A story of Scotland’s independence referendum: ‘Mither’


From www.derekthomas.wordpress.com

From www.sodahead.com


Today, September 18th, is the first anniversary of 2014’s referendum on Scottish independence. 


That’s right – a year has now passed since the Scottish electorate voted, by a majority of 55% to 45%, in favour of remaining part of the United Kingdom.  A year has passed since the circuses of the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns were in full swing, which brought with them all manner of spectacles and happenings: interventions in support of the ‘no’ camp from personages as mighty as Barack Obama, the Pope, the Queen and J.K. Rowling; George Osborne threatening Scots that he wouldn’t let them continue using the pound if they voted ‘yes’; Alex Salmond losing his cool at Nick Robinson and the BBC; Jim Murphy getting struck by that dastardly egg; and the mainstream newspapers assuring us that a ‘yes’ vote would cause the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to gallop across Scotland spreading war, conquest, famine and death.


One narrative that the media peddled back then was that Scotland had become a divided country.  Families were in turmoil.  Parents and children, brothers and sisters, who’d previously lived together in harmony, had changed into rabid yes-sers and no-ers who were suddenly at each other’s throats.  For instance, last summer, the journalist Jenny Hjul wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “In Scotland… politics has become deeply personal.  We might have friends who are nationalists but they aren’t speaking to us at the moment…  The coming referendum has rendered such cross-party camaraderie inconceivable and it’s hard to see the day when things will return to normal.”  To be honest, considering the anti-independence poison and bile secreted by Hjul and her husband, the Telegraph’s Scottish editor Alan Cochrane, into their writings over the years, I’m amazed that they ever had nationalist friends in the first place.


Anyway, the Scottish-families-divided-by-independence theme inspired me a while ago to write a short story that took the idea to its logical extreme.  And seeing as it’s September 18th again, I thought I’d take this opportunity to post the story here.  So I now give you…  Mither.




I must have dozed while I sat in the office and read the literature that’d landed on our porch floor that morning.  I hadn’t heard her go out.  I only heard the porch door scrape open and shut as she came back.


‘Mither,’ I said when she entered the office.  ‘You were outside.’


She settled into the armchair with the tartan-patterned cushions that’d been her seat – her throne, we called it – when she ran the business by herself.  Now that I was mostly in charge, I had my own seat in the office but I kept the throne there should she want to use it.  She smoothed her skirt across her knees.  She was a modern-minded woman – at times too modern-minded because she had some ideas you’d expect more in a giddy teenager – but she avoided trousers and stuck to old-fashioned long skirts.  ‘Aye, Norrie.  I’ve been out and about.’


I didn’t like the sound of that but before I could quiz her she leaned forward from the throne and took the leaflet out of my hand.  ‘What’s this you’re reading?  Don’t say they’ve shovelled more shite through our door.’


It pained me to hear her genteel voice soiled by coarse language.  But I stayed patient.  ‘It’s actually interesting, Mither.  It’s an interview with a normal young couple, a professional young couple, about what might happen if the referendum result is…’  I searched for a word that’d cause minimum offence.  ‘Unexpected.’


Mither sighed and her eyes swivelled up in their sockets.


‘Now I ken you’re sceptical, Mither.  But they seem decent.  He’s called Kenneth and she’s called Gina.  And they’re worried about the effect independence would have on them.’


Mither’s eyes swivelled down again.  Then I saw them twitch from side to side while they scanned the text on the leaflet.


I pressed on.  ‘It wouldn’t have a good effect, Mither.  It’d be bad for them.’  Why did my voice tremble?  Why was I afraid?  ‘The financial uncertainty. How would decent hardworking people like them – like me – cope if all the business fled south and the prices shot up?  And the banks…  Why, I read in the paper the other day about an expert who said the bank machines would stop dispensing cash if the vote was yes!’


‘Does,’ asked Mither, ‘this say what Kenneth does for a living?’


‘And even if we still have cash, Mither, what would our currency be?  We won’t have the pound – George Osborne and Ed Balls down in Westminster won’t allow it!  We’ll have to make do with some banana-republic-type currency.  Or worse, the euro!’


From mairnorarochwind.wordpress.com


‘Norrie,’ said Mither, ‘calm down.  Does this leaflet actually say what Kenneth’s job is?’


‘Aye, of course it does.’  I faltered.  ‘Well, no. Maybe it doesn’t.’


She sighed.  ‘It certainly doesn’t, Norrie.  And I’ll tell you why.’  She raised the leaflet so that I could see a picture of Kenneth, Gina and their children on it.  She placed a fingertip against Kenneth.  ‘It’s because he’s Kenneth Braithwaite, who’s one of our local councillors.  One of our Conservative Party councillors.  But that fact isn’t mentioned here.  It pretends that he’s an ordinary unbiased person like you or me.’


I chuckled nervously.  ‘Now Mither.  I wouldn’t say you were unbiased.’


Mither rose from her throne.  ‘I am unbiased.  My mind’s open to facts and I form opinions and make decisions based on those facts.  Facts, mind you.  Not the propaganda and smears and scaremongering that’s poured out of the political and business and media establishments during the last year.  Not the drivel that’s clogged and befuddled your impressionable young mind!’


Before I could reply, she tore the leaflet down the middle and returned it to my hands in two pieces.  Then she hustled out of the office and shut the door behind her with enough force to make a stuffed owl wobble and almost fall off a nearby shelf.  I heard her shoes go clacking up the stairs and then another door slam, presumably the one leading into her room.


I seethed.  How I hated, how I loathed this referendum!  Setting family members against one another day after day!  I looked at the leaflet again and realised that by a creepy coincidence Mither had ripped it down the middle of the family-picture.  Now Kenneth and a little boy occupied one half of it while Gina and a little girl were sundered and apart in the other half.


And they seemed such a nice family.




I hated the referendum but I couldn’t wait for the day of it, September 18th, to come – and take place and be over with.  The problem was that the time until then seemed to pass very slowly.  And during this time it felt like a war of attrition was being waged against me.  I grew more tired and depressed the longer those separatists raved in the media and on the streets and from the literature they popped through the slot in our porch door.  A rash of yes stickers and posters spread along the windows in the street-fronts of our neighbourhood.  Some of them even appeared on the houses of people I’d thought were decent and sensible.


I began to panic.  God, could it happen?  I had visions of the doors padlocked and the windows boarded up on the old family business and Mither and I living in poverty alongside hundreds of thousands of other suddenly-penniless Scots.  While around us, food prices and fuel prices skyrocketed, the banks and financial companies whisked all their offices away to London, the housing market disappeared into a giant hole, the hospitals became like those in the developing world, and terrorist cells congregated in Glasgow and Edinburgh and prepared to attack England across the new border.


But worst of all was the madness this referendum campaign inspired in Mither.


She sensed when I was worn out.  While I was napping, or dozing off behind the desk in the office, or slumped in a stupor in front of the TV, she’d leave her room and creep down the stairs and do things.


These might be wee things.  If I wasn’t in the office, she might use the computer and I’d discover hours later that it was open at frightful separatist websites like Bella Caledonia or National Collective or Wings over Scotland.  The day’s Scottish Daily Mail might disappear from the kitchen table and turn up, scrunched into a ball, in the recycling bin in the corner.  Or if the Mail was left on the table, any photographs in it of Alistair Darling or George Osborne might have shocking words like tosser or bampot graffiti-ed across them in Mither’s curly handwriting.


More worrying was her tendency sometimes to sneak outdoors.  It would’ve been bad enough in normal times because she was too old and frail to be wandering the streets alone.  But in these dangerous times – who knew what she was up to and who she was associating with?


The evidence disturbed me.  When I visited her room I found a growing collection of things that she could only have acquired during trips outside – little Scottish saltire and lion-rampant flags, booklets of essays and poems written in support of independence, brochures for events with sinister titles like Imagi-Nation and Yestival, posters where the word can’t had the t scrawled out so that they read can instead.  She’d amassed badges, stickers and flyers with the word yes emblazoned on them.  What a disgusting-sounding word yes had become to me.  I’d contemplate Mither and imagine that horrible word spurting from her lips –


‘Yes!  Yes!  Yes – !’


And she’d argue.  Goodness me, what had got into the woman to make her so bloody-minded?  In between quoting names of people I’d never heard of, but who were undoubtedly up to no good, like Gerry Hassan and David Greig and Lesley Riddoch, she’d taunt me mercilessly.


‘So go on.  Tell me.  Explain.  Why can we not be independent?’


‘Because… We can’t!  We just can’t!  We’re too… too…’


‘Too wee?’


‘Aye!  Well, no.  Not that, not only that.  We’re also…’


‘Too poor?’


‘Aye, that’s true, Scotland’s too poor to be independent.  But the main reason is that we’re…’


‘Too stupid?’


‘Och stop it, Mither!  Stop!  You’re putting words in my mouth!’


‘But you agree with that basic proposition?  Scotland can’t be independent because it’s too small, its economy’s too weak and its people aren’t educated enough?’  She sighed.  ‘That’s what we’re up against.  A mass of our fellow Scots, yourself included, brainwashed by the establishment into believing their own inferiority!’


I stormed out of the room at that point.  What horrible people had she been talking to?


(c) The Independent

From www.yeshighland.net


A few weeks before the referendum-day, her madness reached what I assumed was its peak.  After the last guests had left the premises and after I’d washed and put away the breakfast things, I took the vacuum cleaner into the porch and started on the carpet there.  It took me a minute to notice something odd about the rack on the porch wall where I stored leaflets about local attractions that our guests might be interested in: Rosslyn Chapel, Abbotsford, Traquair House, Melrose Abbey and so on.  The leaflets in the rack had changed.  The tourist ones had disappeared.  In their place were different ones.  Political ones.


I put down the vacuum-hose and approached the rack.  Crammed into it now were leaflets I’d seen in her room advertising those sinister-sounding events like Imagi-Nation and Yestival and other ones promoting the unsavoury websites she’d consulted on the computer like National Collective, Bella Caledonia and Wings over Scotland.  Also there were leaflets for organisations with different but strangely-repetitive names: Women for Independence, Liberals for Independence, Polish for Independence, Asians for Independence, English for Independence, Farmers for Independence…  One organisation, whose leaflets were merely sheets of A4 paper that’d been photocopied on and folded, was even called Hoteliers for Independence.


I couldn’t help reading that Hoteliers for Independence leaflet.  It ended with the exhortation, ‘Please contact Hoteliers for Independence for more information at…’ and gave an address.  My insides turned cold as I read the address.  I found myself pivoting around inside the porch and facing different internal doors that led to different parts of the guesthouse.  I half-expected one door to have hanging on it a sign that said HOTELIERS FOR INDEPENDENCE – THIS WAY.


Then I peered up towards where a certain bedroom was located on the first floor and lamented, ‘Oh, Mither!’




One afternoon, close to September 18th, I woke from an unplanned doze at the desk in the office.  I’d been dreaming.  A voice in the dream had droned about – what else? – that ghastly referendum.  Disconcertingly, back in the conscious world, the voice continued to talk to me.  I realised it came from a shelf above me, where the radio was positioned between a stuffed gull and a stuffed pheasant.  The radio was tuned in to a local station and the voice belonged to a newsreader.  He was explaining that a politician, a Labour Party MP, was visiting our region today.


This MP had toured the high streets and town centres of Scotland lately.  To get people’s attention he’d place a crate on the pavement, stand on top of the crate and deliver a speech from it.  He’d speak bravely in favour of Great Britain and the Union of Parliaments and denounce the separatists and their vile foolish notions of independence.  And I’d heard from recent news reports that the separatists hadn’t taken kindly to his tour – well, as bullies, they wouldn’t.  They’d gone to his speaking appearances with the purpose of heckling him and shouting him down.


(c) BBC


Then the newsreader named the town the MP was due to speak in this afternoon.  It was our town.


And immediately I felt uneasy because I realised I hadn’t seen or heard anything of Mither for the past while.  I went upstairs and knocked on her door.  There was no reply.  The guesthouse was empty that afternoon and so I hung the BACK SOON sign in the porch-window, went out and locked the door after me.  Then I headed for the middle of town.


It wasn’t hard to find where the Labour MP was speaking because of the hubbub.  The MP seemed to have turned his microphone to maximum volume so that he could drown out the heckling and shouting from the separatists in his audience.  I emerged from a vennel and onto the high street and saw the crowd ahead of me.  It contained fewer people than I’d expected.  Some of them wore no badges and carried no placards – among them, I thought I glimpsed Kenneth and Gina from the brochure that Mither had ripped up – and some had badges and placards saying yes.  Looming above everyone was the MP on his crate.


The separatists present were trying to make themselves heard – without success, thanks to the MP’s bellowing voice and the amplification provided by the microphone.  It wasn’t until I reached the edge of the small crowd that I could understand what they were saying.


‘Answer the question, Murphy!’


‘He won’t answer the question!’


‘Quit shouting, man, and answer the question for God’s sake!’


Then I saw a figure standing at the back of the crowd a few yards along from me.  The figure wore a long flowing skirt, a woollen cardigan and a lacy Sunday bonnet that obscured its face.  A handbag dangled from one of its elbows and a small egg carton was clasped in its hands.  As I watched, the figure prised the lid off the carton,  lifted one of the six eggs inside and stretched back an arm in readiness to throw it –


I rushed at her and shouted, ‘Mither! Oh my God!’


(c) STV


What happened next is confusing.  I remember reaching her and knocking the carton from her hands so that eggs flew in all directions.  I remember not being able to halt myself in time and crashing into her so that she fell and I fell too, on top of her.  But then, somehow, I found myself lying alone on the ground.  Mither had disappeared.  She must’ve been sprightlier than I’d thought.  She’d gathered herself up and hurried away and left me there.


One of the eggs had made its way into my right hand.  Now it was a ruin of flattened broken shell.  Meanwhile, the yolk, white and shell-pieces of other eggs formed a gelatinous mess on the front of my woollen cardigan.


Then I was being helped to my feet.  Around me, I heard voices:


‘Who is it?’


‘Some auld lady.’


‘No, wait… Christ!  It’s a man!’


‘It’s young Bates.  You ken, Norrie Bates?  Him that runs the Bates Bed and Breakfast?’


‘Why’s he togged out like that?’


Someone took my arm and led me away.  Behind us, the MP, who seemed not to have noticed the commotion with Mither and me, kept roaring into his microphone.  We turned a corner into a side-street and paused there.  I identified the man steering me as Charlie Massie, who was the proprietor of another B and B in the town, a few streets away from ours.  He’d always seemed a gentle friendly type and it surprised me to see a yes badge stuck to his jacket lapel.


Charlie looked perplexed.  He scanned me up and down as if my appearance was a puzzle he wanted to solve.  ‘Norrie,’ he said at last.  ‘I think you need to go home.  As fast as you can manage.’


My head ached.  Something was squeezing my skull, which in turn was squeezing my brain.  I raised a hand and found my head enclosed in a lady’s bonnet.  It exuded two ribbons that were knotted under my chin.  In a final gesture of spite Mither must’ve fastened it on my head before she’d escaped.  ‘Aye,’ I whispered.  ‘I’ll go home.’


‘By the way,’ added Charlie, who seemed greatly troubled now.  ‘How’s your mither?  I haven’t seen her for a while.’




It was the morning of September 19th.  The radio had disappeared from the office and I guessed it’d travelled upstairs to Mither’s room and informed her of the result.  Still, in case she hadn’t heard, I felt obliged to go to her room and let her know.


She looked very small, thin and frail as she huddled there amid the paraphernalia she’d acquired, the flags, placards, badges, posters, leaflets and booklets.  On the floor around her, in a serpentine coil, there even lay a blue-and-white woollen scarf with a pair of knitting needles embedded in one unfinished end of it.  That was another lark she’d been up to.  Knitting for independence.


Because she looked so weak and unwell now, I understood that she knew.  The result seemed to have drained the life from her, leaving her a husk.


But I repeated the news.  ‘Mither.  It’s a no.’


She didn’t answer.  No sound came from her mouth, which was stretched back in a rictus – if I hadn’t known she was grimacing in pain and dismay, I’d have thought she was grinning.  I looked into her eyes, trying to find a glimmer of acknowledgement for me, a spark of recognition that I was standing before her.  But the eyes were blank and gaping, almost like they weren’t eyes at all but two dark holes.


And although I was relieved and delighted about the result, I suddenly and inexplicably felt as though a part of me was dead.


(c) Paramount

(c) Paramount

(c) Paramount


Definitely the last ever 2015 election post


This, I promise, will be my final comment on the UK general election, which took place on Thursday.  Thereafter, normal service will be resumed on Blood and Porridge.  Yes, I will return to writing about my usual topics, which are James Bond, Father Ted, graveyards, obscure British horror movies and the sexy places I have visited.


During the campaign that preceded it and in the actual results it produced, this election has sucked and yet, perversely, it’s felt rather enjoyable too.  Here are five reasons why it sucked; and five more reasons why, at the same time, I enjoyed it.




One: social media.

The Twitter-sphere and Internet generally are infested with abuse-screaming bampots of all political persuasions.  Vilely insulting other people who disagree with your political views, from a keyboard, at a safe and hidden distance, is abhorrent.  It’s a practice, however, that’s best dealt with by ignoring it.  Unfortunately, with Britain’s newspapers, we have a partisan traditional media that both mistrusts and misunderstands the nature of modern information technology; and treats it as an easy source of outrageous comments that can be held up and waved in your headlines as supposed proof that all your political opponents are foul-mouthed lunatics.


It possibly wasn’t a coincidence that the world best-loved and most fragrant lady novelist, J.K. Rowling, suddenly appeared in the Scottish – Labour Party-leaning – newspapers two days before the general election; where she talked about the online abuse she’d suffered last year at the hands, or tweets, of Scottish-independence supporters after she intervened in the independence debate and said it was a bad idea.  Yes, I think the timing of these sudden J.K. ROWLING TALKS ABOUT LAST YEAR’S TWITTER ABUSE BY SCOTTISH NATIONALISTS headlines was a wee bit suspicious – they hit the newspapers at the exactly the same moment that the Scottish Labour Party was breaking the emergency glass and pulling out her old friend, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, to try to save the party’s skin in Scotland.  (It didn’t work.  Scottish Labour ended up losing 40 of its 41 seats to the Scottish National Party.)


Predictably, J.K. Rowling is now getting more abusive tweets from the SNP’s lunatic fringe – which makes her Twitter stream a surreal place, where messages like “J.K. Rowling, you’re a traitor to Scotland!” alternate with ones from schoolgirls in South Korea asking her what Hedwig the Owl’s favourite flavour of cheese is.


From screenrant.com 


On the Internet, you’ll find psychotic SNP supporters, and psychotic Labour supporters, and psychotic Tories, and psychotic Greens.  And psychotic Quakers, and psychotic Buddhists, and psychotic Jedi Knights, and psychotic Coldplay fans.  If you’re going to use the new media that the communications revolution has spawned in the last 20 years, you have to accept the existence of such basket-cases as a sad inevitability and ignore them.  Especially if you dare to offer anything resembling an opinion.


And journalists, please stop wading into this online mire searching for stories.  Go into the real world and find some real stories instead.


Two: Russell Brand.

I don’t hate the hirsute and ubiquitous Russell Brand, even if I think he was a stupid dick a while ago to advise young people to disdain the democratic process and avoid voting.  I don’t even think it was foolish of Labour leader – former Labour leader – Ed Miliband to talk to him shortly before this election and persuade him that voting is actually a sensible thing to do.  In fact, Ed even persuaded Russ to endorse Labour.


What I find irritating is that after Ed had lost the election, Russell Brand immediately declared that he’d made his pro-voting (and pro-Labour) comments in the heat of the moment and hadn’t really meant what he’d said.  Though as soon as he’d disassociated himself from poor Ed, the electoral loser, he then predicted five years of strife under the new Conservative government and urged his followers to behave with ‘compassion’.


Which makes it sound like Russell was not only trying to have his cake and eat it; but also to take that cake to bed, and subject it to sustained and vigorous foreplay, and grease it with lubricant and shove it up his arse.


(c) The Independent


Three: the mainstream press. 

I’ve already written that the majority of Britain’s national newspapers are owned by a half-dozen super-rich, tax-dodging, far-right-wing gits, so I won’t mention that fact again.  (Oops.  I just have.)  Correspondingly, most of these newspapers’ election coverage had to be taken with an amount of salt equivalent to the annual output of the world’s largest salt mine.


And as I’ve written before, the coverage of Scotland in the right-wing press before the election was depressingly shrill and xenophobic.  Nor has it stopped during the three days since the Scottish voting public gave a huge mandate to the SNP.  Bruce Anderson, for example, has raged in the Daily Telegraph about ‘half the population of Scotland’ being ‘in the grip of religious hysteria’.  Meanwhile, Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir wrote a piece responding to the Scottish results with this charming headline: VILE BIGOTS HAVE MADE ME ASHAMED TO BE SCOTTISH.


You may remember that following the death of gay pop star Stephen Gately in 2009, Ms Moir wrote a homophobic column about him that resulted in 25,000 complaints being made to the British Press Complaints Commission.  So funnily enough, the words Vile bigot has made me ashamed to be Scottish are precisely what appear in my head whenever I hear mention of Jan Moir.


Four: denial.

To return to the Scottish Labour Party…  Although I don’t support them, I have actually felt a bit sorry for them since their Thursday-night slaughter at the hands of the SNP.  Particularly piteous have been the expressions of denial made by their (now nearly entirely unemployed) politicians: “It’s not our fault!”  “The public didn’t listen to us, the fools!”  And so on.


Mind-boggling rather than piteous, though, has been the reaction of their boss Jim Murphy.  Despite losing his seat, and despite his party’s number of MPs going from 41 to one under his watch, Jim is still there.  He maintains that he’s still the right man for the job of Scottish Labour Party leader.  He reminds me of the black knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who insists on continuing to fight after having his arms and legs cut off: “I’ll do you for that!  Come here!  I’m invincible!”  (King Arthur: “You’re a loony.”)


(c) The Daily Mail

(c) Michael White Productions


Mind you, J.K. Rowling did try to console poor Jim by making him an honorary member of the House of Gryffindor at Hogwarts.  Though I have to say that if Jim Murphy had had any authority at Hogwarts at the time of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Lord Voldemort would now be ruling the entire universe.


Five: the Tories won.

Well, obviously.  And bollocks!  They’ve just brought back Michael Gove.






One: social media.

Yes, the social media aspect of this general election sucked but, paradoxically, it was brilliant too.  I say that as someone who remembers how elections were in the olden days, when for your information you depended on supposedly-learned authorities penning pieces in the newspapers or pontificating on TV.  Basically, it was a case of well-to-do Oxford / Cambridge-educated political pundits telling us, the plebs, how things were and what to do about it.  And if you wanted to participate in the debate – well, you sat down and penned a letter and sent it off to a newspaper, in the dim hope that it might be published a few days later.


Compare that with now.  Blogs, Twitter, Facebook…  And probably a hundred other innovations that are too new and trendy for someone my age to even know about, let alone understand and use.  Lord George Foulkes can say something pompous and stupid and 30 seconds later you can be in his Twitter stream taking him to task about it and calling him a tube.  If that isn’t proper, participatory democracy, what is?


It also, incidentally, made this election incredibly funny.  Political satire is now something the entire population can indulge in, immediately, rather than having to sit down passively and read Private Eye magazine or watch Have I Got News for You.  Some of the jokes, quips, barbs and (courtesy of Photoshop) visual gags whizzing around the Internet have been brilliant.  I particularly like the one about the sartorially eccentric George Galloway, recently deposed MP for Bradford West, now having time to start ‘his Victorian ghost-hunting psychic detective agency’.


(c) The Daily Star


Two: bloodshed!

Galloway was just one of many politicians who suffered defeats in this election.  In fact, there were more heads left rolling in the dust than there were in several seasons of Game of Thrones.  It felt like a particularly gory afternoon spent at the coliseum in Ancient Rome – lots of sadistic entertainment for the audience, though probably not much fun for the gladiators.  This is remarkable when you consider how even the election that caused the most dramatic reshaping of the electoral landscape in the last 20 years, 1998’s one when Tony Blair trounced John Major, produced just one memorable casualty: Michael Portillo.


This time though, we saw the demise of Dougie Alexander, Jim Murphy, Vince Cable, Simon Hughes, Danny Alexander, Charles Kennedy and Ester McVey.  Plus most spectacularly of all, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls lost his seat by a few hundred seats.  Cue a million cruel Internet jokes about Labour getting its Balls cut off.


Three: Scottish people ignored the mainstream press.

Despite the Scottish newspapers spending the half-year prior to the election braying about how brilliant Jim Murphy was – facilitated no doubt by Murphy’s shifty but supposedly press-savvy spin doctor John McTernan – nobody in Scotland paid attention.  Result!


Four: failure of loonies.

The leader, sorry, ex-leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party and hence Britain’s right-wing loony / fruitcake in chief Nigel Farage – he was enthusiastically backed by the Daily Express, which says it all – stood as a parliamentary candidate in the constituency of Thanet.  He was, however, beaten and this failure prompted his resignation as UKIP leader.  When the result was announced, the face of comedian Al Murray, who ran as a joke-candidate against Farage, was an absolute picture.


(c) BBC


Talking of loonies and fruitcakes, I was delighted that Susan-Anne White, the demented evangelical-Christian candidate in the constituency I’m originally from, West Tyrone, garnered just 166 votes on the night.  Or as the Google election-results service put it, ‘0%’ of the total.


Five: be careful what you wish for, Tories.

In 1992, John Major pulled off a remarkable result for the Conservative Party.  He won a narrow majority – one that nobody had expected, but a majority nonetheless.  Yet within a year, his government was a shambles.  To keep his slender majority intact, Major had to devote his entire energy to threatening, appeasing and pleading with a large contingent of far-right-wing Conservative backbenchers, whose xenophobic, Europhobic, ‘hang-’em, flog ’em’ mind-set was barely distinguishable from that of UKIP today.


23 years later, we find David Cameron in the same situation.  He may be looking smug at the moment, but I suspect that smugness will evaporate very shortly as right-wing / moderate-wing civil war threatens to break out in his party.  I will, of course, be here to write about it when it happens.




(c) United Artists


I’ve spent the past few hours following Twitter-feeds and live-updates on various newspaper websites as folk report and react to the results of the 2015 UK general election.  In particular, I’ve been following the misfortunes of the Scottish Labour Party’s Members of Parliament.  Or ex-Members of Parliament as they nearly all are now.


It’s been payback-time for Scottish Labour after last year’s referendum on Scottish independence, when they campaigned shoulder-to-shoulder with David Cameron’s Conservative Party and blustered, threatened, whined and wheedled that it was far better for Scotland to be ruled by a right-wing Cameron government in London than to have a fully-independent parliament in Edinburgh pursuing its own policies that were more palatable to Scotland’s generally left-of-centre sensibilities.  Thanks to their referendum-campaign behaviour, the chancers, troughers, numpties and neds that made up Scottish Labour’s Westminster contingent have now been stuffed by the Scottish National Party.  Stuffed utterly.


In fact, this morning, counting those weary old Scottish Labour hacks as, one by one, they’ve been shown the door by their constituents, I’ve sounded a bit like the Count in Sesame Street.


“One…  Two….  Three…  Ah-ha-ha-ha!  Four…  Five…  Six…  Dougie Alexander…  Ah-ha-ha-ha!   Eight…  Nine…  Ten…   Jim Murphy…  Ah-ha-ha-ha!  Twelve…  Thirteen…  Fourteen…  Ian Davison…   Ah-ha-ha-ha!  Sixteen…  Seventeen…  Eighteen…  Margaret Curran…  Ah-ha-ha-ha!  Twenty…  Twenty-one…”  And so on and so forth, all the way to 40.


(c) Children’s Television Workshop


The SNP would’ve probably claimed all 41 of the Scottish Labour MPs’ scalps if it hadn’t been for Ian Murray hanging on in Edinburgh South.  Presumably this was due to a reaction against some ill-advised comments that his SNP opponent, Neil Hay, made on Twitter.  Hay’s comments were reported in a somewhat out-of-context manner by the Unionist-friendly media, but they were still pretty unpleasant and ignorant for an aspiring MP to make.


At least Dougie Alexander and Jim Murphy managed to make magnanimous and dignified speeches as they accepted defeat.  If their party had struck a similarly humble and non-belligerent tone at the start of the election campaign – as opposed to peddling their usual sense-of-entitlement / we-have-a-God-given-right-to-rule-Scotland-forever guff – they mightn’t be so deep in the ordure now.


Let’s hope this marks the end of the reign of the Scottish Labour leadership’s devious, unscrupulous and unashamedly-Blairite spin doctor, John McTernan.  He seemed to think he could win back Scottish voters by having his party’s MPs associate the SNP with the Tories in every sentence they uttered; and by banging on about lifting the alcohol ban at Scottish football matches; and by making lots of nice-sounding promises that were meaningless because they related to things Westminster no longer has authority over in Scotland – they’ve been devolved to Edinburgh and won’t be relevant until the Scottish election takes place next year.  Actually, McTernan’s strategies were based on the supposition that all Scottish people are as thick as mince.


The fact that Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy started the election campaign by claiming a vote for the SNP would allow the Tories back into power, and ended it by begging Tory voters in his constituency to vote Labour in order to keep the SNP out, said it all.


Elsewhere, it looks like Cameron will form the next UK government because he’s won enough Westminster seats in England and Wales.  (He’s also won one seat in Scotland because, cringe, horror, his single Scottish MP David Mundell has managed to survive as representative for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale — which, cringe, horror, is where I’m from.)  This will either be a purely Conservative administration or one with the support of some minor and sufficiently right-wing party like the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland.  Scottish Labour’s warnings that voting for the SNP rather than for them would allow Cameron back into Number 10 were unfounded.  Cameron would probably have retained power even if Labour had won all 59 constituencies in Scotland.


Incidentally, I felt great schadenfreude at the sight of George Galloway, the former Respect MP for Bradford West, losing the constituency by more 10,000 votes.  The photos of George’s face at the count suggested someone had just done a very large shit in his fedora hat, which he hadn’t noticed until he plopped it on over his head.  I once admired Galloway for his principled opposition to Blair, Bush and the Iraq War.  But since then, he’s been such a narcissistic and self-important nincompoop – especially during the Scottish referendum campaign – that I’m delighted to see him collect his P45.


And meanwhile, I love the smell of napalmed Liberal Democrat MPs in the morning.  At the moment, with 83 seats still to be declared across the whole of the United Kingdom, they’ve managed to hold on to just eight of them.  Certainly proof of the old saying that “you reap what you sow.”


But I was a little sad when old Charlie Kennedy, the former Liberal Democrat MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, got pushed out (again by the SNP).  Although he’s had his share of personal problems in recent years, he’s always struck me as being an intelligent and principled sort.  If he’d quit the Liberal Democrats and become an independent in 2010, after the party decided to do their deal with the devil and formed a coalition government with the Conservatives – something Kennedy clearly wasn’t happy about – I suspect he’d still be an MP this morning.


Student politics


(c) BBC


During the run-up to the recent referendum on Scottish independence, those mainstream media outlets against the idea of independence (i.e. all of them except for the Sunday Herald newspaper) liked to sing the praises of Labour Party MP and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Jim Murphy.  Jim, they’d have you believe, was a heroic street-fighter who wasn’t afraid to take the anti-independence message direct to the people.  He even conducted a speaking tour of Scottish town centres, during which he’d stand up on an Irn Bru crate and argue manfully with his opponents by bellowing at them through an amplified microphone and drowning them out.  More heroically still, Jim incurred some bloody, near-fatal injuries during the heat and violence of the campaign.  Well, in Kirkcaldy, someone chucked an egg at him and splattered the back of his shirt.


I have to say I’d probably have more time for Murphy if I wasn’t aware of his record during the late 1980s and early 1990s, first as a university student and then as a student politician.


According to his Wikipedia entry, Murphy studied Politics and European Law at the University of Strathclyde from 1985 to 1992.  That’s seven years, three more than it normally takes to get a university degree in Scotland, and I strongly suspect that during those seven years, at least part of the time, Murphy’s finances were propped up by student grants.  For yes, in those long-ago days, many UK students were funded or partly funded by a government-approved grant system.  Then from 1992 to 1994 Murphy served as president of the National Union of Students Scotland, and then in 1994 he stepped higher up in the student-politics world and became president of the National Union of Students in its UK-wide form.


During the two years of this latter presidency, Murphy dropped the NUS’s opposition to the abolition of student grants.  This was in defiance of what delegates decided at an NUS special conference in Derby in 1995 – though, oddly enough, it was in line with new Labour Party policy at the time.  (Once Labour came to power under Tony Blair, grants were replaced with student loans for everyone bar the poorest students, and students were required to pay tuition fees of £1000.  By 2004 the fees had been increased to £3000 and by 2012, under the present Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition, they’d been bumped up again to £9000.*)  Meanwhile, in 1997, a year after he’d finished with the NUS, Murphy was elected to the House of Commons as Labour MP for the Scottish constituency of Eastwood.


Now, in my opinion, someone who probably had at least some of his student life financed by government grants was hypocritical in denouncing those grants and doing his bit to get rid of them the moment his university days were over and he’d started to shin his way up the slimy pole of politics.  (And cynics would mutter that his career as a Labour MP started suspiciously soon after he’d overridden the wishes of the NUS conference and forced the organisation to sing from the same anti-grant hymn-sheet as the Labour Party.)  Mind you, if someone can prove to me that Jim Murphy definitely got through those seven years at Strathclyde University without any state assistance and funded them by himself, I’ll happily recant what I’ve just written and declare that he isn’t a hypocrite at all.  No, he’s a chap of impeccable integrity.


Anyway, Jim Murphy’s back-story has got me thinking about my own, distant student days at Aberdeen University and my dealings with that odd set that Murphy was once a member of: the student-political set.


(c) The Guardian


To be honest, I wouldn’t have had any dealings with student politicians at all if I hadn’t got involved with Aberdeen University’s student newspaper and co-edited it for a term in 1986.  The newspaper office was located in the same building as the offices and meeting rooms where the members of the Students’ Representative Council did their business.  And obviously, those student politicians also figured in a lot of the stories we reported on.  So I got to observe the species close up.


The one who probably did best for himself was Stephen Carter, who served as SRC President from 1985 to 1986.  I found Carter pretty lacking in warmth, humour and character and at one point, in a fit of naughtiness, I published in the newspaper a spoof-article depicting him as an aloof Roman Emperor in the manner of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius novels – the article was entitled I, Carterus.  We didn’t get on very well, though not because I’d likened him to one of the Caesars.  Near the end of my editorship, I wrote a front page article that made several criticisms of his reign as student president, which infuriated him.  To be fair, I later discovered that I’d made an error with a financial figure I’d quoted so at least part of his anger was justified.  Being bawled out by the bland, automation-like Carter was a strange experience.   The abuse didn’t seem to emanate from a real human being.  It was like being scolded by an indignant speak-your-weight machine or a cranky elevator voice-recording.


Decades later, in 2008, Carter served as Gordon Brown’s Downing Street Chief of staff.  Also, from 2008 to 2009, he was Brown’s Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting.  (As he wasn’t a member of either house at Westminster at the time, which would have barred him from taking on a ministerial position, he was quickly ennobled.  He was made the Right Honourable Lord Carter of Barnes and entered into the House of Lords.)  I didn’t hear much about how that he got in on those roles, except for claims that his relationship with Brown’s notorious spin-doctor Damian McBride was ‘fractious’.  (http://www.theguardian.com/media/2009/jul/17/damian-mcbride-smeargate-emails-gordon-brown)  Actually, McBride was such a scumbag that it’s to Carter’s credit that the pair of them didn’t get along.


Coincidentally, days before Stephen Carter – sorry, Lord Carter of Barnes – ended his stint as Brown’s Chief of Staff, I found myself a full-time student again.  In October 2008 I started an MA course at the University of East Anglia.  The students there had mounted a protest against student debt, with hundreds of them sticking fake cheques to a campus wall.  On each cheque was written the sum of money that each student expected to owe by the time of his or her graduation.  To me (who’d graduated in 1987 with an overdraft of £1,500, which I paid off within two years) some of those sums were eye-watering: £40,000 or more.  What, I wondered, would we have thought at Aberdeen University in the mid-1980s if we’d known that our student president would one day be a key figure in a government presiding over levels of student debt we wouldn’t have imagined in our worst nightmares?


Another student politician from that era who’s done well is Katy Clark.  She was a leading light in Aberdeen University’s Labour Party and since 2005 she’s been Labour Member of Parliament for North Ayrshire and Arran.  When I co-edited the student newspaper, Katy came to our attention when she led protests against Aberdeen University’s then-rector, the former Scottish National Party MP Hamish Watt.  At a debate during Freshers’ Week, Watt had made some supposedly-jovial comments in which he compared the young female students who’d just arrived on campus to ‘unbroken fillies’.  Now, while Watt undoubtedly deserved to be strung up by his sexist testicles for saying that, I didn’t enjoy having to speak to Katy about the incident.  I found her to be intense, one-note, lacking in personality and devoid of humour.  Actually, looking at what I’ve just written about Lord Stephen Carter of Barnes, a theme seems to be emerging in that regard.


To be fair to Katy Clark – and unlike Murphy and Carter, whose careers have been a process of selling out and shifting to the right – I will say that she’s stuck by the left-wing principles she had as a university student.  During her career as an MP, she’s voted against the introduction of ID cards, against the renewal of the Trident missile system and, recently, against the bombing of Isis in Iraq.  That said, with views like hers, I don’t know how she can bear to continue as a member of the modern-day Labour Party.


On the rightward end of the spectrum, meanwhile, I should mention someone else from my old alma mater – Murdo Fraser, who’s now Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Mid-Scotland and Fife region and was once the deputy leader of the Scottish Conservative Party.  That Murdo became a big hitter in Tory circles surprised me because he’d seemed an unprepossessing character in Aberdeen.  The detail I remember most about him was that he wore a Glasgow Rangers scarf 24/7, to the point where I wondered if it’d been stitched on.  A good friend who knew him a little, the late Finlay McLean, told me once that he had ‘the personality of a deep-frozen Cyberman’.  Then again, for an ambitious politician, not having a personality seems to be part of the course.


Murdo’s political ascendancy happened despite the fact that he was once associated with the notorious Federation of Conservative Students, an organisation that by the 1980s had become more right-wing than the Conservative Party of which it was the university branch.  At the time the Conservative Party was led by Margaret Thatcher, so being more right-wing than her was quite an achievement.  In 1986, after a string of well-publicised incidents – wherein FCS members had abused ethnic-minority staff at student bars, brayed their support for the Contras in El Salvador, sang the Special AKA song Free Nelson Mandela with the words changed to ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’, insulted former, more moderate Conservative prime ministers like Ted Heath and Harold Macmillan and so on – this extreme-minded group was disbanded by Tory Party Chairman Norman Tebbit.  And yes, being disbanded by Norman Tebbit for being too extreme was quite an achievement too.


The FCS at Aberdeen University were particularly obnoxious.  Among other things, they had a penchant for insulting gay people and taunting them about AIDS.  (The more I think back to those un-PC days of Hamish Watt and the FCS, the more I’m reminded of L.P. Hartley’s famous quote: “The past is a different country.  They do things differently there.”)  The start of my term as newspaper editor coincided with an incident wherein a bunch of FCS students invaded and disrupted a health-and-welfare talk being given to an audience of new students.  Their motive for disrupting the talk seemed to be because it covered safe sex for gay as well as straight students and was therefore, somehow, encouraging AIDS.


Later, after the newspaper had published an article about the society for gay students, Gay Soc, we received a letter from one deranged FCS member accusing us of furthering the interests of ‘the plague rats of the 20th century’.  We published his letter in the belief that by allowing the FCS to air their views publicly, we were letting people see what arseholes they were.  Give them enough rope and they’d hang themselves, we felt.  However, at least one gay friend of mine was extremely upset that the letter had appeared in our newspaper.  Today, nearly 30 years on, I’d think twice about publishing it.


In Murdo Fraser’s defence, I’ll admit that he seemed aware of what a squad of bampots he was having to keep company with in the FCS.  He kept his mouth shut while the rest of them were being as offensively vocal as possible, and whenever I saw them strutting about the campus en masse he was the one who seemed to trail silently and reluctantly along at the back – sort of like Mr Blue in Reservoir Dogs.  Which I suppose was appropriate given his footballing allegiances.


Having dissed the Labour and the Conservative Parties, I suppose in the interests of balance I should say something about Aberdeen University’s 1980s Liberal Party – the Liberal Democrats as they are now.  The Liberals’ most visible representative was one Dan Falchikov who, with his excitable and eccentric manner and his striking dress sense (a slightly psychedelic, stripey, coloured jersy), possessed something that other people I’ve mentioned lacked: a personality.  And I think Dan was a genuinely well-meaning guy even if he wasn’t endowed with a great deal of common sense.  However, he was also an easy target for us unscrupulous hacks at the student newspaper and we spent an inordinate amount of time poking fun at him, calling him ‘Dan the Man’, ‘Desperate Dan’, ‘Dan, Dan the Liberal Man’ and (when he was particularly off-the-wall) ‘Dan F**k-me-off’.


Out of curiosity, I googled his name a while ago and discovered that he’s now a Liberal Democrat activist in the London constituency of Kingston-upon-Thames, where he’s engaged in a struggle to usurp the sitting MP, that alleged ‘green’ Tory Zac Goldsmith.  Also, in 2010, Dan was embroiled in controversy when he was overheard boasting on a train that he’d managed to ‘plant’ a story, a false story, in the Evening Standard newspaper about the Labour Party having plans to close Kingston Hospital.  Unbeknownst to Dan while he blabbed about this into a mobile phone, a train-passenger sitting nearby was none other than the journalist Kevin Maguire, political editor of the Daily Mirror.  Maguire not only tweeted about what he was overhearing but also sneaked a camera-phone picture of Dan and posted it online (http://order-order.com/2010/01/30/loose-lips-sink-ships/).  As a result of Maguire’s scoop, people in Kingston-upon-Thames now seem to regard Dan as the bad boy of local politics.


How could you, Dan?  Selling your soul to the political dark arts – I expected better of you.


By the way, Dan blogs at http://livingonwords.blogspot.com/. He regularly calls on the Liberal Democrats to dump Nick Clegg as their leader, which suggests that he has more sense than I’d credited him with.  Also, I like the youtube music-clips he sometimes sticks on the blog, so I think he has good musical sense too.


Although I’ve tried to make this account of it humorous, there were things I noticed about the world of student politics that I found seriously depressing.  They seemed to reinforce Douglas Adams’ famous comment in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that “it is a well-known and much lamented fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.”


I heard, for example, how two different candidates running for senior positions in the SRC, senior enough for the holders of such positions to get a year’s sabbatical from their courses, were given enthusiastic support by their classmates.  Indeed, those classmates even went out and campaigned on the candidates’ behalf – not because they thought they were any good, but because they detested them and wanted them to have a sabbatical so that they wouldn’t be in their classes for a year.


Also, shortly before I graduated, some nasty rumours circulated in the SRC building about one student politician making another one pregnant.  There wasn’t actually a pregnancy but this didn’t prevent two SRC people, from two different political parties, both of whom had axes to grind with the man involved, from approaching me and assuring me that it was true.  One person even swore that she’d seen the results of a pregnancy test.  Presumably, I was fed this false information in the hope that, as a student journalist, I’d spread the word to the detriment of the man’s reputation.  (I should point out that none of the people I’ve mentioned above were involved in this saga.)  This showed me that at least a few of the people operating in that building were backstabbing scumbags — scumbags who’d probably do very well if they ever became real politicians.


Nonetheless, there were some student politicians whom I liked and respected.  Indeed, if I ever bumped into the likes of Graeme Whiteside, Tim Morrison, Alan Strain or Stuart Black again on the High Street of Old Aberdeen, I’d invite them into the St Machar Bar and buy them a pint.  However, with regard to those people, there’s an important point to remember.  None of the decent sorts, to the best of my knowledge, pursued their political careers any further than university.  They stayed well clear of the scumbag world of real politics.  Good for them.


*These tuition fees do not apply in Scotland.  The 2008 Graduate Endowment Abolition (Scotland) Bill re-established the concept of free higher education there.


Eight things I’ve learnt from the Scottish ‘no’ campaign


Less than a fortnight remains before the people of Scotland vote on whether their country should be independent or should remain part of the United Kingdom.  During the past year I’ve avidly followed the campaigns by the ‘yes’ side (i.e. ‘go for independence, Scotland!’) and the ‘no’ side (i.e. ‘don’t do it, Scotland!’) and I have to say I’ve found the information put forward by the ‘no’ one particularly enlightening.  I’ve learnt many things from it and, in several cases, I’ve had to drastically revise what I thought I already knew.


By the ‘no’ campaign I mean the official campaign-group Better Together and other unofficial ones like Vote No Borders; and the political parties who’re backing a ‘no’ vote, namely the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP; and newspapers that are sympathetic to the ‘no’ cause like the Times, Sun, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Independent, Guardian, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Scotsman, Herald, Daily Record, Press and Journal, West Highland Free Press…  Well, basically everyone apart from the Sunday Herald; and those many, ordinary-but-vociferous ‘no’ supporters who write to and post online in the newspapers.  So here are eight things I’ve learnt whilst reading and listening to the arguments in favour of voting ‘no’, put forward by this large and intellectual body of opinion.


One.  Scottish nationalism was invented by Mel Gibson.


(c) Paramount Pictures


I’d mistakenly believed that the desire for Scottish independence could be traced back to the founding of the Scottish National Party in 1934 and that the question of whether or not Scotland could be a self-governing country again had bubbled fitfully since then.  And I’d mistakenly thought that, in the eight decades since, independence had been supported and promoted by people like John MacCormick, Hugh MacDiarmid, Ian Hamilton, William Wolfe, Winnie Ewing, Tom Nairn, Margo McDonald and Jim Sillars.  But I was wrong.  Don’t blame me for misunderstanding Scottish political history, though.  I’d read about it in a book called The Battle for Scotland, written by Andrew Marr, who was obviously lying.


In fact, I’ve learnt from ‘no’ supporting politicians, journalists, activists, Tweeters and comment-posters (who surely know what they’re talking about) that all this stuff started only in 1995.  Until 1995, the Scots had been contented, docile citizens of the UK, happy to describe themselves as ‘British’ rather than ‘Scottish’, to sing God Save the Queen as their anthem at sporting events and to let Westminster make their decisions for them.  But then a terrible thing happened.  An agent provocateur appeared.  He roused those previously-loyal Scots and transformed them into a rabble.  Yes, an anti-Semitic Australian with a booze problem donned a kilt, painted his face blue, picked up a broadsword and charged along a muddy field screaming “FREEEE-DUUUUM!”  And that’s how this troublesome Scottish independence nonsense began.  With a film.  Called Braveheart.


You might think it far-fetched that a political movement supported by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of (clearly deluded) people could be triggered by something as trivial as a Hollywood movie, but there are other examples of this.  I’ve seen Logan’s Run, the 1976 science-fiction film about a society of rich, beautiful and privileged people who have their every wish fulfilled living in a plastic future utopia that’s basically a giant shopping mall – a utopia where anyone who has the temerity to become wrinkly, diseased, disabled, unproductive and dependent on the state (by growing old) gets vaporised by a death ray.  That was obviously the blueprint for Thatcherism.


Two.  All Scottish women live in kitchens.


The last time I was in Scotland I thought I saw a few women out on the street, but I realise now this was probably a mirage caused by unusual climatic conditions.  (The Scottish weather had been unseasonably clement – i.e. it was above freezing and not pissing with rain all day).  Scottish women never actually go outside.  This I’ve learnt from watching the recent Better Together advert aimed at ‘undecided female voters’.


From imagist.com


Scottish women, you see, are much too busy to venture beyond the parameters of their kitchens.  And when they aren’t cooking meals, washing dishes and scrubbing floors, they sit at their kitchen tables, sipping coffee out of giant flowery mugs and complaining about their husbands, or ‘men-folk’ as we say in Scotland, who will insist on blathering on about boring things that women can’t understand, like politics.  The man whom the poor woman in the Better Together advert is married to is particularly unreasonable in this regard.  He insists on talking about the referendum during breakfast, instead of eating his cereal.  I mean, the thought of it.  What a creep!


Of course, ladies, you need to do the right thing regarding this referendum business, which is so complicated it’ll probably make your heads explode if you try to think about it.  Just vote ‘no’.


Three.  Nothing is more horrible than being related to foreigners.


I hadn’t realised how ghastly my family life was until I heard many ‘no’ supporters argue that an independent Scotland would mean Scottish people with relatives in England would see those relatives suddenly become ‘foreigners’.  That got me thinking.  Foreigners must be horrible people.  It must be absolutely dreadful to have them in your family.  And actually – oh God, no! – my family is already infested with foreigners.  My dad was born in the Republic of Ireland – a bloody foreigner.  My aunt, uncle and three cousins are Australians – more bloody foreigners.  And my girlfriend’s an American – another one of those foreign scumbags!  I can only thank the ‘no’ campaign for alerting me to the awfulness of my situation.


Actually, three leaders of the political parties supporting a ‘no’ vote have had to live with this dire state-of-affairs for years.  Ed Miliband, for example, is the son of a Pole and a Belgian, while Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage are married to a Dutchwoman and a German respectively.  So I think it’s very decent of Nick, Ed and Nigel to support the ‘no’ campaign, to spare many people in Scotland the horrors they’ve had to endure through being related to foreigners.


Four.  ‘Yes’ supporters don’t love their families.


From the drum.com


In fact, it’s just as well that ‘yes’ supporters don’t love their families.  It won’t matter to them if those families end up full of foreigners.


Five.  Hadrian’s Wall stood on the border between Scotland and England.


I once lived in the north-eastern English city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and I was sure that the famous wall erected by the Roman Emperor Hadrian had its eastern end there, in the North Tyneside district of Wallsend.  I was also sure I’d once cycled across northern England alongside the route of the wall, from Newcastle, through places like Heddon-on-the-Wall, Chollerford and Walton, and finally to Carlisle.  All of them are a good way from the border with Scotland.  Indeed, Wallsend must be about sixty or seventy miles from it.


However, my memory must be faulty.  According to many comments by ‘no’ supporters I’ve read, about the English having to rebuild Hadrian’s Wall to prevent millions of starving refugees flooding south from a bankrupt independent Scotland, or about the Scots having to rebuild Hadrian’s Wall to prevent millions of political refugees flooding south from a totalitarian independent Scotland, the wall must’ve stood on the border.  After all, if the wall was in England, wouldn’t rebuilding it mean lots of English people in Cumbria, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear would be imprisoned in Scotland?


Also, Rory Stewart, the Conservative MP for Penrith who’s sometimes known as ‘Rory the Tory’, recently tried to organise a cross-border stunt whereby 100,000 people would hold hands along the route of Hadrian’s Wall to show solidarity with the Scots and urge them, symbolically, to stay in the UK.  Now nobody could be daft enough to stage a massive human chain along the border between two countries to emphasise their emotional, cultural and historical links, but actually have everyone stand tens of miles inside one of the countries instead?  I mean, nobody could be that stupid?


Six.  Douglas Alexander is Jesus.


(c) The Scotsman


Douglas Alexander, Labour MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South and a man who likes to ruminate brainily on Scotland’s constitutional future within the UK if it rejects independence on September 18th, is given copious breathless coverage in Scotland’s ‘no’-supporting press.  Well, so he should be.  He’s a political genius.  After all, as David Miliband’s campaign manager in the 2010 Labour leadership contest, he steered David to triumphant, er, defeat at the hands of his brother Ed.


However, what has lately become obvious is that Douglas is not merely an MP and a political genius, but also the Son of God, the Messiah returned to earth so that “we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (First Thessalonians 4:16-17).  This was ascertained by a Scotsman photographer who one evening snapped a picture of him standing by the River Clyde in a significantly crucified position.  And verily, the resulting photograph showed Douglas’s head ringed by a halo!


Unbelievers have argued that the halo is actually the curve of Glasgow’s Clyde Arc (aka ‘the Squinty Bridge’) in the background.  I don’t accept this, however.  Douglas is irrefutably the Messiah.  He can cure the afflicted with his touch, walk on water and feed a multitude with a few paltry loaves and fishes.  If he was nailed to a cross and had a sword thrust into his side, I’ve no doubt that he’d rise again from the dead three days later.  Actually, maybe we should do this to Douglas just to prove those sceptics wrong.


Seven.  Civilisation collapses when someone chucks an egg.


(c) STV


Recently, Jim Murphy, the brave, wise and noble Labour MP for Renfrewshire East has been on a speaking tour of Scotland’s towns and cities, engaging the local populations in friendly and open conversation about why it’s best to vote ‘no’ whilst standing on an Irn Bru crate and bellowing at them through an amplified microphone.  When Jim visited the streets of Kirkcaldy last week, however, an atrocity was committed by a ‘yes’ supporter.  This thug flung an egg at Jim and almost fatally wounded the gallant MP by making a bit of a stain on his shirt.  Immediately, the media was aflame with anti-independence journalists, commentators, Tweeters and posters proclaiming, quite rightly, that this marked the end of democracy and free speech in Scotland, and the beginning of an onslaught by the forces of fascism and anarchy.  Why, civilisation itself in Scotland was about to fall.


Admittedly, a few people pointed out that in the past eggs had been thrown at politicians like John Prescott, Nick Griffith and Nigel Farage, and on those occasions Kristallnacht had failed to materialise.  However, there’s an important difference this time.  Those previous egg incidents had occurred in England.  The egging of the valiant Jim Murphy had taken place in Scotland, where the entire population is liable to go into a murderous frenzy if they catch a whiff of spilt egg-yolk.


Eight.  Scottish independence?  It’s all the work of one crazed, evil super-genius.


On television you may see politicians like Nicola Sturgeon, Patrick Harvie and Dennis Canavan arguing for Scottish independence, but these are not real people.  They’re merely animatronic puppets controlled from afar by one man.  When he isn’t using remote-controlled androids to do his dirty work for him, he sits at his computer and writes, under a vast array of pseudonyms, all the copy that appears on the pro-independence websites like Wings over Scotland, Bella Caledonia and Newsnet Scotland.  Using many more aliases, he posts too all those pro-independence comments on newspaper-website opinion threads.  Yes, all of them.


Any footage you’ve seen of rallies in support of independence involving more than one person is fake – he doctors the footage with computer-generated images to make it look like there were lots of people in attendance.  And you know how recently a million people supposedly signed a petition for Scottish independence online?  That was also him, clicking on his computer a million times.


Who is he, this insane, evil but brilliant mastermind, who’s been probably cloned from scraps of DNA from Hitler, Stalin and Chairman Mao and who’s orchestrated the whole Scottish independence campaign single-handedly in a fiendish attempt to bring the UK to its knees?


You know who it is.  It’s him!


(c) Eon Productions


No, it’s not him.  It’s him!


(c) Daily Record