Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Referendum Songbook, final post. Wednesday: Classic Car (The Always Look Underneath Song)

This is the final song (number 17) in the Referendum Songbook which you can find in full if you're a glutton for punishment at

It's by Scar Quilse, that renegade relation of mine, and will be his last posting. It finds him in reflective mood, I suppose. 

This is my own final post of the referendum campaign. I think I've said all I need to say. I don't believe many, at this stage, are still undecided, but to sum up my thoughts: 

I'm Scottish, British, European, and a proud resident of and enthusiast for Shetland. I believe in democracy for the whole of the UK, in justice for everyone from Unst to the Scilly Isles. I'm in favour of local empowerment in a Federal UK, and I'll be voting for a Labour Government at the next election, which is the country's main hope of that being delivered. I believe the Yes campaign has been based, noisily and committedly, on romance, deception and delusion. I believe Scottish nationalism has no moral content, and has hijacked its social justice agenda in a naked attempt at achieving power. I detest the way this campaign has divided the population of Scotland, and how the Yes campaign has descended into mobbing, flailing and aggression. 

I believe that independence would be a disaster for Scotland's NHS, for its economy, for its relationships with the rest of the world, for its soul.

I'm travelling for most of the 17th and 18th, so I won't be responding to comments on this blog. I have already voted 'no' by post. I urge you, if haven't already, to vote 'no'. For the sake of Scotland and the UK

Finally, to those of you who have threatened, insulted, demanded an end to my broadcasting career, promised that I would be deported or silenced in a 'new Scotland', abused my family and worse....what can I say?

 I'll buy you a pint sometime.

Classic Car (The Always Look Underneath Song)

Always wanted an S type Jaguar
It’s wasn’t the old man’s favourite car
That was a Cortina 1600E to tell the truth
Olympic Gold, with Rostyle wheels and a black vinyl roof
But we travelled in old VX490s, Vivas
Drove to the Gospel Hall, we true believers
Where the preachers said the devil was a trickster
Who seduced us with Vauxhalls, with Crestas and Victors

A classic car
memory and pride
More than just a ride
A classic car
It’s the life you never had
Better than  your dad’s
A classic car

I bought a Wolseley, expecting it to smell
Like  I was 10, in a taxi to a Largs  hotel
But it reeked of damp and mildew, of fibreglass and rust
On the A80 in Moodiesburn, it finally bit the dust
You can’t go back, you can’t return
To when it didn’t matter how much fuel you burned
When smoking was good for your health
And you could let the babies sleep upon the parcel shelf

You can’t go back, maybe remembering is sweet
But history is what we learn so we don’t have to repeat
Build a useless border, sing some songs and raise a flag
Then from some wide-boy dealer, you buy a bodged-up deathtrap Jag
It looked great in the showroom, it filled your heart with pride
All your limousine ambitions that could not be denied
The deal is done, the trouble starts, you’re in a world of pain
And you realise that you can’t go back, you can’t go back home again

Copyright Scar Quilse 2014. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Referendum Songbook, final week. Tuesday: Scottish Forever (The Disagreement Song)

I’m a Tunnocks Teacake, you’re salt and sauce
You like cowping your caber, I couldn’t give a toss
I’m in favour of the great salt and vinegar snog
You prefer to cuddle up with a Caramel Log

We share a love of the great Vindaloo
And a nan bread each, never one between two
I’m Lagavulin or Ardbeg, you’re Glenlivet or Grants
I wear breeks, you like a kilt with stout underpants

And we’ll be Scottish forever
Agreeing never
No matter where we go
Yes or No

I’ll have Loch Lomond, you can have Loch Ness
We’ll share the monster and the wallabies, that’s probably best
Tennents or McEwens, Belhaven or Deuchars
I’ll have porridge with salt, you can have yours with sugar

I’ll just say this, we disagree
It’s Yes for you and No for me
But that’s all right, I have no doubt
I’ll be fine once the stitches get taken out

I’m for pan fried scallops, you’re into Scampi Fries
I prefer the real thing, you prefer the lies
I’m not saying I’m right, I’m not saying you’re wrong

Actually, I am. I’ve been right all along

Words and music copyright Scar Quilse 2014. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Referendum Songbook, final week - a song a day. Monday: Snake Handlers in Kirkintilloch (The Act of Faith Song)

Inspired by this video of a poor deluded soul in the USA whose act of faith led to death at the hands of a rattlesnake.

My daughter's gone to live in Milton Keynes
She says she knows what independence will mean
My son's in Wick, he says the country's a mess
But if it makes things worse he'll still vote yes

I've been feeling depressed for the last two years
It's like the 18th century is still happening here
Fighting over the fate of this wee nation
Like trans versus consubstantiation

Now there's a new church down the street from me
They say they worship a God who wants Scotland free
And to prove that God doesn't make mistakes
They like to sing happy songs and play with poisonous snakes

Snake handlers in Kirkintilloch
They believe in God and border controls
Snake handlers in Kirkintilloch
Where a bite from a Copperhead can save your soul

I saw a Black Mamba and a coastal Taipan
The preacher had one of each in either hand
He shouted I believe in everything Nicola said
Then the Mamba bit him and he dropped down dead

I bought a house on the River Tweed
It's got everything I could possibly need
The border runs right across the living room floor
My own United Kingdom when I shut the door

And if they insist on a wall and some razor wire
Between the television and the electric fire
I'll tell them exactly where they can go
I had my own referendum and I voted no

But now there are Snake handlers in Selkirk
They believe in God and border controls
Snake handlers in Selkirk
They say a bite from a Copperhead will save your soul

But they'll secretly admit they're going to vote No

Copyright Scar Quilse, words and music, 2014. All rights reserved

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Dundee Vegetarian (for Mike Ritchie)

I quite like fish, maybe you’re surprised
As long as I don’t have to look them in the eye
The thought of dead cow makes me hae a fit
Unless they’re ground up into tiny wee bits

Don’t think if I see a tree I hug it
I’m very partial to a chicken nugget
But no if it’s got feathers and a squawking beak
The very idea makes my knees go weak

I don’t eat red meat
But mince and tatties just cannae be beat
I’m no a contrarian
Just A Dundee vegetarian

I make exception for pies or pehs
I could eat an ingin in every single day
But what’s inside can be a mystery
As long as it comes with brown gravy

You say I’m a hypocrite, I don’t care 
I’m from Dundee things are different there
I like the animals in the Camperdown zoo
But I don't like the taste of a Whitfield Coo

I don’t eat red meat
But mince and tatties just cannae be beat
I’m no a contrarian
Just A Dundee vegetarian

Copyright Tom Morton 2014. All rights reserved

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Referendum Songbook #14. Stay together (The Treachery Song)

Don't call me  a traitor
Because I love both north and south
You should do some thinking, son
Before you open your mouth

 I believe in democracy
That doesn't stop where you draw a line
In justice on the Forth, the Clyde
The Mersey, and the Tyne If we stay together
We can keep each other strong
So let's stand together
That's where we belong

 I never liked to gamble
Because I've seen what it can do
I believe in right and wrong
And I think that you do too

 In the times we're living in today
You can't hide behind a wall
A flag will never be enough
This world is much too small

Words and music copyright Scar Quilse 2014. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Fundamentalism, doubt and compromise. Voting 'No' and afterwards

This is an edited version of my editorial in this month's Shetland Life magazine, which was published on Friday

I’m a doubting fundamentalist at heart, a binary kind of person. For me, and for preference, there’s right and wrong, black and white, no shades of grey and no compromise. 

Except, of course, when you wonder if you might, just might, be mistaken. 

It’s the way I was brought up and as they say, while you can take the boy out of the gospel hall, you can’t take the gospel hall out of the man. Even, or especially, when they’re members of the Humanist Society of Scotland. Commitment and doubt: the twin engines of progress.

You may have noticed. My editorials in Shetland Life and Spaekalation columns in The Shetland Times have not been noted for their calm objectivity and forgiving even-handedness. Enemies have been made. Former friends erect conversational shutters. Councillors ignore me in coffee queues. Minds, notably my own, have changed. But I should say that for someone who was handing out hellfire and damnation tracts aged seven, and canvassing for God on doorsteps at 11, disagreement, confrontation and even verbal abuse are not unfamiliar. 

This is what I do. This is who I am.

 When it comes to Scottish independence, I’ve made no secret of my allegiance to the ‘No’ cause. And I’ve never doubted that I was right. I believe in democracy, not in artificial borders. I believe that nationalism is, if not always a moral evil, only of any ethical value if a people are being repressed or exploited. The more extreme Yessists may argue exactly that about Scots, but they are, like all nationalists, simply fuelling what is the romantic, emotional,  core of their faith. And it is a faith. A faith that Scotland and Scots are different and better. Than the evil English.

All kinds of pseudo-factual arguments have been hauled in to try and buttress what often seems like kneejerk nationalist bigotry. The soothing myth of ‘Civic Nationalism’. The daft notion that once you’re in Carlisle, people are suddenly nastier and more essentially Tory. There are the economic falsehoods about how Scotland would demand a currency union, that oil will last, cheaply, forever without causing any environmental damage, that you can attract multinationals to Scotland with a low-tax regime and not only will they play nice, but we won’t end up like terribly diminished Ireland.  Believe in me, says the sneering, bullying Alex Salmond. Because I am right. Welcome to a micro-world run by that new fiscal and legal partnership, Salmond, Murdoch and Soutar.

Except Salmond isn’t right. Except a separate Scotland is not going to benefit the poor and the vulnerable, could destroy pensions and our health and social services, and all for the sake of that Braveheartian emotional tug. I don’t want that. I will vote ’No’. I have fought against separatism in every decent, legal, honest, verbal, musical and humorous way I can. I believe that 18 September will see a vote against cheap secessionist theology and for all that is good in the United Kingdom. 


But, what if? What if by some mischance there is a tiny majority for ‘Yes’? Will I argue for a re-run ? Will I shout ‘foul’? Will I gather up my goods, chattels , dogs, bikes and guitars and move to, say, Keswick (officially, nicest place in Britain to live, and just over the barbed wire)? Well, no. I will, in effect, compromise.

This is my home. Shetland, especially Northmavine is my home. Scotland is my home. So I will stay and battle for the values that I hold dear within the communities that I hold dear.  I won’t demand a reunion with Norway. I won’t campaign for  ‘Forvikisation’  of Shetland. I will abide by the vote and get on with things, holding to the fundamentals of what I believe: social justice, removing the causes of poverty, standing up for the rights of the exploited. The glory of bicycles, motorbikes, renewable energy and loud guitars. Vinyl records and free digital downloads. Kayaks and clean seas. Tattie soup and reestit mutton.  And a free, self-governing, people’s republic of Northmavine.

Well, maybe just the tattie soup, then. You can’t be a fundamentalist about everything. Except bannocks. There’s only one correct way to make a bannock.

Fortunately, the Yessists will not, I believe, win the day. But any ‘No’ victory will leave a large number of disappointed, perhaps infuriated ‘Yes’ voters. What will they do? Are they, those fundamentalist believers, prepared to compromise, accept the result, put their misguided vision of the future behind them, and move on within a democratic Britain? 

I doubt it.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Chronicles of Rug (and Dexter) Pts 2 &3

Being the intimate confessional diaries of twa broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland's Morton Through Midnight...
Life. life is good. life is great, Life is fantastic. Brilliant wonderful and terrific. where’s the ball? the black ball, the black solid rubber ball? Under the couch? brilliant, let me just snuffle about a bit down there. I can smell…I can smell something good down here. What is it? My nasal passages aren’t as developed as that suppurating old bitch they call Rug, but I can smell something…now wait a minute. I know what this is. But the last time it was different, the last time it was kind of…cold and hard. Basically the same though. This is…furrier. Kind of white stuff around it, but there’s…I know! Last time they said it was called a Brussel sprout! Never had it before but it was absolutely delicious! Almost as good as those potato stalks  I dug up from the garden. They were totally brilliant and delicious. And gave me this fuzzy feeling, as if I was going to fall over. And falling over is brilliant. Brilliantly brilliant. Wow, I heard those humans talking about red balls, green Brussel sprouts, cabbages, purple, blue, whatever. Colours, they say, colours but I only see in black and white. And that’s brilliant! Morality, choices, one thing or the rather. Politics! Numbers, Binary choices!
Tell you what’s even better than Brussel sprouts, and I have to admit that one under the sofa was a wee bit squelchy. Carrots. I’ve got this black rubber things, they push a carrot inside it and I have to get the carrot out. How stunning is that. Brilliant brilliant brilliant brilliant brilliant! Now I’ve go to find that Swiss dog, the big Swiss, the St Bernard Dog, Rug, snooty, thinks I’m stupid. Thinks I just want to have sex with her and that I’m stupid because I had my testicles cut off by Victoria the Vet. But she’s wrong. They are invisible testicles. How good  is that? That’s brilliant!

Bonsoir, messieurs et mesdames It is, I Rug, as my cruel and monosyllabic owners have named me. Last week you heard from that miserable little parasite Dexter, who now appears to have established himself as a permanent fixture in the household. Tiens. And, also, pah! I am desolated. 

However, I have taken some comfort and cheer from the hyperactive mongrel’s embarrassment over one area in which my superiority remains unchallenged. And that is weatherproofing. In point of fact, I do not have to bear the embarrassment of wearing a human-made coat, being in full possession of - if I may say so - a magnificent pelt, proof against all forms of dampness, rain, snow and ice. Although I draw the line at seawater. My cousins in the Newfoundland family love to swim, and indeed, sport disgustingly webbed feet. But they were bred to rescue hapless mariners and retrieve fishing nets, whereas me and mine were always called to higher things, such as the saving of life, and causing pedestrians to fall over through sheer affectionate leaning.

I do not feel the cold, Dexter, on the other paw, with barely any covering on his back and none on his disgustingly pink belly, shivers uncontrollably given even the slightest precipitation or drizzle. this led to the ultimate embarrassment, I am said to say, this morning when he disgraced himself on the hall carpet after refusing to brave the mild breeze and light rain in the garden. I took great pleasure in begging to be allowed out and performed more than adequately, if I may say so, in a discreet, previously harvested  part of the vegetable patch. Dexter was banished to his crate, which gave me both great emotional pleasure and my ears a rest from his continual attempts to encourage play through his confounded nipping.

Really, what did they expect from a random mongrel? Breeding is so important. Meanwhile, I could not hide my amusement at the sight of the mutt being clad in a hastily adapted, cut and sewn child’s neoprene wetsuit. Alas, this provoked an outpouring of dribble  from moi which somehow attached itself to a visiting Church of Scotland minister’s best Armani jeans, and I was unfairly banished to the washhouse. Life is so unjust. Sacre Bleu. Salut maintenant.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

My final 'Spaekalation' column for The Shetland Times: Someday, we will all Tweet like Brian Taylor...

As I don't engage in even tangentially political activity online on days when I'm broadcasting live on the radio, I thought I'd post my final Shetland Times 'Spaekalation' column today. My editorial for Shetland Life will pop up here on Monday.
You can buy full online versions of both publications here.

Spaekalation, The Shetland Times, 5 September 2014

I recently bought two typewriter ribbons. I ordered online, of course, and payment was made digitally after a brief period spent scouring the shopping databases to find the right ones. They arrived within two days. It was all a lot quicker and easier than traipsing around stationery shops in Glasgow in the forlorn hope that the right items for my aged (but still utterly reliable) Olivetti portables would be in stock. 

I wanted to get my little (East Kilbride manufactured) pieces of redundant writing technology up and running, as I’d read that the Russian Government had ordered several dozen new manual typewriters in an effort to preserve the security of certain communications. At the same point, a possibly mischievous suggestion was made within the German Government that typed messages might be the only way of rendering certain important messages immune to prying eyes. Presumably the skills once drummed into all spooks of envelope-steaming and, well, memorising something after a surreptitious glance, have vanished like pixels off an irradiated hard drive.

And besides, I love old, analogue technology. Watches with hands, mechanical watches you have to wind up or that mysteriously energise themselves with the movement of your wrist. Record turntables that play vinyl LPs (that stands for ‘Long Players’, youngsters!) Cars and motorcycles with carburettors (mechanical pumps that squirt petrol into....oh, never mind). Cameras that use film (although it must be said that the toxic chemical mix needed to make and then develop photographic film is shockingly bad for the environment).

Actually, it has suddenly struck me that some young people reading this may not know what a typewriter is (best described as a cross between a computer keyboard and a printer, only working entirely through mechanics and physical aggression) though I understand that vinyl records are pretty ‘cool’ at the moment; so much so that they are often bought by people with no means of playing the things. Such is fashion.

Fashion is not something that has passed BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor by. You just need to look at his braces and painfully zeitgesity hairstyle to realise that. And in the increasingly technologised world of  news gathering and commentary, he seems at least partially sussed. He blogs regularly on the BBC website, and he uses email. He probably orders those violently-coloured suspenders online. But one thing he doesn’t do is use social media. Even in the maelstrom of  miscommunication (and occasional connection) that is the current referendum campaign. He is on the micro-video site Vine, a victim of the ice bucket challenge, but then he could hardly ignore a challenge from the First Minister. Or perhaps he could.

Brian is, however, a Twitter phenomenon, despite never having tweeted (elders! if you don’t know what Twitter is, ask someone on Facebook). He has a Twitter account (@TannadiceLad), with his picture attached, but he has never said anything on it. And yet he has more than 4000 followers. Four thousand people are waiting for Brian, their digital breath well and truly bated, more followers than many strident Twitterers can boast. True, he follows 700 people, which probably means that Mr Taylor lurks unseen among the virulent abuse, jokes, swearing, gossip and banter that occurs second by second on the Twittersphere. What journalist could resist? But he says nothing at all himself. And 4000 folk hang on his ever silence.

This is fascinating, given what’s happening in Scotland politically, as it sometimes seems that the referendum is an online phenomenon, that opinions are being swayed and the much-vaunted ‘momentum’ gathered mainly on the basis of  what happens on computer screens, tablets and smartphones. It’s not just politics. Businesses now employ ‘social media managers’ and even Shetland Islands Council has a ‘social media strategy’. Yet Silent Brian has almost three times as many followers as the SIC, which isn’t saying much. In fact, it’s not saying anything at all.
Some of those involved in the referendum campaign, most of them on the Yes side, are fond of saying that, far from happening solely in cyberspace, the neverendum represents an unprecedented upsurge in real, grassroots, face-to-face political activity, from doorstep canvassing to public meetings and debates. I have written before that I am not convinced that this ‘activity’ is much more than noise, and a major distraction over the past two years from the really important political, social and moral issues of the day. But perhaps in some ways all this online posturing, all this Facebook poking, Tweeting and commenting, all this unmoderated aggression, has provoked something more visceral, even confrontational. Throwing eggs  and breaking windows may just be a natural progression from digital abuse. If you can use the C-word online with impunity about politicians, really, do you have the self-control to stop yourself throwing a punch?

The mannerly Brian, meanwhile, continues to say nothing on Twitter, though his opinions are forthright, never dull and often expressed both on the BBC website and - that quaint expression, these days - on air. I wonder if he will break his silence on 19 September? If only to say, in less than 140 characters: “You see, folks? Social media made hardly any difference. You can’t vote on Twitter. It involves paper. And writing implements even more primitive than a typewriter - pens or, in the polling booths, wax crayons.”  Och well, he could use that handy wee app TweetLonger.
Meanwhile, I have voted, postally (black ink), and in this, my final Spaekalation, I wish to thank the real, live Shetlander on the SIC ‘Referendum Helpline’ for the excellent advice regarding an inadvertently torn-open outer return envelope: ‘Just Sellotape it’. Are any better forms of sticky tape available?


Monday, September 01, 2014

My Nationalist Girlfriend (The Egg Song)

My nationalist girlfriend
She's not my girlfriend anymore
Seduced by an activist
She says she's not a separatist

But we're separated now
I still love her anyhow
Despite the Saltire tattoo on her cheek
And the eggs she threw at me last week

My nationalist girlfriend
I'm not her boyfriend
She's not my girlfriend anymore

She believes in a currency deal
She's got a poster of Alex Neil
I said it was him or me
She said: it's just a fantasy

But then she was canvassing in Milngavie
Met Iain, aged 50, into Hue and Cry
I said at least it's not Runrig, she said he likes them too
And he's got every album released by Deacon Blue

My nationalist girlfriend
I'm not her boyfriend
She's not my girlfriend anymore

She says MI5 are active in the No campaign
They tear down posters, they break windows
And it's Yes that gets the blame
She says Eddi Reader said so, it must be true like it or not
That unionists are evil Quislings, traitors to the Scots

And I have a picture of her it's true
Just the week before she got the tattoo
I keep it next to my heart
Even though she has torn it apart

My nationalist girlfriend

I'm not her boyfriend
She's not my girlfriend anymore