Bah Humbug. Christmas Is Coming

It’s CHRISTMAS!! As Noddy Holder from Slade once said back in the 1970s. Slade’s mortal rival at this time, Wizard, declared that they ‘wish it could be Christmas every day’ despite that proposal being both unwelcome and impractical. These two festive Titans slog it out between mid-November and late December on an annual basis, before each returns to their respective realms to gather strength (and lucrative royalties) until next year.

At the risk of being called a curmudgeon at this time of year, I’m starting to get sickened by it all now. Perhaps it’s an age thing. I’m approaching my 34th Christmas (I also hope to have many more). My annoyance isn’t with the time of year per se, but the ways it’s packaged and presented to us by corporations and conglomerates. It’s the ceaseless promotion to buy stuff that is only tangentially connected to Christmas. The repackaging and re-costuming of consumer goods. The fact that it starts sometime in September each year. The ‘Americanisation’ and the ‘Happy holidays’. The heaving high street teeming with total strangers who are evidently stressed.

My journey to this point has been a long one. Christmas is a magical time when you are a child, although the magic seems to be noticeably less prevalent the lower your socio-economic status, but that’s another issue entirely. However, as soon as you enter adulthood the wheels start to come off from Christmas.

The ‘Christmas’ that I consider normal is so far removed from reality, that it’s unreachable. It’s entirely viewed through the prism of American culture. Films like Home Alone, Jingle all the Way, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, Santa Claus: The Movie, Elf and all the interminable ‘True Movies’ that are at this time of year, all present Christmas as Upper-middle class, affluent, softly lit, warm, perfect and with 2ft of crisp, fresh snow covering the surroundings. If you try and emulate this, you will be disappointed. But to this day, it is still my idea of a perfect Christmas, so strong and persistent is its cultural pull.

This year, in particular, two events have occurred to me that were the most cynical and disturbing ‘Christmas’ related occurrences that I can remember.

The least serious of these was seeing a six-foot cardboard cut-out of Santa Claus waving at me from a local shop trying to tempt me into purchasing a multipack of 2-litre bottles of brown sugar water. Now, I enjoy the occasional beverage of brown sugar water in all their wonderful varietals: Cherry, vanilla, and lime. Particularly if I’m out and don’t want to have an alcoholic drink. However, to be accosted by a Coca-cola TM endorsed and produced Santa Claus is another matter. Related to this is the fact that the Coca-cola ‘Christmas’ lorry is a real thing now and has been for some time. I have known many colleagues who take their children to see the lorry when it’s on its UK tour. Selfies are taken and families gather around to gawk at it. I assume they give out free bottles of coke as well. For many, Christmas doesn’t start until they first view the advert on TV. ‘Holidays are coming, holidays are coming’. See, I bet you’re singing it in your head right now, aren’t you? Quite how a giant red American lorry became the harbinger of the birth of Jesus Christ across Western civilisation is a mystery. It has however proved a very prudent move by Coca-Cola who saw it sell £185 million worth of cola in 2012. More importantly, they get to increase their creeping corporate presence into our collective unconscious, which is then passed on from generation to generation. If that fails, there’s always the polar bears.

The other event that I had the misfortune to witness was a recent advert from Currys. Now, the seasonal release of ‘Christmas’ adverts is another potent symbol that the ‘holiday season’ has arrived. Most of these adverts are a bit cloying and saccharine, but if you want to burst into tears at an advert, be my guest. It’s a free country. Some of them are just about heart-warming enough to provoke an emotional response in me; and my hearts a gnarled, desiccated husk by now. Most of them are fairly forgettable after a year. I have a vague recollection of a lonely old man on the moon and another with woodland animals hibernating through Christmas. I think Jamie Oliver did one as well. I remember the term ‘them mince pies are well pukka mate’ being spoken in ‘Estuary English’. No doubt next year, I won’t remember the ‘Christmas Monster’ by John Lewis either. I can barely remember it now.

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No, what I witnessed that dreary November day while watching TV, weak and weary, was the most cynical artifact that human culture has ever birthed and this is coming from a species who tried to sell powdered baby formula to women without a potable source of water. It starts off with two parents telling their children that they are going to have a traditional Christmas. You know, the abominable ones where you talk to your loved ones over a meal. That sort of nightmarish Christmas. Repugnant! However, the dark heart of the advert really begins when it turns out that the ‘parent’ is really a salesperson at Currys. She then tries to flog the family a new TV and utters one of the vilest phrases that has ever been said in late capitalist, decadent society: ‘LG OLED 4K ready TV with perfect black and colour and with Dolby atmos 360 degree sound, it’s what Christmas is all about’. No, it bloody well isn’t. I’d like to think that this time of year is more significant than a 50 inch, black rectangle sitting in your living room. Regardless of what you choose to do or not do, I sincerely hope that your Christmas revolves round something more worthy, enjoyable or noble than a 4k ready TV.

To be fair, this year’s offering from Currys was one of the worst, but every company is at it at this time of year. ‘Buy now in time for Christmas’ DFS yell at me with all the subtly of a SWAT team barging through my door.

The opposite side of the coin to this ceaseless corporate onslaught is the interminable, left-wing, social justice, virtue-signalling Guardian articles about how I’m perpetuating poverty in the global south by shopping at ASDA. Or how by even daring to celebrate a Judaeo-Christian festival, I’m taking part in the cultural genocide of minority groups. Or how we should all have a ‘fat-free Christmas’ instead of gorging to the point of sickness. Or how Mary and Joseph should have given the baby Jesus up for adoption to a gender-fluid couple in order to smash the patriarchy. The sort of people who don’t have Christmas at all, but would wish you a ‘happy, non-material, winter festival time’ instead.

Photo 03-12-2017, 12 16 36

No doubt if the birth of Jesus were to occur now, the three Magi would have followed the Coca-Cola lorry to the manger with a multi-pack of cherry coke (You couldn’t just provide regular coke. Show some respect he’s the Messiah), a voucher for DFS and a retro selection box. In the meantime, the Romans would have tried to enforce a law whereby all cribs must be made with fair trade materials and would have fined the proprietor of the manger, two denarii for not enforcing this.

Recently, a friend accidentally told me to ‘have a Christmas’ when we parted ways in Glasgow. Perhaps that’s enough sometimes. Just have a Christmas. It doesn’t have to be the best Christmas ever. It can still be a nice time regardless if your relatives are sitting on a couch that is three years old, watching TV on a standard 1080p screen.

To that end, I would like to wish you a Christmas and a New Year.

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Alex Salmond and RT: Unwitting Russian Stooge?

It can be hard when you retire. I wouldn’t know much about this. I’m due to retire in 2052. However, in some ways, it can be more difficult for career politicians. You’re at the top of your game. You’ve self-actualised. Where do you go from there? You can’t usually improve upon ‘democratically elected leader of free Western nation’ on your CV.

Well, for some politicians the post-retirement options can vary. Usually, once the biographical memoirs are published, you’ve justified your actions, slandered you enemies and tried to secure your position in history, you have a number of choices.

You could disappear into obscurity. After a number of years in the unblinking public eye, this could be a very attractive option. David Cameron was spotted eating fish and chips in Cornwall a few weeks after resigning as Prime Minister. The press screamed that he’d fallen from grace, but he looked quite content and happy to me. Margaret Thatcher staged a few public interventions with regard to General Pinochet and British Airways removing the British flag from their aircraft after she left Downing Street in 1990, but not anything too substantial. In Britain, it’s customary for former Prime Ministers and high ranking politicians to take up a seat in the House of Lords and contribute your political knowledge and nous to the second chamber. You could opt to become an ‘elder statesman’ in a similar manner to that of former US president Jimmy Carter did; set up a foundation, become a humanitarian and use your political clout and expertise to right social wrongs across the globe.

Or if you’re former First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, you can present a talk show on the Russian Government backed news channel, Russia Today. An unorthodox option for a retired politician, but one he has chosen to pursue none the less.

Mr Salmond has made no secret of his dislike of the ‘British state’ in his recent public appearances. But it seems that the former First Minister has started to embark on a concerted and sustained campaign to undermine not only the ‘British State’ but all aspects of Britishness now with little regard for the future. At the Scottish Independence Convention in November 2017, he said to the audience that he has ‘never seen the British state in a state of more disorientation and chaos’ and that ‘The structures of Westminster politics are decaying before our eyes’. You could counter this and argue that from a unionist perspective, the UK looks stronger than ever, with the Conservatives in government thanks to a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement with the Northern Irish DUP and the SNP having lost twenty-one seats in the June 2017 general election.

Regardless of his opinion on the precariousness and fragility of the ‘British State’, he is appearing on a news network that is officially sponsored by the Russian government. This is a country that has been consistently rated as ‘not free’ when it comes to press freedom, according to Freedom House. A place where LGBT relationships are still not recognised and there are numerous discriminatory laws in place. Russia is rated 119th in a list of the worlds least corrupt countries. The UK is number 11. A place that is infamous for now resembling an oligarchy and Vladimir Putin has held onto political power, in some form or another since the year 1999.

I find it almost impossible to believe that these are issues that Mr Salmond agrees with. I didn’t like him as First Minister and disagreed with many of his parties policies. I didn’t like what he instigated in Scotland with his call for a referendum on Scottish independence. I don’t like the festering divisions that it opened up to questions that didn’t even need answering.

However, I also earnestly believe that he wouldn’t approve of the same policies as the Russian government, which in many ways he is tacitly doing at the moment. A lot of people in Scotland disliked him, but he seemed like a decent enough person and not likely to turn autocratic within the current parliamentary system. Had the ‘Yes’ campaign won the referendum in 2014, Scotland, under Alex Salmond would at least have enjoyed the same freedoms as it currently does with regards to minority groups and press freedoms.

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We could quickly venture into conspiratorial territory if we so wished. Russia was one of the few other nations (The other was North Korea) to support an independent Scotland in the run-up to the 2014 independence referendum, not because of any vague notion for the self-determination of people, but more because of the damage it would do to the Western World. In Russia, it still seems like politics is very much a zero-sum game to be played in a multi-polar world.

Also, major figures in the UK, particularly those from a leftish leaning persuasion have always had an unhealthy obsession with the Soviet Union and now Russia. Beatrice and Sidney Webb and George Bernard Shaw were all acolytes of Stalin’s Russia, before changing their minds after actually witnessing the squalid reality of communism. To many on the left today, Russia is still viewed as an opponent of perceived Western Imperialism despite its own imperialistic misadventures throughout history. An alternative to the ‘hyperpower’ of the United States.

According to the recently released paper titled ‘Putin’s Useful Idiots: Britain’s Left, Right and Russia‘ since the launch of Russia today, the news network has sought out high-ranking politicians who are known to protest British foreign and domestic policy. The best known of these are Jeremy Corbyn and George Galloway. Alex Salmond has just become the third member in what Dr Andrew Jackson has termed ‘Putin’s Useful Idiots’. How much persuasive power this mild fifth column triumvirate actually has is unknown, but there are a large number of posts on social media that seem to have a great deal of mistrust in Britain and a little too much regard for Russia. The recent allegations from the Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK, claiming that Alex Salmond is a ‘puppet’ of Russia Today will not help this notion either.

Mr Salmond seems to suffer from the occasional bout of selective memory loss. The United Kingdom was one of the great historical engines of liberal democracy, toleration, press freedom and minority rights. When rated in the terms of soft, cultural power, it is often just behind the United States and is still very much a ‘Force for Good‘ in the world. Russia not quite as much, although her past cultural and intellectual achievements can be regarded very highly. Great Britain was at the forefront of the enlightenment project during the Georgian period and the stream of intellectual and philosophical thought that this precipitated continues to influence us to this day. Scotland’s own part in this cannot be overlooked, so much so that the French political philosopher Voltaire said ‘that we Look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.’

Equally Importantly for Scotland, and even if you didn’t vote for the SNP or Alex Salmond, he was still the First Minister. If Scotland had voted for independence in 2014 he may have been our first leader. He may not now be an elected politician, but he still has a responsibility to his previous post. It may be that his own show at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe has gone to his head and given him a taste for showbiz and that his appearance on Russian Today is just a misguided and gauche attempt at a post-political career. We can only hope so.

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Skyrim, Skyrim; So Good Its Been Re-released Seven Times

Skyrim. The name needs no further introduction. If you are even slightly interested in computer gaming, you will have heard, or more likely played it. Currently, it has been released on seven platforms, was remastered only half a decade after its original release, has three official expansion packs and has sold over 30 million copies. It’s a game that has probably taken up potentially billions of hours from humanity. Hours that could have been dedicated to reading War and Peace, learning a foreign language or perfecting that soufflé recipe you saw in one of the glossy Sunday supplements.


It’s the very definition of ‘High Fantasy’. If J.R.R Tolkien, G.R.R. Martin, and Brynjar the Viking from Jorvik had a brainstorming session, with copious amounts of coffee and mead; Skyrim would have been the result of their epic meeting. Not being computer programmers, (linguists, authors and the bane of the Saxons are not known for their overwhelming skill with the propriety Creation Engine) they would have passed this onto Bethesda, who would bring their epic vision to life.

I’m something of a Skyrim fan and a keen student of the open-world formula that Bethesda has been refining for well over a decade now, at least since Morrowind, the first truly ‘live your own adventure’ game that I ever played. Morrowind soon became one of my favorite games of all time, despite a shaky start on the titular island of Vvardefell where I stupidly and naively went a puny imperial and was harassed, robbed, mugged, shaken down and killed by all manner of insect life, angry traders and cliff racers. I then created an orc character and had a fantastic adventure, solving every conundrum by hitting it on the head with a two-handed axe in what became an all-encompassing and enthralling adventure that in many ways has not been beaten since 2002.

But back to Skyrim. The re-release on the Nintendo Switch and the lingering VR version on the PS4 (Yes, I’m very tempted, despite not owning a PlayStation 4 or the VR headset) has had me hankering to get back to the snowy and unforgiving province for the first time in about two and half years. This time with the Special Edition that was generously on my Steam account for some reason.


Also, to be honest, with the unfortunate dearth of truly unique single player games this generation (The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the standout exception) I was eager to revisit, what for me at least, was the pinnacle of the last console generation.

On installing the game, the basic mechanics have remained identical to the original version and are totally untouched. The Special Edition is mostly an aesthetic upgrade. But the addition of mods cannot be ignored and add an amazing and wide range of gameplay fixtures and features to an already densely packed game. New, unique followers, with often well written, humorous dialogue can be downloaded to accompany you on your travels. Little incidental details like lampposts along the roads and beehives add to the notion that people are meant to live and work here. You can even get a camping mod and one where you get hypothermia.

True to all Elder Scrolls games, you start as a featureless, raceless and nameless protagonist. Bethesda games don’t really start until after the character creation and the obligatory introductory set-piece. Once this glorified cut-scene is passed, the game truly begins. Think of the moment in Oblivion where you leave the Imperial Sewers and are left squinting at the forested hills and sparkling waterways of Cyrodiil after the dank gloom of the labyrinthine sewers under the Imperial City. In Fallout 4 it is the moment that you leave vault 101, take the elevator to the surface, and survey the irradiated and blasted wasteland that used to be your white picket fenced home with the dilapidated skyscrapers of Boston just visible on the horizon.

From this moment forward, the special edition upgrades (and mods, if you have them installed) become apparent immediately. They add another level of detail to an already intricate and beautiful game world.

Clouds gently waft over crags, ravines, and mountaintops. Flecks of light snow prance in front of your eyes before being carried away by a breeze, where they lie in great drifts and twinkle when they catch the light. External masonry looks old and weather-beaten, scarred by millennia of snow and ice. Great iron braziers crackle with fire, keeping the cold at bay, spreading their warmth to the frigid surroundings. Timber is split and has a slight coating of green mold. Landscape features such as mountains, hills, and trees now block out the light with ‘volumetric god rays’ leading to some lovely shadowing effects.


Internal environments are also more noticeable and vibrant. Roots hang down into cave systems, searching for water and nutrients. Ancient Nord burial chambers look damp and mossy with centuries of water ingress. They almost look clammy to the touch.

The game is so richly detailed and so well designed that I’m not sure what was from the original game in 2011 and from the Special Edition from 2016. When I first played the game in 2011 one of the most immersive moments was watching salmon leaping up river to their spawning grounds. This small, almost miniscule detail added to the immersion in a very subtle way. In a similar manner, eagles soar on updraughts and insects swarm over marshland areas. All of this was present in the original version of Skyrim. The Special Edition adds to this sense of place and history by augmenting the landscape with another more detailed layer of fauna, flora, weather effects and lighting.


Admittedly, the quests do all have a certain clockwork monotony to them. Investigate this. Go here. Come back with a snippet of information or a quest item. Within a few days, I was Arch-mage of the College of Winterhold despite being a novice when I arrived at the gate. I’ll be the military commander of the province of Skyrim, after successfully crushing the Stormcloak rebellion, by the time you read this. I’ll be parading through the Imperial City, with a laurel and a slave whispering ‘Memento Mori’ into my ear as a reminder of my mortal existence on this plane.

Unlike Morrowind where you had to make irreversible decisions at certain points in the quest lines, but in a similar manner to Oblivion, nothing is closed to you. You can be a thief and a fighter. Loyally destroy the enemies of the Emperor, but kill him with another faction. Such gameplay features may upset RPG purists, but at least it allows you to access the full game without doing multiple playthroughs.

Like most RPGs, you end up doing menial tasks well below your station. As the only person who can devour the souls of dragons, it probably isn’t appropriate for me to be delivering letters between the members of a love triangle. Perhaps I shouldn’t be collecting three flawless amethysts for a wedding ring when the world is burning in dragon fire. Why can’t this alchemist from Riften collect her own damn nightshade? But alas, you do these things because it’s an RPG and let’s be honest, you enjoy the world revolving around you. You want to be the hero.

For the most part, the quests provide gameplay, narrative structure, XP to level up and a gradual way of exploring the map at a leisurely and constant pace. The well realised world and the sense of leisurely exploration is a gameplay element in its own right and you will end up stumbling into an unexpected quest just by walking into a mine.

Environmental storytelling has always been one of Bethesda’s strong points. For example, skeletal remains can be found at the entrance to a barrow, looking like they were trying to claw their injured bodies from some unknown and ancient horror contained in an antechamber of a long abandoned and foreboding city. Sets of shoes, just outside a tent, can be found next to sweet rolls, implying a romantic liaison that resulted in a tragic death where two lovers were swept out to sea. A woolly mammoth can be found embedded in a glacier with Dwemer (An ancient and long extinct race of dwarves in Elder Scrolls Lore) arrows piercing its side. A man can be found slumped over a bloody grindstone, implying a grizzly and painful end. Often, no further clues are given in these scenarios, letting you construct your own narrative with a few breadcrumb pointers left by Bethesda. It creates a world where people, again, admittedly mechanically, have lived a life, loved and lost.


Skyrim was never quite the ‘virtual world’ where NPCs live their own life, independent of your character. They do have a certain routine; get up, go to work, come back. Nothing complicated. You can get ‘married’ in the game, but your spouse won’t react to your long absences. No computer game has ever achieved this level of realism, despite the promises (I’m looking at you, Fable and Peter Molyneux). And I’m not sure it would be a desirable feature either.

To all intents and purposes, you are a God in Skyrim. Nothing happens without your agency and consent. Leave your character standing forlornly outside a city and nothing will happen. The dragon Alduin won’t enslave the Nord race with the help of his scaly compatriots. The Stormcloak rebellion against Imperial rule will go dormant until you decide to take up arms again.

Bethesda have taken a lot of flack for re-releasing Skyrim on multiple platforms over the past few years and for using this particular IP as a ‘cash cow.’ However, they are one of the few dedicated and large RPG developers still standing, now that Bioware is increasingly directing its efforts on the ‘destinyesque’ Anthem now.

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Regardless of what platform you decide to play on, if you just have the ‘vanilla’ version or are using mods, the core fundamentals of Skyrim are impeccable and it is one of the ‘must plays’ of that last two generations. Very rarely has a game realised a sense of place and history so well through expert world building and the use of in-game lore.

It was a flawed masterpiece on release. The plethora of official and unofficial patches over the years has ensured that the game now runs smoothly and largely without incident. Mods on consoles have delivered a game rich in new features and gameplay elements that were previously the purview of the PC.

All you need to do now is set aside 450+ hours to experience it properly.

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What’s With All The Nationalist Boycotts?

We’re all prone to a bit of pettiness from time to time, aren’t we? Not offering to make a colleague a cup of tea at work just cause you don’t like them. Not texting someone because of a perceived slight that you thought you had incurred. Doing something on purpose just to rile someone. Usually, and in my experience, it can often be caused by a power imbalance or motivated by someone not letting you get your own way. You can either deal with this like a mature adult and acknowledge your childish behaviour or alternatively you can sulk, put your bottom lip out and strike back the only way you can: pettiness.

In general, nationalism and love of one’s own nation is not an unhealthy emotion. No one is totally rootless in life and I’ve never subscribed to the idea that I’m a ‘world citizen’, freely floating in a globalised world who can just blithely move to another culture and settle in it like it’s my native one. I would assume that many of the people reading this article care deeply about Scotland and its place in the United Kingdom.

However, there is a virulent petty streak in Scottish nationalism that is getting increasingly desperate now. With Scottish independence slowly receding into the distance, many nationalists are resorting to desperate and some might say tragic measures with increasingly ridiculous stunts to resuscitate their moribund cause, with many of these efforts only gaining praise from their own zealous peers on social media.

The harbingers of such future pettiness were present during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Discussion of the boycott of companies that supported a ‘No’ vote in 2014 was rife during the run-up to September the 18th 2014. And the nationalists would have had a hard time staying alive if they had carried through their plans to boycott all the companies they said they would. BP, Shell Oil, William Grants & Sons, British Aerospace, RBS, Lloyds Banking Group, B&Q, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer’s, The BBC, Thomas Cook and Standard Life all voiced concerns over a ‘Yes’ vote. ASDA, in particular, had the temerity to voice some unofficial reservations over their operations in Scotland in the event of an independence vote. They were met with cries from the cybernats including: ‘Well ye wid side with the enemy fool hope yeez go out of business altogether and let the local shops rule again’ and ‘Still think NAW was the right idea ASDA? Traitors !!!!!.’ The notion of faceless companies being ‘traitors’ in Scotland is a relatively new phenomenon and one that is a common feature amongst the most zealous now, especially online

You would like to think that after the referendum, a period of calm would have ensued. Perhaps we all got a bit stressed out and let our passions run out in front of our logic. After all, ultimately, we were talking about our sense of identity. However, a week later, the pro-independence campaign group, ‘The 45’ were formed and they released a large list of brands that should be boycotted immediately. Mostly it was just a rehash of the brands already mentioned.

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Facebook pages titled ‘Remember The Companies That Scared Scotland’ were set up with the noble intention of recruiting citizen activists/warriors to man the barricades: ‘This is a call to the 1.6 million of you that voted yes, the 45%. Let’s never allow these companies to scare our people ever again.’ Quite how M&S scared me into making a well informed political decision during a nation-wide referendum is a mystery to me. The only time I was ever frightened in M&S was when I saw a small jar of manuka honey for £37.50p. Another Facebook page called ‘Boycott Biased Banks and Companies-BBBC’ has a selection of memes one of which says ‘Fuck you Tesco for taking the saltire from the fruit you sell. We in Scotland will buy from somewhere else’. The ‘we in Scotland’ being the 540 people who like the page.

The most infamous display of nationalist pettiness was the ‘Tunnockgate’ boycott in January 2016 where Tunnocks had supposedly removed the lion rampant from the packaging on their teacakes. It turned out that they actually hadn’t, but this was irrelevant. Such a flagrant display of a company exercising its right to independently manage its affairs at the behest of its board members was met by the 24th central-belt cybernat regiment, (The blue and white line, tipped with bile) who bravely tweeted ‘join me in boycotting #Tunnocks. Bad product anyway, Calories galore, no nutrients’ (Incidentally, that’s why people like them) another keyboard warrior stated that ‘On principle, I haven’t bought anything by #Tunnocks since 2014.’ Dark days indeed for the future of Scotland when a grown man refuses to eat a chocolate coated, marshmallow filled confection on political ‘principle’.


More recently Tesco has come under attack for a statement saying that it would be putting British flags on its produce to ensure brand continuity. Again, not unreasonable. Also, these are just products like strawberries. Scotland has a certain ‘brand’ and has foods that are associated with it. Whisky is the most prominent, but other ones include salmon, haggis, shortbread etc. So do all regions of the UK (The English do marvellous cheese pies). But soft fruits? Nothing particularly Scottish about them. However, Tesco withdrew this statement after more nationalist pettiness on social media in what A Force for Good called the ‘THE SUPERMARKET CLEARANCES’. Indeed one Scottish ‘patriot’ was so enraged at the sight of the ‘Butchers Apron’ upon his strawberries that he put a sticker over the offending flag with ‘End London Rule’ on it. I bet that showed the London ‘establishment’. This was a grown man. Follow the entire thought process that he went through and it’s really quite worrying. The faceless company makes a change to its packaging. Seething rage. Go to computer. Design leaflet. Acquire pack of stickers. Print. Go to local Tesco. Place sticker on strawberries. Ignore strange looks from staff and shoppers. Write a post on social media, probably in incoherent ‘Scoddish’ that no one has spoken since 1741. Social media ‘friends’ reply to endeavours. Increase in confirmation bias. Watch as reasonable Scottish nationalists distance themselves even further. At no point was there a period of self-reflection on such a monumental level of petty behaviour?


Again, this is not the whole of Scotland, but we should be concerned when there are people who think that a major supermarket chain selling ‘British Butter’ in their stores, North of the Border are ‘disrespecting Scotland’.

InkedDirespecting Scotland_LI

Such petty antics and boycotts also extend to Scottish cultural and historical organisations now. The National Trust for Scotland has recently appointed historian Neil Oliver as their President in what is largely a ceremonial role. However, this was also been met with howls of petty indignation from many nationalists berating the organisation with threats to cancel their subscriptions to the Trust because they appointed a man who was a unionist and a very measured and polite one at that.

InkedNeil Oliver cancel_LI

Indeed my own small, sleepy, town along the west coast of Scotland is not free from the nationalist pettiness either. A local shopkeeper has been known to throw people out of his establishment if they have a British flag on their clothing and even made the national press for his antics involving an armed forces day flag, that of course, contains the Union flag.

There is probably an underlying reason for such boycotts and one that is not immediately obvious. It’s another attack on ‘Britishness’ in Scotland. Either intentionally or by design, many of these companies are ‘British’. Think John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Tesco, B&Q. The first two quintessentially British. The obsession with ridding British flags on produce is another indicator. If you cant get a politically independent nation through democratic means, then the next best thing is to do the same thing in the cultural and economic sphere as much as possible.

The nationalists are losing the political and economic argument. The SNP were given a bloody nose in the 2017 general election and in the 2016 Scottish parliamentary elections as well. Companies and organisations should not be beholden to a bunch of petty nationalists. (What is the plural for a gathering of petty nationalists? A swarm? A hive? A plethora? A clutter?) If you are putting political slogans over British flags, you know you have lost the argument (and the plot). Like spoiled children who have been denied a sweet, the zealous nationalists in Scotland are lashing out anything they deign to be British, particularly the low hanging fruit like flags on produce etc.

The best that any person or organisation can do is it to ignore them and let them have their tantrum. In a way, it’s a positive development; if this is all they can attack now, then good. Just because you are the loudest and the pettiest does not mean you are correct. We made the same mistake of believing it in 2014, where the silent majority didn’t make themselves present until the 11th hour. We shouldn’t do it again.

More importantly is this really the nation that Scotland is turning into? Is this what we want, not even as nationalist or unionist, but as free-thinking Scots and/or Brits? A place where butter and teacakes are viewed as treacherous to a political ideology and a historical organisation takes flack for appointing someone because of their benign political views? Taken to extremes, these are dangerous trends that must be nipped in the bud. I still don’t believe that sensible, stoic, and socially conservative Scotland wants the world that the petty nationalists are trying to create.

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Social Media: Not As Free As It Should Be

What do Disdain for Plebs, the Straight White Capitalist, The Church of Mogg, Lauren Southern, Sargon of Akkad and Markus Meechan have in common with one another? Not a great deal, apart from perhaps coming from the same very, very broad political persuasion.

However, what they definitely do have in common is that they have all been ‘no platformed’ on social media at some point. In particular many have been ‘Zucced’. A term used to describe your Facebook site or profile being removed because of your political views. An event that appears to be happening with increasing regularity. In the case of Markus Meechan and the Church of Mogg, this has come with the added bonus of unwarranted police involvement. Police Scotland (or Poileas Alba as they are to be henceforth called) are obviously more concerned with an anti-Semitic pug on YouTube than criminality.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been a member of some closed political groups and they frankly appalled me. They dealt not with politics, but unadulterated hatred and abuse. Not only were some of their members utterly racist, homophobic and xenophobic but for some reason, a sizeable number seemed to enjoy images and videos of animal cruelty. A video of male chicks being fed into an industrial shredder was met with rapturous applause from the comment section from a bunch of cretins who think they are being ‘edgy’. Another member posted an image of 14 ‘varmits’ that he shot. Another shared a picture of a young girl who had broken her leg and was on her phone at the time. Quite what either of these had to do with being ‘Anti-SJW’ that the group professed, was a mystery to me.

I make no apologies for reporting these images and then leaving the groups. They had nothing interesting to say, added nothing of relevance to the discourse and frankly gave anyone with centre-right views a bad name. However, no matter how repulsive the opinions on these sites they still have the right to exist, just as I have the right to leave.

However, there is very real issue underneath all this. The specific sites and people mentioned above have been banned and/or taken down in the virtual equivalent of being ‘no-platformed’. Their only crime is having an opinion that goes against the grain of the current cultural and political paradigm that the social justice left has foisted upon us all.

Even though they are a diverse group they perhaps don’t support mass migration of people from a totally different culture who aren’t really willing to assimilate certain aspects of the native culture. They may believe in small government. They don’t believe that you can be ‘gender fluid’ and that sex is biologically determined. Some of these views are completely reasonable and are supported by the mainstream population and further reinforced by empirical scientific evidence, but this isn’t necessarily enough to ensure their survival in cyberspace.

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These phenomena of removing dissenting voices is not only unique to social media platforms. Amazon has reportedly removed negative reviews from What Happened by Hillary Clinton. In some cases, this may be reasonable as those leaving reviews clearly have a political and social axe to grind or may just be ‘trolls’ looking for a fight. It’s better known in services such as Netflix, Amazon video, and Steam as ‘review bombing’, where a mass of negative reviews appear in short succession because consumers don’t like the content.

YouTube can demonetise videos that contain ‘controversial or sensitive subjects and events’, ‘Inappropriate language’ and ‘sexually suggestive content’. This leaves a rather insipid and bland roster of subjects left. (Minecraft? Puppies?) It also targets a lot of content creators with no political intent.

The crowdfunding site, Patreon, has removed Lauren Southern from its website because of her involvement with Defend Europe. On the other side of the political spectrum, they also removed the far-left news site It’s Going Down. YouTube has apparently been removing dislikes from its #ProudToBe: Celebrate Brave Voices this Pride. Such actions have a strong political element to them.

It should be noted that democratising and opening debate via social media has not always led to a greater quality of intellectual output. Indeed much of the discourse on the internet is a mile wide and an inch thick or descends into two opposing sides yelling profanities across the electronic ether.

But the sheer scale of removing what they perceived as ‘right-wing’ (and occasionally left) should be worrying for those of us who believe in the free exchange of ideas and the ability to come up with solutions to our societal problems.

Mark Zuckerberg has stated that to counter anti-globalisation movements we need ‘smaller communities’ and ‘intimate social structures’ that meet people’s ‘personal, emotional and spiritual needs’. This is to be facilitated by Facebook, of course.

Apart from the creepiness of the above statement (do you really want your ‘intimate social structures’ tended by a for-profit corporation?), what if you’re an anti-globalisation movement? Or consider yourself just a normal conservative? Well, to Facebook, even this in unacceptable. According to a former Facebook staff member, the tech company was leaving out trending news from right wing sites in 2016.

I expect, before the internet, it was relativity hard to shut down an entire ‘old media’, analog distribution system. There could be more than one printing press. It would require the consent and entire apparatus of the state; police, courts, army etc. Before the Iranian revolution, they used to smuggle VHS tapes with speeches from Iman’s, into Iran. Illegal radio broadcasts could be picked up by anyone

Now, you switch off a few servers or change a few algorithms on social media and because of our utter reliance on new media, an entire segment of the population is given a certain ideological viewpoint or none at all. Considering that two billion users log into Facebook and over 320 million people use Twitter this puts a lot of political power into the algorithms of social media platforms.

Ironically, the original idea of many US West Coast tech entrepreneurs and proponents of the ‘California Ideology’ of creating a virtual community where ‘all individuals will be able to express themselves freely within cyberspace’ has gone awry, or at least only applies to those of a more left-leaning persuasion.

Regardless of my, or anyone else’s opinion, social media is now here to stay with us. Apart from a few anarcho-primitivists, no one is advocating significant change and we usually acquiesce to social media despite the issues.

Social media is now as ubiquitous as the TV or internal combustion engine was in the latter half of the 20th century. An integral part of our social lives and work. Because of its ubiquitousness, which far exceeds ‘last century’ media, it’s more important that it is free and open to all opinions even if we disagree or even find them abhorrent. Perhaps if the tech companies and platform holders treat us like adults who can sift out information on social media ourselves and deal with challenging ideas, we might start to act like it.

Lest We Forget: The Importance Of Our Memorials

We now live in an age where inconvenient, ‘offensive’ history is being forcibly removed by the social justice left in an endless crusade to wipe out the historical and physical legacy of Western Civilisation and national culture.

In the United States, they are in the process of removing statues and memorials to Confederate Generals and those who followed and died for them. So far almost all states have been effected by this regressive desire to rewrite the historical narrative and create even safer spaces for what they perceive to be a traumatised populace. So far, busts and statues to General Lee, Longstreet and Jackson have been removed (usually in the dead of night) and memorials to Confederate war dead have been given the same sharp treatment with no public consultation.

Across on our side of the Atlantic, the UK has been afflicted with its own home-grown version of this with the ‘Rhodes must fall’ movement which tried to remove the statue of renowned (some might say infamous) imperialist Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College in Oxford. Luckily this was stopped, largely by the fact that a number of wealthy Oxford alumni were considering keeping their wallets closed.

In a similar vein, a campaign to remove Admiral Nelson from his column is starting to gain traction, all for his supposed role in the slave trade. His real and definitive role in defeating continental absolutism is unimportant.

At the moment, such actions are just the thin end of a potentially very large wedge. They are just a bridgehead in a looming larger conflict and like all American exports, it will make it to good Old Blighty eventually.

No matter where you live, every town in the UK has statues to some Imperial soldier, a war memorial (probably more than one), a tribute to a former monarch or a plaque commemorating some hero. From the smallest rural village to provincial towns to national capitals, we pass countless such places every day. They were erected in the context of a particular time and by a particular people, who possessed a unique mindset that reflected the era they lived in. None of which makes their views or the memorials abhorrent. They were your ancestors and often not that distant from you in time and space.

Such forced removal of our memorials also wrongly interprets history. Some of our greatest historical figures held questionable and outmoded views, at least when viewed through the skewed post-modern, post-colonial eyes of the social justice left. Churchill, in particular, was a staunch imperialist, ‘the last of the Victorians’. But his leadership and determination probably saved the United Kingdom and consequently led to the opening of a large second front against Nazi Germany. Queen Victoria was aghast at the notion of female emancipation and frowned at the Suffragette moment. I don’t know what she thought of pansexuals or otherkin.

In the United States, General Lee believed in gradual emancipation led by divine providence (A view not uncommon for the time, particularly in border states) and led the confederate army because of his allegiance to his home state of Virginia rather than any strong belief that human beings should be treated as chattels. President Lincoln may have deserved the epitaph ‘The Great Emancipator’, but his primary aim in the US civil war was to maintain the United States as a single political entity with the freedom of the slaves of secondary importance.

Closer to my home, former Prime Minister, W.E. Gladstone has a prominent statue in George Square in Glasgow. Should it be ripped from its plinth because he sent General Garnet Wolseley on imperial expeditions into the Sudan in the 1880s?

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Most of these examples concern soldiers, statesmen, and monarchs. What about scientists? When Charles Darwin visited Tierra Del Fuego and upon witnessing the sorry state of the ‘native Fuegians’ he later wrote in his diary: ‘I believe if the world was searched, no lower grade of man could be found.’ Shocking words by today’s standard. But does this mean that his intellectually poised statue in the Natural History Museum should be removed much like ‘dippy’ and replaced with a different one that better reflects our contemporary era?

To put people into binary archetypes of ‘good’, ‘evil’, ‘offensive’, ‘inoffensive’ is to lose sight of what many of these people actually were: human. Neither Angel or Demon, but human. Often this involves holding conflicting views. Something that the social justice left likes to forget with its onus on human perfectibility and equality.

Of course, removing statues, plaques or memorials doesn’t mean that the event didn’t happen or the person didn’t exist. Removing what one group deems to be offensive does us all a disservice in its attempt to expunge history from the records as well as patronising us with the notion that we can’t accept uncomfortable truths about the past. We can. Most of us are adults.

Also, the idea of a single individual elevated above the general populace is anathema to the social justice left. If you earnestly believe in the absolute equality of everyone, which many of them seem to, then how can you have heroes in a society? No one deserves to be venerated above anyone else. You aren’t allowed to have historical and cultural highs to aspire to. Just a uniform insipid, cultural mush; all in the name of ‘equality’.

On a more personal note, I have recently returned from a trip to Poland where I visited Auschwitz. The name itself comes loaded with preconceptions and emotional baggage. It was a heart rending experience and the camp is filled with a sense of deep, lingering sadness and isn’t a place that would warrant a return visit.

It would have been relatively easy after the Second World War to blast the place into oblivion, to try and cleanse its presence from the soil. But I feel that it is best to examine the dark heart of humanity, face our worse abuses and then stare our demons down no matter how difficult this may be. Only through this can we come to an understanding of our nature and try and ensure that such places and atrocities are never brought forth again.

All events, one day, will pass from the realm of living memory and into recorded history, only accessible through some form of media. When that occurs the only physical evidence left will be our memorials, our artifacts, our statues, our plaques, our weapons, our buildings, our tools; this will be all that remains to remind us of events, even if they make us uncomfortable.

What would leave a greater legacy for future generations? Intact plinths, memorials and public spaces where we have to explain the complexities of human history, motivation, culture, politics, and emotion, and then reflect on them? A place where we can ponder the past and perhaps contemplate the future? A place where we can feel that we are just another generation, one out of a multitude, sometimes no better or worse than those before us. A place where we can see that our ancestors bequeathed us with a culture, a civilisation and a way of life; if often messy at times?

The alternative is flat, stark, barren places, where history was physically removed because one generation, far removed from events, deemed their presence to be too ‘offensive’ for them?

I know which future I would choose.

You Are Not Oppressesd

Are you oppressed? Has the stern jackboot of oppression ever stomped on your neck? Have agents of the state questioned your life choices and thrown you into the back of a black unmarked van because of your gender preference, sexual orientation or political/ideological views? Do you yearn to break free of chains that have bound you so tightly that you have spent a lifetime living a lie for fear of brutal repercussions from the government? Are you struggling with bonds so tight that they have constricted you for decades, leaving deep mental and physical wounds that may never heal?

If you answered ‘yes, that’s me. That’s totally my life’ to the above paragraph I would suggest that you go and put the kettle on, flick that neon fringe out of your eyes, have a nice cup of chamomile and honey tea (or any beverage you want, I’m not some sort of tea fascist) and if you are fortunate enough to live in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or indeed anywhere in the Western World, drink it while wistfully gazing out of the window gently uttering the words ‘I ‘am not oppressed, I ‘am not oppressed.’

Along with the tea, I hope you imbibe a sense of perspective and ready yourself for a hard truth.

With all due respect, no one actually cares about your life choices, who you want to sleep with or what gender pronoun you’re using that particular day. You’re just not that special and the vast majority of the population doesn’t care and neither should you. To tell you the truth, as long as you keep your head down, take responsibility for your behaviour, uphold the values of Western civilisation (individualism, property, democracy, capitalism etc) and conform (I know, the ‘c’ word, right) to some basic levels of behaviour and dress, in certain prescribed circumstances, then no one cares.

All people in the UK are protected by the law. We are all equal in the eyes of Themis, the Greek Goddess of Justice. So much so, that she is often portrayed as being blindfolded. The entire British state operates on this principle. The operator on the end of a 999 phone call, won’t ask your gender, sex, shoe size, what party political you voted for in 2017 or if you prefer to be called ‘Him’, ‘Her’ or ‘Zim’ before dispatching an ambulance.

May I suggest that what you are suffering from is prejudice from your fellow citizens and a minority of them at that. This might be wrong, but it’s probably unavoidable. If prejudice is embedded in the culture it could take decades to expunge it from society, if it all. And let’s all be honest, we all have our prejudices as well. None of us is Jesus Christ or the Buddha, we hate as well as love. I expect we all dislike a particular societal clique, or sub-culture, even if it’s illogical. Prejudice can be an insidious phenomena, which can, on occasion, permeate state and social structures. It’s wrong, but it is still not oppression.

The fact is that most people aren’t really ‘anti’ against your lifestyle choices. It’s probably more accurate to say that they are more ‘pro’ something, particularity in the Western World. For example, many Christians don’t agree with same-sex marriage. Does this mean that they are against homosexuality? Not necessarily. They just believe in the sanctity of marriage and that it should be between a man and a woman. It should be noted that they do also have the right to hold this view as well.

If we start down the path of restricting speech, well, who dictates what is allowed to be said anymore. Who is to be the arbiter of this? As Mick Hume, author of Trigger Warning states, people now use the term ‘denier’ in the same way they used to use ‘witch’; as an insult, a tactic to silence and quick method of closing down further debate and investigation.

However, more importantly, does this mean that they wish you actually bodily or psychological harm for loving who you choose or any other personal preference? No, we’re a very, very long way from throwing people off of buildings or hanging them as they do in some other states.

I would say that considering there has just been a massive Pride Parade, with an estimated 26,000 marchers (This is only 5625 less than the police officers at the Metropolitan Police Service) expected to be in London, from every walk of life, it can be hard to play the oppression card. In fact, the state is so oppressive that it’s erecting concrete barriers to stop terrorists driving a car into the crowds. Nor do oppressed groups have entire YouTube campaigns with nearly 5.7 million views on their videos. Oppressed groups tend to have clandestine meetings, slink about from place to place and don’t broadcast their whereabouts. They also don’t use Instagram.

Also, dear reader, I don’t know about you but I’m also far too busy for prejudice, let alone oppression. I get up in the morning, go to work, come back, read, write, watch some ‘fail’ videos on YouTube and then go to bed. Repeat this Monday to Friday. This leaves almost no time in my day to even vaguely consider people who have the same rights and legal protection as me, but somehow consider themselves to be an oppressed minority.

This is not just confined to the most misguided and fringe supporters of LGBTTQQIAAP rights either. Anyone can suffer from the idea that they are being oppressed nowadays.

People now think they are oppressed by President Trump or Brexit or the Conservative party. There is now a new breed of simpering social justice warrior who considers it oppression whenever a political decision or vote takes place that they didn’t like. It’s not oppression. It’s democracy.

YouTube is full of people who claim that they are a ‘free inhabitant of the earth’ who seem to have trouble grasping the idea of national sovereignty or refuse to hand over a driving license to a Police Officer. Of course, the consequence of this is that a minor misdemeanour unnecessarily escalates into a major infraction, distressing all those present and wasting tax payer’s money.

Most of us also find it difficult to oppress anyone, as we don’t have the entire apparatus of the state behind us: police forces, judiciary, prison camps etc. You know, all those things that most non-democratic and totalitarian regimes have used to actually oppress people since we first discovered agriculture in the Fertile Crescent. You know, the sort of behavioural attributes that ultra-oppressive regimes like The Khmer Rouge, who used to jail anyone with spectacles, or The Soviet Union under Stalin, where academics could be arrested and left to languish in a Siberian gulag for discussing agricultural policy actually use.

Trouble is if you start to see yourself as a victim, if it permeates your entire identity, you start to become one. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy with dangerous consequences. It gets to the point that nothing short of 100% acceptance from all of society will do. I’m a heterosexual, white man, but there will have been times where I would not have been accepted wholeheartedly by other cliques in society. Too quiet, too short, too unfashionable, too poor etc.

All of this is partly enabled and hugely exacerbated by social media and the miniaturisation of technology. 10 years ago, I couldn’t have filmed the police for ‘evidence’ of oppression, nor could I have buried myself in the insular world of social media, where I could further indulge my often nonsensical views with the like-minded ‘oppressed’.

Today, you are free to think, do, and live as you see fit, provided you don’t break the law. Fight prejudice, as long as it is safe to do so. Be yourself most of the time, but remember that on occasion you may have to conform to society. Basically, just go and live your life.

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The Hysterical Left-Wing

The past decade has provided us with a steady and constant stream of political surprises. The election of Barack Obama as a beacon of hope and a symbol of Americas post-racial identity. In Britain we had the first coalition government since World War 2, leading to a new era of consensus politics. Then the Scottish Independence referendum, where the people of Scotland choose unity over division. Then in 2015, we had an unexpected Conservative majority government. Then the EU referendum, where the majority of the British people demonstrated that they wanted to leave the EU after 43 years. And now, we can add to this list the 2017 general election. An election that saw the most left-wing Labour leader since the 1970s (possibly since Clement Attlee) gain 40% of the popular vote and narrowly miss out on becoming Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

I’m being slightly facetious in the above paragraph. It also saw the ‘hard’ left-wing (henceforth just known as the ‘left’ wing in this article) in the UK have an epic and on-going meltdown and showed many of them to be filled to the brim with a hysterical, shrill and screaming intolerance that many of them profess to be fighting against.

Of course, It used to be that after losing an election, people would go home. The majority have spoken. That was that. They would go and live their life for another four years until the next election. I live in Scotland and have had an SNP government at Holyrood since 2007. I didn’t vote for it, but I haven’t thrown my toys out of the pram in an almighty apoplectic fit either. The majority did vote for the SNP and I have to live with that.

With hindsight, the continuing situation in Scotland, with left-wing nationalists refusing to be put back in the box, should have served as a bellwether for the rest of the UK and as a dark harbinger of divisive elections to come. Nearly three years on, the terms ‘quisling’ ‘traitor’ and ‘nawbag’ are still bandied about to people who had the outright temerity and audacity to make a different political decision to ‘Yes’ in Scotland in 2014.

Without this basic concept of accepting that you lost an election, democracy itself starts to seem superfluous. Don’t like the result? Just go out and protest against it, even though the majority of the country voted for it. Just overthrow the government if you don’t like it and didn’t vote for it.

Many on the left-wing now seem to be on a ‘constant campaign’ at all times, ever vigilant to anyone with a differing (abhorrent in their opinion) world view. A noisy guardian, an intolerant protector, a white knight. The default reaction now seems to be to go out and protest against the democratic will of the British people. No doubt better men than me will succinctly analyse how we ended up in a situation where people now protest the will of the majority in a democracy and I would be eager to hear their findings and suggestions.

The problem with the ‘constant campaign’ is that it puts people on a heightened sense of political awareness. There is no time for reflection, only battle. There is no time to consider the other side as human beings. They are just ‘toffs’, ‘millionaire Tories’ etc. No time for measured response, only protest. Every disagreement is a personal slight rather than a political disagreement. Most damaging of all, with no time to think, it leads to a simplified, binary world view. Them vs us, with the ‘them’ being the right-wing heartless monsters that must be slain with the silver sword of leftist indignation.

This ‘constant campaign’ is most prevalent on social media and it’s here that we find the ‘heart of darkness’ of left-wing politics and some of their most epic, hysterical, knee-jerk reactions. Behold:

FD insults torie

This is the reaction that I got from saying that I was voting Conservative in the 2017 general election and promoting one of my blog articles on Facebook. Many on the left can’t seem to understand that people might have different experiences in life that might lead them to different conclusions. This is neither good or bad, it just is. Perhaps they might vote Conservative because the local MP has a big presence in the local community. Perhaps they might vote for a totally different party next time, or even vote for different parties at different levels of government. Who knows. It’s their choice and they should be free to make it, without those on the left throwing their dummies at them. Most incomprehensibly of all they might consider themselves to be right-of-centre!

The phenomena of the angry, intolerant left isn’t entirely confirmed to us mere mortals either. The ‘celebratocracy’ also like to have a go at democratic values and their fellow citizens. The Times columnist and writer Caitlin Moran called anyone who was voting Conservative a ‘c#$t’. The Guardian columnist and prolific Twitter user Owen Jones has been trying to encourage protests since the Conservatives won the election. Like many from the left, seemingly unable to comprehend that almost thirteen and a half million people voted for a Conservative government which is further bolstered by the Democratic Unionist Party which gained nearly 300,000 votes.

I happen not to agree with the DUP on its social issues, but I believe in their right to hold these views without being insulted, heckled or ‘no platformed’ by the illiberal left.

However, the irate left is not only confined to the intolerant eyrie of their echo-chamber like groups on social media. The recent tragic events at the Grenfell Tower Block in Kensington, London have been heavily politicised by the left only days after the fire. The anger is understandable, but it seems that the events have been taken over by the left if the smattering of people wearing red ‘momentum’ shirts is any indication. Quite why the protesters were outside the BBC is also a mystery as well. Perhaps cuts and ‘austerity’ were to blame. I don’t know. And that’s the issue at the moment; no one actually does. The difference is that the left pretends to know the answers, even while the tower block is still smouldering and the victims still unaccounted for.

However, this total lack of factual information and data hasn’t stopped the left-wing ‘Movement For Justice’ organising a ‘DAY OF RAGE’ on the 21st of June, with the express aim to ‘Shut Down London – Bring Down the Government’. The word ‘Grenfell’ is only mentioned twice in the main body of the event description. ‘Immigrant’ is mentioned four times and ‘rage’ three times. This belies the real motivation behind the event.

The left-wing in the UK seems to be borrowing tactics and best practice from the social justice moment in the U.S. An appeal to emotion, buzzwords and a vague sense of a being in a self-righteous cult. They seem to conflate numbers on the ground and social media presence with having persuasive power and better arguments. This obviously is not the case.

It can be rather easy to command an army of believers in a cause. It’s much harder to debate the facts, wait until the dust settles, understand that other people have different opinions and that this does not mean that they are all ‘fascist, millionaire, Tory posh boys either.

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Those biscuits are probably ‘Stronger for Scotland’  


‘Stronger for Scotland’ seems to be the mantra that the SNP have been chanting to themselves, drone-like, for the last two general elections. But are they? I certainly don’t feel that they have been particularly ‘Stronger for Scotland’ really. Perhaps ‘louder’ for Scotland or ‘divisive’ for Scotland or ‘angrier’ for Scotland, but certainly not stronger.

We are now into the second decade of SNP government in Scotland, so have they been some species of tartan titan that has rid us of all our ills? Have they maintained our world renowned educational standards, unified the nation behind their policies, strived for cross-party cooperation, made Scotland a better, freer and more friendly place to live?

In the words of Music mogul and high waisted trouser wearer Simon Cowell, ‘It’s a no from me’.

The elephant in the room for most of us is still the debate over Scottish independence. Despite the once in a generation promise, its pervasive influence can be felt by all of us all. Despite the price of oil plummeting, despite the lack of a ‘Brexit bounce’, and despite the fact that there is no demand for one, the SNP are still determined to hold indyref2 at some point in the near future. Only the most zealous and irrational of nationalists even want to see a rerun of 2014 anytime soon. No one else does.

For me, this will be the sole legacy of the SNP. You can forget about their policies on public health such as the smoking ban and charging people for plastic bags, both policies that I strongly agreed with. The only legacy they will have for a majority of Scots will be the gaping divide in Scottish society that they intentionally created and have never made an attempt to cauterise. They are quite happy for this wound to bleed as long as it gets them votes. The concerns of the nation are secondary.

Even the way that we vote now reflects the ‘Ulsterisation’ of Scotlands political and cultural landscape. Identity politics is now the new normal in Scotland and identity politics is far more tribal and personal than the old left-right dichotomy that existed a decade ago. Just look at the examples of nationalists destroying signs from other political parties. This just didn’t happen a decade ago. The SNP have let loose an army of zealots, armed them with ideological weapons and sent them into battle. Now they have gone rogue and are more of a liability, but they can’t just be marched back into barracks anymore.

Unfortunately, Scotland is now riddled with such insidious nationalism. I have previously written about how Scotland has been transformed into a country that I no longer recognise in a remarkably short space of time. The intervening year since I wrote the article has not allayed my fears. Their assault on the British Transport police and the proposed merger with Police Scotland is purely politically motivated and is actually putting public safety at risk according to the British Transport Police themselves. It makes sense to have an integrated and specialist transport police. Transport networks tend to cross regions and have different emergencies and scenarios from ‘regular’ policing. I expect if they were originally known as the ‘Scottish Transport police’ the merger wouldn’t be going ahead.

Have the SNP fared any better on the cultural arena? At the Edinburgh Fringe last year, I could see no satire on the SNP. I thought this was odd. There was certainly much satire on the other political parties along with a smattering of the usual street ‘performance’ (Why no, I don’t want to watch a gritty urban-feminist retelling of A Tale of Two Cities set in Shoreditch). Why are the SNP above this? Well, apart from the fact that satire is a distinctly British form of humour and a way of sticking two fingers up at the establishment, this quote sums up the cultural situation in Scotland up:

Culture and education are being weaponised by political voices. There is collusion between some artists and writers and some political journalists. One of the most prominent, Joyce McMillan of the Scotsman, claimed during the referendum campaign that she knew very few Scottish artists (or was it none at all?) who supported the continuation of the UK.

But it is not only journalists who are cosy with our politically driven writers; it is government ministers too. A row erupted a few years ago after teachers expressed anxieties that the then education minister was interfering in the curriculum to force pupils to study more Scottish, rather than English literature. Teachers were complaining that they were being railroaded into abandoning Shakespeare and Dickens in favour of ‘dire’ modern Scottish works. ( )

In much the same way that the second Iraq War has now soured the achievements of Labour under Tony Blair, the SNP are leaving a similar poisonous legacy in their monomaniacal obsession with independence and letting their more corrosive and controlling instincts dictate cultural policy.

What about their impact on everyday life? The SNP are well on their way to destroying the link between taxation, responsibility and the notion of a service being ‘free’ at the point of delivery. You can now have a baby in Scotland and not even prepare for it. You don’t even have to make the effort to buy its first romper or pack of nappies anymore. Even its first book is provided by the Scottish Government. This isn’t as, Nicola Sturgeon says, a ‘strong signal of our determination that every child, regardless of their circumstances, should get the best start in life’, it seems like a gross dereliction of duty as a parent to me.

In an interesting side note and related to the SNP controlling culture, every baby box comes with a poem, written in ‘Scots’ by the Makar:

O ma darlin wee one

At last you are here in the wurld

And wi’ aa your wisdom

Your een bricht as the stars,

You’ve filled this hoose with licht,

Yer trusty wee haun, your globe o’ a heid,

My cherished yin, my hert’s ain!

O my darlin wee one

The hale wurld welcomes ye:

The mune glowes; the hearth wairms.

Let your life hae luck, health, charm,

Ye are my bonny blessed bairn,

My small miraculous gift.

I never kent luve like this.

I’ll just leave that there. You’re intelligent enough to draw your own conclusion(The above two paragraphs nearly made my spellchecker have a meltdown as well).

Related to this erosion of personal responsibility, even for your own offspring, allow me to relate a short anecdote. I was in the local pharmacy looking to buy some anti-histamine. Like many ‘on the shelf’ drugs they were very cheap and I was working full time. I didn’t mind paying for them. Upon approaching the counter the pharmacist gently accosted me and said, ‘Why are you paying for these, just go to the doctor, you’ll get them for free’. And there was the SNP economic and social philosophy all in one short sentence.

They’re not entirely responsible for this, but they have to take a good portion of the blame. And this is now where you get accusations of being a ‘torriee’ in Scotland or a ‘red torie’ now. The SNP have distorted politics so much that large swathes of the population now consider everything they get as being ‘free’. They have been blinkered to the hard work of their fellow citizens, the corporations that are domiciled in the UK that pay about £68 billion a year from corporation tax (Yes, I know corporate tax avoidance is an issue) and business rates and who also employ people who pay tax and NI as well.

For example, the minor ailments service in NHS Scotland dispensed 463,949 prescription of paracetamol and 151,475 prescriptions of ibuprofen in 2015/16. Surely these are the types of medication that shouldn’t be provided by the state? I’m glad that the majority of us wouldn’t even waste the doctors time, but clearly many in Scotland now consider it their right to be provided with a ridiculously cheap drug that can be bought at a local corner shop for the price of a chocolate bar at 9:45 pm.

Ironically, Scotland under the SNP spends almost £15 billion per year more than it generates in tax, and the SNP are in the perverse and frankly ludicrous situation of destroying and denigrating the union that makes all their ‘freebies’ possible in the first place.

They are also equally bi-polar when it comes to the relationship with Europe. Quite how the 60 million people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are ‘foreign’ to me, despite sharing the same philosophical, religious, cultural and linguistic background as me, but the European Union is not, is difficult to comprehend.

Now let’s look at the education system in Scotland. It used to be world-renowned. Second to none. It still is, particularly in the fields of medicine and law. To look at a roll call of Scottish inventors, is to look at men who created much of the modern world: Alexander Graham Bell, John Logie Baird, Alexander Flemming, Kirkpatrick Macmillan (Inventor of the pedal bike. That might not seem like much, but no other invention has allowed people to travel as far and as cheaply) James Goodfellow (Inventor of the technology behind the PIN code and ATM). In science and philosophy, Scotland produced such luminaries as James Watt, James Clerk Maxwell, Adam Smith and David Hume.

Well, according to The Programme for International Student Assessment, Scotlands Overall, education ranking has dropped from 11th to 23rd for reading since 2006, from 11th to 24th for maths and from 10th to 19 for science. Often, these damning statistics are exacerbated by bureaucracy and the constant chasing of ‘outcomes’ that teachers must achieve rather than actually educating children. The fact that education spending fell by by 8% in 2010-2014 in Scotland, despite rising in England won’t have helped either. For a party that seems so utterly obsessed with children, this seems a bit of an oversight.

As David Hume once said ‘a wise man proportions his belief to the evidence’ and on this basis, Salmond’s and Sturgeons Scotland is a disaster or if I’m in a less belligerent mood; it hasn’t lived up to the lofty ideals set out by the SNP.

To be fair this was always going to be a tall order. If the SNP are to believed Scotland should have been a utopia by now after ten years of their glorious and benevolent leadership. Of course, the usual tired platitudes of it being ‘Wastemonster’, Tories, Brexit, Thatcher, The Union, or anything else that it’s politically prudent to blame will be thrown around, but they have to take the largest share of the blame. If Scotlands’ issues are long term and endemic, then say so, and manage expectations better. There has been some recent movement in this direction, with the First Minster stating that Scottish independence is no ‘magic solution’. It has taken two general elections, two referendums, a Scottish parliamentary election and a local election, but at last, the truth.

So have the SNP been stronger for Scotland? Allow me to give the SNP the same decision that I made in 2014: No.

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Confessions Of A Shy Tory


I furtively slink into the confession booth to offload my sins, nervously looking around me in the hope that I’m not spotted by one of my peers. The purifying light beaming through the stain glass window, illuminating the chapel and giving me nowhere to hide anymore as I scuttle in.

As I wait in the booth, squinting through the thick latticework the Priest arrives. ‘What troubles you?’, he says to me. ‘Well, I have sinned, at least in the eyes of the Scottish nationalists, left wingers, environmentalists and my demographic cohort; since the 2015 Scottish Parliamentary election I have voted for the Conservative Party.’ ‘I see’, says the Priest, perhaps pondering how I can be absolved of such a heinous sin.

The Priest replies: ‘I have been on Facebook. How could you do such a thing? They’re killing babies. Foxes. Service men are on the Street. The NHS is in crisis. Privatisation. How could you vote for the “Nasty Party.”’

‘But, but’, I stammer, unable to defend myself and getting increasingly flustered.

You see, I ‘am one of the ‘Shy Tories’ that the media likes to talk about and that provided the Conservatives with a very slim parliamentary majority in 2015 and may well do so again this year as well, although I’m a fairly recent convert. I don’t agree with the party on all issues, and this is normal. I find the idea of fox hunting abhorrent, although, I have it on good authority that the idea of it being the preserve of upper class ‘toffs’ is a massive misconception. Do I like the rise of Foodbanks? Of course not. But I believe most issues are more complicated than they initially appear. Do I think that the state should provide essential services? Absolutely, yes, but I think what is considered as ‘essential’ now isn’t really essential.

I, like the majority of us, are far more ideologically and culturally complicated than putting a label over our head with ‘Conservative’, ‘Labour’, ‘SNP’, or ‘UKIP’ belies. I’m a Conservative voter who hasn’t eaten meat in ten years. I have been on the minimum wage. I voted ‘remain’ in the EU referendum. The first time I could vote for the Scottish parliament, I voted for the Scottish Socialists (They had an image of a pizza, divided into segments, with how much everyone would get. I was young at the time). What I’m saying is, that perhaps we choose a political party that is the best, imperfect fit for our multifaceted views.

However, in Scotland in particular, there is a unique brand of hatred for the Conservatives. Many people who lived through the 1980’s and the collapse of heavy industry would find the idea of voting Conservative anathema. Areas such Dundee or communities that were reliant on coal mines never really recovered from the events of the 1980s.

And you know what, I don’t blame them for hating the Conservatives. Indeed, I had first-hand experience of this in 2014, when I went out canvassing with the ‘No’ campaign and was told by a rather irate gentleman, ‘you lot can fuck off, I remember Thatcher.’ And herein lies the issue; I don’t remember.

I have no memory of the Thatcher years. She was into her second term before I was born, having just won another election in 1983. My first political memory was the election of New Labour under Tony Blair accompanied by D Ream singing, ‘things only get better.’ The next decade was an excitingly fresh and stable time. Cool Britannia, the Sony PlayStation, ‘Brit-pop’ all helped along by the untold promises of a new millennium.

The Queens’ reaction to the party in the Millennium Dome on New Years Eve 1999, where she ungainly and gloomily held Tony Blair’s hand, while looking into the middle-distance, can now be viewed as a harbinger of ill omen for events still seven years in the future. All good times come to an end, and the events of 2007/8 were a spectacular end. After non-stop, although variable, economic growth from late 1992 through to early 2008 the economy came crashing down into the worst crisis since 1929. There was the first run on a British bank in 150 years in 2007, in which its customers discovered that Northern Rock was neither Northern, being affected by the crisis in the sub-prime mortgages in the US and certainly no rock either.

This event was my miners’ strike, dole  queue and 1980s experience all bundled into one fabulous and generational experience. This was the economic and social event of my life and it struck me and my generation at the worst possible time. The same month I submitted my dissertation the unemployment rate in the UK had went up to 2.1 million.

But the difference was that it happened under a Labour government at Westminster and an SNP one at Holyrood. The Conservatives were in opposition at the former and were the third party in the latter. You could perhaps go back and blame them somehow, but from where I was sitting in 2008/09, it seemed like a tall order to do this. The now infamous ‘There’s no money left’ note, left by a former Labour Treasury Minster encapsulated this sense of profligate spending for me and I was left with the impression at the time that the sitting government must bear some responsibility for this.

Like the people who would not vote Tory in Scotland because of their experiences in the 1980s, I was being influenced and still am, by historical events that I have lived through. I have no seething hatred of Labour or another political party, but the events of the ‘Great Recession’ have probably caused more cultural and economic damage than the spate of deregulation and de-industrialisation in the 1980s and early 1990s, at least to my generation anyway. It will certainly impact the rest of my life until I shuffle off the top of the population pyramid.

Like I said earlier, I don’t believe in everything the Conservative party does. However, there is a realism to conservatism that appeals to me. I suppose it’s the general sense of direction that I like. Brexit notwithstanding, in Scotland they seem to be offering the only genuine opposition to a second Scottish independence referendum with #teamruth leading the charge. Labour seem to be confused on the issue and are unfortunately haemorrhaging support to the centre-left SNP on one side and from anyone who considers them self a British unionist on the other.

They are also the only party who actually feature the British flag anymore as if in these post-modern, post-imperial times, wanting to have a sense of place and culture in the world is a bad thing, but only if you’re British. They seem to believe in the unitary state of the United Kingdom existing as an entity. Again, I’m okay with this. In the ideological debate between those that feel they want to live somewhere and those that believe they can live anywhere, I’m with the former.

Not all government cuts can be defended. But I don’t think that higher taxation is going to solve anything anymore either. Throwing money at issues is getting diminishing societal returns and I’m no longer sure if the state should be providing everyone with paracetamol for their sore head or talcum powder for their new-born baby as they currently do in Scotland.

Funding for the NHS went from 2.9% of GDP in 1953/4 to 8.2% of GDP in 2010/11. Will it be around 20% by 2040? At what point does it become unsustainable to current and future generations? Perhaps it won’t. Twenty years ago the NHS was in ‘crisis’ and in twenty years’ time it will still be in ‘crisis’. It appears to be in perpetual crisis but it always seems to function, albeit slower than we would like. Frankly, I don’t know, but in general, things can’t keep on growing indefinitely.

I can assure you it takes more than money as well. You need to deeply change a culture and foster an atmosphere of individual responsibility and initiative in people. The only party that seems to mention responsibility is the Conservatives now, who have the word 11 times in their 2017 manifesto compared with 7 for Labour. A very crude measure, but like I say, much of this is just general feeling from the different parties.

Budgets never decrease. Every government scheme grows exponentially and requires additional funding from the taxpayer. Nothing is ever actually ‘free’ it’s either pushed up to higher earners and corporations or horizontally to people on the same socio-economic ladder as yourself. Or the government can borrow more. Again, the only party that acknowledges this is the Conservatives, but it’s important to remember this whoever you want to vote for. As the old adage goes, ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’.

Also, on a cultural level constantly seeing messages on social media about ‘Toxic Tories’ or ‘nasty Tories’ starts to rankle and get a bit tedious after a while. Watching conservative activists get followed about by someone in a car is also a surreal thing to witness, but welcome to Sturgeons Scotland. It almost makes me want to vote for the Conservative party just to annoy people who can’t accept that other people have different viewpoints and experiences that might lead them to different conclusions. I’m convinced that many people harbour center-right views, but wouldn’t dream of mentioning them on the Univerity campus, or at particularly liberal workplaces, such as social work or education. I know I don’t.   

Theresa May’s oft-repeated mantra of ‘strong and stable’ has now been run into the ground. However, I would like to add that it should be: ‘Strong, stable and most likely to leave you alone to live your life.” It’s not quite as catchy as a campaign slogan though.

This is just the general feeling that I get. A party that believes that spending can’t keep increasing, that you should at least take some responsibility for your own actions and that believes in the UK. I’m certainly no ‘don’t tread on me’ libertarian nor am I a statist, but something in between, where I believe the Conservatives are.

You do you. Vote for who you want. A plurality of opinion is a good thing. One more thing, thanks for listening to me Father…

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