away like rain in the desert. On 16 June the Sanity Party won 83.2% of the votes cast and they duly formed a government.

'Item number one on the manifesto was 'less inequality'. This had been rubbished by one and all. If the rich were taxed harder, the rich would pack their bags and leave. So promised the spitting mad right wing press. Any measure which threatened the free market would send the country into an even greater tail spin. Anarchy would rule.

'The Sanity Party had promised to make the decisions of the programme a public event. They were good to their word. The computer made a five minute video of its first decision and the film was watched by a vast TV and online audience. And it wasn't just watched in England. People tuned in from all corners of the world to see what government by computer would look like in the flesh. Here. Let me play the video for you."

The lights dimmed and a screen dropped down from the ceiling. Sanity rolled out statistics and moving pictures. It's topic was the public school system and the role it played in guaranteeing those with money would always dominate all the top jobs and thereby guarantee the gravy train would never hit the buffers. 

7% of the population of England attended public schools in 2032 and yet they dominated all positions of power. 71% of judges. 63% of senior army officers. 50% of TV presenters. 45% of journalists. 42% of the average Cabinet........... The list ran for one minute and 32 seconds. Enough to make the audience angry. Not long enough to get people switched off and bored. Sanity had calculated the exact optimal time by studying thousands of pages of research. And then Sanity snapped out it's solution. Anyone entering any public school from September onwards would face a number of restrictions. From 2036, no English university would be allowed to admit anyone who had studied at a public school. Anyone who studied at a public school after September 2032 would not be eligible for employment in any public office whatsoever. Not the army. Not the police. Not the judiciary. Not the BBC. Not Parliament or local councils. Not the NHS.

In fifty three seconds Sanity destroyed hundreds of years of ingrained privilege. And in doing so, the governing computer didn't spend a single penny of public money.

"In follow up poll 87% of the population backed the computer and the rest is of course history. It was the start of the best new era mankind has ever come up with. Today every democracy in the world runs on the railroad Sanity built back in 2032. Men and women create manifestos and computers deliver them. No more human failings. No more vanity and corruption and stubbornness and crazy ideology. Decisions are made for the next hundred years instead of the next five years. Sanity succeeded where the likes of Lenin and Castro and Mandela all failed. And thanks to these small islands, mankind has finally found a way to govern for everyone rather than a select few.'

'And you know what? In my humble opinion, this final great contribution might even make up for all the evils we committed over all the hundreds of years of our blood soaked Empire. When I last sat in this old room, I was filled with the optimism of youth. When I was left for dead on the pavement, I would never have dreamed I would ever again know such hope. And yet here I am. Back after seventy five years. A hundred years old and living in a world better than I would ever have dreamed possible. Thank goodness we finally woke up to our own failings. Shakespeare saw this with his usual clarity

'But man, proud man,
Dressed in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape
Plays such tricks before high heaven
As makes the angels weep.'

'Oh and how the angels wept. They wept for thousands of years until the Sanity Party finally allowed us all to get in touch with what Abraham Lincoln once called 'the better angels of our nature'.

'Well, amen to that. What a gift to the world. To the future. Far greater than steam engines and factories and computers. For the Sanity Programme is the gift of genuine hope. Forever. The Sanity Programme finally turned democracy from being the least worst solution to the very best solution."

A small smile. A shrug.

"I do believe I have said all I have to say. Many thanks for your attention."

He shook some hands and left to gentle applause. Outside, he climbed into a driverless taxi which silently eased up into the night sky and turned to the north.

Sunday, March 4, 2018


So here are a couple of facts to wrap your head around.

Number one. About 3.75 million people live in Cape Town.

Number two. The city is set to run out of water in about a month.

For months, the residents of Cape Town have been required to get by on 87 litres a day. Is this a lot? Hardly. Three flushes of the toilet and one two minute shower use 60 litres. So no. 87 litres is not a lot. In the next few days, the ration is due to be chopped down to 50 litres. And then barring a miracle, all the taps will be switched off altogether in a few weeks time. This will mean nearly four million people will have to queue up for hours to fill one Jerry can a day.

Is Cape Town alone in facing up to this nightmare? Nope. It is merely the first large city to get to find out how things look when the well actually runs dry. There are 29 huge cities around the world lined up to be the next on the six o clock news. Tokyo is the big one. Imagine thirty million people waiting in line every day. It would be bonanza for any manufacturers of Jerry cans I guess.

When I was growing up, the big fear was about what would happen when the world ran out of oil. As things have turned out, we will have solved the problem long before the oil wells run dry. Whilst our collection of Pygmy politicians play their silly little party games the rest of the world is riding off over the horizon. A pretty clear picture of the future is coming into focus and it isn't a good look for our puffed up little island. Yeah, I know. What's new, right?

Over the last few weeks I have become rather obsessive about the sheer speed of the unfolding renewable energy revolution. I started with a bunch of YouTube videos from a bunch of Hillbilly types in baseball caps and check shirts. So here's the thing. With four solar panels, a bank of car batteries and various other bits and bats of kit, you can create your own solar power station and hook it into your house. The whole shebang costs about a thousand pounds or so. And then? Then nothing. The system isn't like a car where you keep having to fill up to keep it running. Once the system is in place it runs on fresh air. Or fresh sunshine to be more precise. Our electric bill is about £120 a month. £1500 a year or so. Which of course means our £1000 investment will be repaid in eight months and then the days of the electric bill will be consigned to history.

Other countries have woken up and smelt this particular brew of coffee. By 2040 Germany will be 100% powered from renewable sources. Which of course means electricity will essentially be free of charge: forever. A professor came up with a snappy way of ramming home why this can be.

'The sun has never sent Germany an invoice'.

Germany has already worked out that the vast majority of its people are going to do exactly what I hope to do. It will become a country of twenty million micro power stations all hooked up together. So I wonder where people will choose to site new factories in 2040. Will it be in the UK with our forty year Hinckley Point deal with the Chinese to guarantee the dearest electricity on planet earth? Or will it be Germany where the monthly bill will basically be a big fat zero.

Free power is no longer a pipedream. It is a certainty for the countries who get their act together. And with free power will come free transport and the whole fabric of life will be re-modelled.

And of course Scotland should be in pole position to be member of this particular club. We've got the wind, waves, light and space to power a country with ten times our population and then some. Does this mean we can make like Germany? Not a chance. All this stuff needs serious investment and neither the Scottish Government nor our Councils are allowed to borrow necessary funds. Think about it. How many people manage to buy a house without a mortgage or a car without HP? Big infrastructure needs long term borrowing and London ain't about to allow us to sign on any dotted lines, especially if the infrastructure in question will make Scotland a preferred destination for inward investment. We couldn't be having that now, could we?

The last two centuries have been dominated by fuel. The nineteenth century was powered by Big Coal and the twentieth century ran on Big Oil. Many, many millions of men and women died in the pursuit of both. Soon there will be no big power players. Instead we will all be generating our own. 

The identity of the most precious commodity in this unfolding century will come as no surprise to the people of Cape Town. Water of course. The new oil. All over the world underground reservoirs and aquifers are being sucked dry. Rain is falling in all the wrong places and when it falls, it tends to fall way too hard. At the same time millions of people are moving from the countryside to the new mega cities at the very time the same cities are in danger of running dry.

There are solutions of course, but by they are eye wateringly expensive. Sea water can be turned into drinking water by desalination plants. The moisture can be sucked from the air and maybe one day supertankers will carry water instead of oil. We will find solutions, but they will all be expensive. Who would ever have thought we would ever have to pay nearly £1.50 a litre for petrol? But we DID pay it. How much will a litre of clean water cost in fifty years time in today's money? 50p? £1? Who knows? What is certain is that all the money we spend on power now will be spent on water in the future.

At the turn of the twentieth century who could have possibly guessed that by 2000 the richest countries in the world would be the desert kingdoms of the Persian Gulf? Back then they were merely millions of acres of burning sand. 

A few countries are going to luck out when water becomes the new oil. And here is where Scotland has the potential to become the new Saudi Arabia. Is there another country on earth with out natural collection and storage system? As in mountains and lochs. Maybe New Zealand? It's a short list. And of course we also have endless millions of acres of empty space. Hopefully one day we will be able to offer free power just like Germany. But how many countries will be able to offer unlimited access to fresh water? 

Think about it. I reckon describing Scotland's future as dazzling is actually something on an understatement. Just ask the people of Cape Town or Tokyo. Much of the smart money in the world is being sunk into long term water. It's a no brainer really. Well we don't need smart money. All we need is smart people to turn out and vote 'Yes' for a future the rest of mankind can only dream of.