This morning I spent an hour an a half with a chap in India, after holding on for 45 minutes to get through to him. He was a very pleasant chap, but at the end of our conversation we failed to agree that the very sporadic service I have been receiving lately from BT Broadband was in any way his employer’s fault. It was mine, because I was requiring a wireless signal to travel 45 feet to my computer, most of it across open ground. The maximum range I could expect, he said, was 25 feet.
All the tests he ran were remote, and none of them were designed to explore the possibility that the machine might have had a sporadic transmission fault. I’m on line now, and my signal is crap. Yesterday it was fine. Tomorrow it will probably be fine, but it’s the days of uncertainty that do my head in. This is compounded by BT’s failure to offer anything that approximates to decent customer service.
But you know what? It is my fault. For a few years I had a very good ISP, a small firm called Zen, which operated no call centres at all and sorted any problems instantly. To my shame I left them, not because of their service but because BT lured me away with their flashy, misleading advertising and with the bribe of free BT Sport.
At the first opportunity, I’m going back.
There is a poll out this weekend putting UKIP at 25%, a level that would give them 128 seats in Westminster next time around, putting themselves almost certainly in a coalition situation that would marginalise Scotland still further.
To those among the 55% who find that a scary proposition, all I can say is, you voted for it.
Catchy tune, but not available, sadly, on Amazon. Hit teh play button on the page
Anyone involved in professional football is now banned from betting on games. So why is Harry Redknapp advertising an on-line bookie?
A crazy question popped into my mind yesterday and won’t go away. Is it coincidence that The Lone Ranger rides a white horse?
I see another Tory MP has jumped ship and joined UKIP. Name of Reckless. Also by nature, I guess.
However, it is now time to be taking seriously the prospect of Scotland being dragged out of Europe against its will by right-wing Little Englanders. Another major issue for May 2015, for the 45 to consider.
Big news from Waterstone. Mathew’s Tale, my new stand-alone historical novel, has been selected as the chain’s Scottish Book of the Month for October.
To tie in with this, the publication date has been brought forward from October 23 to Wednesday, October 1. Look out for it in all bookshops from that date on, in hard back and trade paperback. Signed copies will be available as always, from http://www.campbellreadbooks.com and ebooks will be available also through the usual outlets.
Still they won’t let it go. A week after the referendum, Facebook and other social media are still stuffed with triumphal posts by ‘No’ voters.
But are they triumphal? Might they not be indicative of the fear which drove Better Together’s campaign? if that is so, it is not misplaced.
‘Yes’ scored 45%, rounded up, of the votes cast; that is not in dispute, for all the furore stirred in the Scottish press by Ruth Davidson’s apparent ignorance of electoral law. In a single question referendum, that equals defeat. However, in the General Election next May, 45% of the votes cast could well lead to an absolute majority of Scottish seats.
With SNP membership soaring, to the point that it is now the third biggest party in Britain, it is not fanciful to imagine that happening.
Right now, the referendum result has been accepted . . . if not respected, because of the way it was secured . . . and we move on to hear what the Three Stooges’ Daily Record ‘Vow’ actually means in practice. There are no demands for a re-run, nor will there be.
That said, should May 2015 lead to a clear Scottish majority for the SNP, that will be a completely new situation and all bets will be off.
I just saw a post on Facebook which led me to a surprising realisation. For the first time ever, I was unable to name my Westminster constituency MP. I can now; she is Fiona O’Donnell, but genuinely I had never heard of her before today. My ignorance may be, probably was, based on the fact that I never read what no longer passes for my local newspaper, but other than that, I’m reasonably well versed in and up to date with current affairs.
To me this indicates the irrelevance of Scottish constituency Westminster MPs to our daily lives. So why the hell, I’m asking myself, did we vote to keep them?
Just over an hour ago, the first matches in the Ryder Cup 2014 tee-ed off at Gleneagles.
Will I be there? No.
If someone called me in the next half hour and offered me the top hospitality package for Sunday’s singles, would I accept? No.
Somewhere along the line, I fell out of love with golf’s biennial transatlantic duel. Yes, the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ was compelling viewing, and the outcome was deeply satisfying. And yet there was something about it that I didn’t like, the triumphalism, the sometimes mindless behaviour of the crowds, the sometimes mindless behaviour of Bubba Watson encouraging the crowd to break one of the cardinal rules of golf etiquette by roaring him on as he hit his first tee shot. (He was not alone, as I recall; Ian Poulter saw fit to copy him. A friend of mine used to have a seat near Poults at the Emirates Stadium, so this did not surprise me.)
In 1973, the event was played at Muirfield. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Billy Casper led the American team: it was too far back for Tom Watson. In those pre-Seve days Europe was not invited; the side was Great Britain and Ireland and the result was almost inevitable.The crowds were smaller too, with far fewer American visitors for what was expected to be a walk-over, even with Tony Jacklin, Peter Oosterhuis, Neil Coles and a 48-year-old Christy O’Connor in the GB&I team.
In fact, they did better than expected, going into the final round of singles with a mathematical chance of victory, only to see the score-board turn red. There were two singles rounds in those days, eight matches each; under those rules it was possible to be selected for the Ryder Cup but never play a match. One English golfer was in the 1971 and 1973 teams yet played only once, in a four-ball. Brian Barnes, on the other hand, made his name by beating Jack Nicklaus twice in one day.
Television coverage was provided by the BBC. The admission charges were modest crowds, with the exception of one yob who had a down on Bernard Gallagher for some reason, were well-behaved. It was a dignified, enjoyable event, even in the preparation days, when Lee Trevino could be found doing his stand-up turn on the practice ground.
Forty-one years later, I doubt that Muirfield would welcome the event. It has been transformed into a circus with crowds paying through the nose, per day, to behaving like wrestling fans. Television coverage today is provided by Sky Television, led by the terminally platitudinous Ewen Murray. Sky being a jewel in the crown of the odious Murdoch Empire, all of his titles join in the hype, leaving the rest of the media no choice but to add its voice.
All this has been reflected in the attitude of the players. Nicklaus famously gave Tony Jacklin a putt for a half that resulted in a tied match. At the height of the notorious Battle of Brookline, Payne Stewart conceded his match to Colin Montgomerie to signal his disapproval of the crowd’s behaviour. That match may have been a nadir, but things have improved only superficially since then. Today the US has Keegan Bradley, and we have Poulter. Good examples to junior golfers? I think not.
Progress is progress, I suppose, but I can’t help but observe that the growth in interest in the Ryder Cup can be traced back to the years when the Americans, for the first time in the history of the event, started to lose more than they won. They reacted and our crowds have followed suit, until the spectacle is unedifying however the contest turns out.
The whole thing runs counter to the spirit of the game of golf.
L’Escala, where I’ve had a writing base for 25 years, is a lovely place. It’s at the northern end of the Costa Brava; it was a working town before it was a holiday destination and it still is, although now the ex-pats outnumber the ethnic population in the summer, and for much of the year. Their community is a huge contributor to the town’s revenue. Hundreds, even thousands of its houses and apartments are occupied for only a few weeks out of every year, but there are no tax breaks, locally or nationally. The ex-pats take very little from the town in return; most are older people with no children to educate. Much of their health coverage is provided by the European Health Card, and most of the full-timers have private insurance.
Net contributors, significantly, so what do they, and the hordes of tourists who enrich the town, get in return? Nada. Zilch. Nothing.
Those who think that Scots people are tight with a banknote have never met the people who run the Ajuntamente de L’Escala. The rubbish collection system in the suburbs where most expats live is a public health scandal, and half the street lights on one of the main drags are switched off to save costs. As for the roads, most of them are a joke, a rally course of potholes and protuberances caused by tree roots.
Worst of all though is the council’s attitude to sanitation. L’Escala boasts about three kilometres of beaches. They are the finest in the region and they must draw at least a million people, of all nationalities, throughout the extended summer months. The sun-seekers, wind-surfers, and pedalo-riders are served from May to October by beach-bars, a dozen or more. Their leases are issued by the Ajuntamente after closed-bid competition, and this year rentals have been increased substantially.
What does the council offer the bar operators in return? A few, very few, chemical toilets, the kind you’ll find on building sites, to service all those people, and give them an alternative to peeing in the sea along the blue-flag beaches. These eyesores are deposited after the start of the season and they are taken away before the end. This year there was a suggestion that they might not be provided at all, since they needed cleaning, until the beach bar proprietors protested.
There may not be a cat’s chance in hell of this filtering through to Sr Puig, the autocratic Alcalde, or to any of his cronies. But if there is, I would like to suggest that in the course of this winter they instal a series of permanent toilet blocks along the beaches. They needn’t be huge, simply adequate, and the whole project would probably cost a hell of a lot less than the money they’ve spent building monuments and planting mature olive trees on the town’s traffic islands.
This would not be a gift, although the councillors might see it that way, but an investment in the industry that has built their schools, their indoor swimming pool and gym, their new football stadium, and the new Plaça Catalunya with its underground car park that the locals never use because it costs money.
It would also be an investment in their own electoral prospects, because a hell of a lot of those ex-pats I mentioned earlier will have votes in next year’s municipal election, and right now, I know how they’re likely to be cast.
As did every other SNP member on line, I received, an hour ago, a letter from Alex Salmond advising me of his intention to resign as Party leader and First Minister.
I sent an immediate two word reply: ‘Please reconsider.’ I hope that every other recipient has done the same.
If he goes now, the people who intimidated the 6% of the population that prevented a Yes vote will never stop crowing about it. For Scotland’s sake, he must stay.
This is not the saddest day of my life. There have been worse, much worse.
However it is the end of a dream, a vision of Scotland appearing in its own right among the list of nations in those drop-down menus that you see on websites, and becoming a member of the United Nations. That isn’t going to happen now, not in my lifetime, and I regret it. Next time those who voted ‘No’ yesterday sing ‘Flower of Scotland‘, they should omit the lines about rising and being a nation again, lest their voices are drowned out by the sound of Roy Williamson turning in his grave.
At the same time I accept that it is a choice made by 55% of my fellow Scots, out of a record turn-out of 85%, and I respect it. While doing so, I respect and admire also the SNP for securing the referendum, and the ‘Yes’ campaign for bringing out 1.6 million Scots on the day to vote for their nation to be restored.
While I am not bitter about the outcome (privately, I expected it) I cannot find anything good to say about the Better Together campaign. Its slogan may have been attractive but its tactics were not. It played falsely upon the fears of the old for the security of their pensions, and it whipped up alarm among the comfortable classes that somehow their cash and their investments would become valueless in the event of a Yes victory. It did so with the tacit encouragement of its Westminster masters and with the backing of the London media. Its performance has been shameful throughout and even after the campaign, with today’s Daily Mail, an execrable journal, vilifying Andy Murray for his last minute support of independence.
For all today’s result, it can be argued that Better Together failed. It did not preserve the status quo. With two weeks left in the campaign, a single poll showed Yes in the lead, after months of steady returns indicating the opposite. That was enough to send a wave of fear through Westminster, for Alastair Darling to be pushed to one side, and for the three wise monkeys to appear among us, making ill-defined promises of a new deal for Scotland.
Today the focus will shift to those promises. The Prime Minister is still in a funk, for he has been very quick to offer a new constitutional settlement for the entire United Kingdom, and he will not be able to avoid it. There will be implications for England as well as Scotland, since part of that settlement is almost certain to include an agreement that Scots Westminster MPs will no longer vote on areas in England that have been devolved to Holyrood. Tam’s West Lothian question will be answered at last. Labour will still have their Scottish votes, but only on defence, foreign policy etc. The natural Tory English majority will be in place in part . . . if it exists after 2015.
What now for the SNP, with its sine qua non now out of reach? That may depend to an extent on how much energy and ambition is left in Alex Salmond, but assuming the he is still up for the fight there is much for it do do in the future.
First and foremost it must get the most for Scotland out of Westminster’s constitutional review. We may see the Barnett formula coming under attack. If that happens, all tax-raising powers should be devolved to Scotland with a new Scottish HMRC, reporting to Holyrood. If England says that we are getting more than we contribute and seeks to change that, fine, let us go it alone. Gordon Brown seems to be in charge of this exercise, having virtually taken over the ‘No’ campaign in its last few days. That does not fill me with confidence, but al least it gives him a chance to show the country that finally he can get something right.
Beyond that, the SNP can and must remain as the dominant force in Scottish electoral politics. God knows, the other parties are populated by pygmies in comparison. Its next ambition should be to repeat its success in 2011 by increasing its support in next year’s General Election, with the objective of securing a bloc of seats that will make it a force in any coalition wrangling that might follow the result. Having lost the fight to take us out of the parliamentary union with Westminster, its next battle may be to help keep us in Europe.
What now for me? My lifetime ambition is gone; I’ll never hold my Scottish passport. But to be truthful, it never was the most important thing in my life. I have far greater priorities, and greater loves; their names are Rex and Mia, plus their granny, their parents and their aunts and uncles. They’ll fill all of my thoughts next week, when I go back to work. After the events of the last few months, it will be good to be closeted once again with Bob Skinner.
The day has dawned and the decision is in the process of being made. This time tomorrow, the sun will have risen on a reborn nation, or it will have set on the hopes of millions of Scots, those who were at home to vote, and those who have been disenfranchised, through being forced to leave their homeland to support their families elsewhere. My friend Fred in Sydney is one such; right now his fingers are crossed as tightly as mine.
What has happened in the last few weeks and months? From my perspective I have witnessed a campaign by Better Together that has demonstrated conclusively that we are not.
It has offered everything to the Haves and nothing to the Have Nots. As its campaign unravelled it has been forced to call in support from so called big hitters from London, the three party leaders setting out a ‘Vow’ which was, in effect a shoddy attempt to bribe us with our own money, and did not survive a single morning’s scrutiny.
It did all this to the accompaniment of the most venal and despicable media coverage that I have ever seen in a lifetime of watching political journalists at work. Better Together has relied on the support of such people as the unfortunate Melanie Reid, who called us ‘Spoiled selfish childlike fools,’ in Murdoch’s Times, and the pathetic Simon Heffer who advised the few Scottish voters who read the Spectator that we are ‘addicted to welfare’ and that we ‘embrace the something for nothing society’.
With their army of shoddy hacks behind them Better Together has intimidated the elderly, provoked otherwise sensible Scots into moving their money, pointlessly, from one bank to another, and has ignored the poor and deprived altogether.
That’s how I see the campaign for the retention of the political union between Scotland and England . . . never forget the kingdoms will still be united, under the Crown, with Scotland a strong and active member of the Commonwealth.
How do I see the Yes campaign?
We’ve won the argument beyond doubt, and shown that the many Scots who live in poverty today have only one champion. We’ll know tomorrow whether we’ve won the vote and whether they have a chance of a better future.
The only thing I know for sure, right now, is that when I crossed that Yes box on my ballot paper, I did so unafraid for my own future, even though I am a man Darling’s people tried to target on two fronts, age and affluence.
I did so to fulfil my lifelong dream of presenting a Scottish passport to border control officers around the world, but much more than that, I did so because I believe that without independence Scotland faces a continuation of the economic and social decline that has been imposed on us by a parliament controlled by our unloved neighbour from the earliest days of the union that we now seek to dissolve.
I’ve done my part, now it’s up to you, if you have a vote and have yet to cast it. When you do let your cross go in the box marked ‘Hope’, not in the other, marked ‘Fear’. And this too; when you stand there in the privacy of the voting booth, consider the definition of faith, and then show some.
I thought I had blogged my last blog of this campaign, but I hadn’t reckoned with Nigel Farage, who has just linked arms with Alastair Darling, the hitherto silent man of the last seven days to accuse Alex Salmond of inciting riots. Let’s leave aside the effrontery of a man who leads an Independence party intervening in another nation’s Independence debate on the side of those who would keep us bound together. Let’s look at the man himself; what is Farage but a cheap single issue politician, a creep with an eye for the main chance. Of all the English politicians who have stuck their noses uninvited into a Scottish national debate he is the least important, and yet at the same time, the most reviled. He is a charlatan and we want no part of him. Have I made myself clear?
Before you vote, before you buy another newspaper, read this:
A few years ago, Eileen and I flew into Prestwick Airport. We had decided to take the train for the rest of the journey and so we crossed the bridge to the dedicated railway station that is Prestwick’s only advantage as an air terminal, unless you count the Elvis Presley Bar.
There were four other people on the platform, lads, mid teens, with a couple of bottles of Buckfast to share between them. They were loud, and obscene at times, but at least they were not aggressive. More people arrived, several non-Scots among them, then so did the train and we all got on. The boys didn’t make it past the next station; as soon as we stopped there the conductor ran from a coach at the rear to the one they were in, and chucked them off.
‘Lovely,’ I thought at the time. ‘What a welcome to Scotland for all these tourists.’
Today, I think the same, but more deeply. What do those visitors think of a society, I wonder, that abandons its youth to afternoons of joyriding on trains and sucking fortified wine from the neck of a bottle? What indeed?
Those boys aren’t the problem. We are.
Four years ago, Peter Mullen, the hugely talented Scottish actor and director, made a film called ‘Neds'; it told a story of youth gangs in Glasgow and of one boy’s route to escape from that culture. It was by any standards one of the movies of the year. It won Best Film in January 2011 at the San Sebastian Festival, and was praised at every foreign event where it was screened. Yet when the BAFTAs came around, the luvvies in London ignored it completely.
I believe that they did so because it scared them more than a little, by scratching at a truth that they found unpalatable.
There have been Neds in Glasgow for two hundred years, an underclass of kids that society has ignored until they’ve become a problem by getting above themselves. Come that time the traditional approach has been heavy-handed policing and a stretch in Borstal or the YOI.
No government has ever taken responsibility for them, or cared about them, a fact that condemns them all . . . and us for we’ve gone on electing the sods.
Neds are what they are because of the social conditions in which they grow. It’s the only culture they know and so they take a perverse pride in it. Those boys on the train were a prime example, and as Peter Mullen’s film pointed out, the problem is getting worse.
Neds are what they are because for the last two centuries, no London government has give a damn about them.
For decades Scotland was left to fend for itself, yet denied the resources to do so. We had, we were told, our own legal system and our own education system. What more could we want? Control of our destiny, perhaps, and maybe also some parliamentary time for the legislation necessary to maintain those institutions.
But it never happened, and the blight of youth deprivation in Glasgow, and in other cities no doubt, persisted until after a while we became blind to it. Some who read this might blame the local authorities, but what could they do, save control the problem? Job creation was never one of Glasgow Corporation’s functions, any more than Chief Constable Sir Percy Sillitoe was a social worker.
No-one has ever cared for those kids . . . until now. A Yes vote won’t see them handed free passes to paradise, but it will deliver power into the hands of people who care about their plight.
Today we stand on the edge of history. Tomorrow Scotland votes for its future. We’re all exhausted by the campaign, even those of us who have watched the last couple of weeks from another country, quietly relieved that we weren’t able to join those who protested against the likes of that idiot Ed Miliband’s, ill-conceived, ill-advised and ill-timed attempt at a triumphal progress though the St James Shopping Centre.
I have listened to the debate for the last eternity. I have absorbed all the negativity that Better Together has thrown at us, all the bluster, and all the threats. I have noted too that all of them are aimed at one target group of voters; the comfortably off, the well-to-do, the rich and the downright wealthy.
They have been bullied, browbeaten and bullshat, into believing that if they vote Yes, they will suddenly be impoverished, rather than be members of a newly liberated and prosperous society, with the freedom to set its own economic and social agendas to replace those of Westminster which have failed Scotland so lamentably, and with access to the riches that have been denied us for forty years and more.
Among all that Darling rhetoric, I have not heard a single word that addressed the rest of our society. The elderly have been told that their pensions will be under threat, when the opposite is true. The young? They have been told nothing meaningful at all.
It is crystal clear that if Scotland votes status quo, that is what we will get. The rich will get richer, until the next Westminster induced financial crisis, or until Europhobic England drags Euro-friendly Scotland out of the EU.
The poor will get what they’ve always had from London: f*ck all.
Will that happen? This morning Betfair are saying that it will. But I’ll wager that there is one element they have forgotten to factor into their calculations.
This time, the neds can vote: and Peter Mullen’s film may well drive them to the polling stations. God, I hope so.
I read this morning that Betfair, one of the innumerable online betting organisations that seem to be underwriting Sky Sports these days, has paid out 48 hours early on a No vote success. I can’t think of a single good reason why it should do that, save one. It may be taking a gamble itself, in the hope of encouraging a rush of ‘Yes’ bets in the last two days before the result is known.
If that is the case I look forward to seeing Betfair stuffed twice over.
There’s a song that Eileen likes to sing to the grandchildren: ‘Clap hands for Daddy coming doon the wagon way, pockets full of money and his boots all clay.’ The days Daddy is quite likely to have his mobile in his hand, gambling that money away on the next yellow card in the Newcastle game, or some such.
Online gambling is a cancer on modern society, yet Westminster seems to have no interest in controlling it. I predict that an independent Scottish government will take a firmer line.