A failure of duty

failureofduty

Yesterday the British Government finally began to include deaths from covid-19 recorded outside hospitals in England in the statistics it is giving daily and has added these to the figure for deaths in English hospitals. The official figure for those who have tragically died from this terrible disease in the UK as of Wednesday 29 April stands at 26,097. This is higher than the official figures for Spain (23,822) and France (24,087 – figure from Google ), and close to the figures for Italy (27,359). It is considerably higher than the 6,314 deaths reported in Germany, the only EU country with a larger population than the UK.

(Please note that unless stated otherwise, all figures and statistics quoted in this article come from https://www.travellingtabby.com/scotland-coronavirus-tracker/)

It’s been known for some time that there is a significant number of deaths in the community, and especially in care homes, yet for some unaccountable reason the British Government didn’t see fit to include these deaths in its published figures for England. Neither were they included in the statistics for Northern Ireland. The Welsh and Scottish Governments have both been including care home deaths from covid-19 in the Welsh and Scottish figures. This meant that it was not possible to make a direct comparison between the figures from England – which has the largest population and the largest death toll, both in absolute numbers and per head of population – with figures from elsewhere in the UK.

There are suspicions that this was to disguise the true impact of the virus on the UK, and to deflect criticism of the British Government for its slow and confused response to the crisis, and its deliberate decision in previous years to run down preparedness for an epidemic in order to prioritise Brexit and an ideologically motivated austerity. It is after all the Westminster Government which has direct control of public health in England, and it’s England which is the worst affected part of the UK.

Let’s be honest here, this is a British Government which has treated the scientific advice upon which it claims to base its response as though it were a state secret. It has refused to publish the details of who sat on its scientific committee formulating the advice, and it has recently come to light that one of the members of that influential committee was the ideologue and political fixer Dominic Cummings. None of this inspires confidence.

What we do know for certain is that the reported deaths in the official statistics represent a minimum figure. The true figure is certainly higher. The official death toll only tells us how many people who have been diagnosed with the virus have died from it. Many will have passed away without ever having been tested, and since the UK has been slow to implement generalised tests, only a small percentage of the population has received one. People who pass away from covid-19 without ever having been tested do not figure in the official statistics. There are indications that the true number of those who are dying could be much higher than the official statistics, even the revised figures for England, are telling us.

So for example the Guardian tells us that although the British Government has added 3,811 deaths in care homes and the community to the figures for England, the Office of National Statistics and the Care Quality Commission report that there have been 4,996 deaths in care homes in the two weeks up to 24 April.  Many of these will be deaths of people who have not been tested for the virus and who will not be added to the official statistics. The true figure of deaths from the virus will only be known from the total of recorded deaths where covid-19 on the death certificate are totalled. There is a considerable lag in the reporting of these figures, and even then the British Government does not seem to wish to include those deaths where the patient has not been tested for the virus.

The difficulty in knowing exactly how many people are passing away from covid-19 means that studies are looking at what is called the excess mortality. As we all know, the leading cause of death is being born in the first place. We are all mortal. In any population there is going to be a daily death toll as people pass away from age related conditions, illness, accidents, or other causes. Excess mortality is the figure for those who are passing away in excess of what would normally be expected in the population. It’s a measure of the number of additional deaths in the population over and above what we’d usually expect to see. Excess mortality is calculated by subtracting the expected number of deaths (from comparing from previous years) from the actual recorded number. A recent investigation by Sky News found that the excess in mortality in England is far greater than it is in the other nations of the UK and places England amongst the worst affected countries in Europe.

In a previous report a Financial Times investigation into excess mortality came up with an estimate of 41,000 people already having died of covid-19 in the UK. The report notes that these excess deaths came during a period when the weather was warm and sunny, unlike previous spikes in excess mortality which are often associated with periods of cold weather. This makes it a reasonable assumption that the excess deaths are due to the virus and not other causes such as seasonal flu.

Today (Thursday 30 April) the Financial Times’ economics editor Chris Giles tweeted an updated estimate for the number of deaths in the UK due to the virus epidemic. The FT estimates that the likely figure is now 48,100.

What we do know is that the UK is one of the worst affected states in Europe, and that England is worse affected than Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. There are of course reasons why England would report the highest number of deaths – both in absolute and in relative terms – in the UK irrespective of who was in charge of the British Government or how well that government had prepared. England has by far the largest share of the UK population and so would always report the highest absolute number of deaths. Additionally, England has by far the greatest population density in the UK. England contains the metropolis of Greater London, where 8.9 million people are packed into an area smaller in extent than Lothian. The more that people are tightly packed together the more likely it becomes that they will encounter a contagious virus and contract it.

We are not out of the woods yet. More people will die before this is over, which is why it’s foolish to talk of any return to normal. We will only know the true figures for those who have died once this is all over. Numbers are impersonal, but every single figure added to those statistics represents a human being, a shattered family, a grieving partner, a devastated child, a mourning friend. A single figure added to the statistics represents many thousands of tears.

We might not know the exact numbers, but can be certain that the UK will be one of the worst affected European states, with a death toll comparable to or in excess of those in Spain or Italy. Yet unlike Italy or Spain where the virus took hold early, the UK had advance warning but refused to implement lockdown measures even when neighbouring European states were doing so. The British Government’s response has been confused, inept, and mired in incompetence. Absolutely no one is looking to the UK as a shining beacon in how to handle the epidemic, despite Boris Johnson’s empty words as he returned to Downing Street on Monday about how many people were looking at the UK’s “apparent success”. This is a government which has failed in its most basic duty – the duty to keep its citizens safe.

And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…


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newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


The dangerous irresponsibility of the British media

mediairresponsibility
There’s plenty to distract people. Ending lockdown. Not ending lockdown. Facemasks or not facemasks. The interminable glee of the British nationalists about divisions within the SNP. The constant harping on of certain independence supporters about Nicola Sturgeon. Should there be a new yes party. Should there not be a new yes party. But there’s only one debate that we should be having right now, and that is how come the UK is on course to be the worst affected European state when the British government had so much prior warning that the epidemic was on its way, and how we can put maximum pressure on Boris Johnson and the Conservatives in order to ensure that they remedy their failures.

But that’s not the debate we’re having. Yesterday the Scottish Government announced that it was recommending the use of face coverings in enclosed public spaces such as food shops or public transport where social distancing isn’t always possible. It’s a sensible measure which has already been introduced in some other European countries, Germany and the Czech Republic for example, and which many of the public have already adopted on their own initiative.

Face coverings do not provide total protection against the virus, no one is suggesting that they do, however there is reason to believe that their use will help to make the spread of the virus a bit more difficult. The wearer benefits, as there is a layer of fabric between their mouth and nostrils and the outside world which could potentially trap a droplet you were about to breathe in. Additionally wearing a face covering makes it difficult for you to touch your face directly after touching a surface which could possibly have the virus on it. This will also help to reduce the rate of transmission.

However the greatest potential benefit is amongst people who have the virus but who don’t have any symptoms or whose symptoms are so mild that they’ve not realised that they have it. Although they’re perfectly well and healthy, such people are still infectious and can unwittingly pass the virus on to other people. It’s thought that as many as 25% to 50% of people who become infected will show either extremely mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/50-percent-of-people-with-covid19-not-aware-have-virus Even amongst those who do go on to develop symptoms, there is evidence that they can be infectious for a couple of days before they do show symptoms and so go into self-isolation.

The benefit of a face covering in these cases is not primarily to protect the wearer, but to protect other people. The virus is carried in water droplets expelled during normal breathing out, sneezing, or coughing, and wearing a face mask will help to catch any virus carrying droplets which you might expel and thus keep those around you safe. It’s a social solidarity measure which could help to keep others safe and which can be carried out without causing any harm to the wearer.

Scotland is recognised as a distinct polity and society within the UK. That’s why we have a Scottish Parliament. We have distinctively Scottish laws. Devolution was established in the first place because even the British state was forced to recognise that Scotland is a nation and a society in its own right and the one size fits all policy of Westminster which is primarily designed to deal with England’s circumstances will not necessarily always be best for Scotland too.

However what we have seen time and time again during this crisis is that any attempt by the Scottish Government to respond to this emergency in a way which differs from Westminster is a British media which portrays it as a challenge to Westminster, as defiance of Boris Johnson, or as an attempt to undermine the British Government. That happened when Nicola Sturgeon announced that Scottish schools were to close. It happened when she announced that large gatherings should not take place after which City AM’s editor accused her of a “borderline coup d’etat” and Dan Hodges of the Mail harrumphed that she was “playing stupid political games”. It happened when the First Minister said that she wanted to treat the public as grown ups in discussions about when to come out of lockdown. We saw an outpouring of outrage from Conservatives over the weekend when Nicola Sturgeon said that if circumstances demanded it she could conceiveably ask Westminster for the power to close the Scottish border. They even denied that that Scottish border existed at all. And there was yet more faux British nationalist victimhood seeking again yesterday when she made the announcement about face coverings.

After she made the announcement, Tom Newton Dunn, the political editor of the Sun newspaper tweeted that if this announcement was not a concerted attempt to embarrass Westminster, it was having that effect anyway. Everything that the Scottish Government does which is not simply the sheepish following of Westminster’s lead is framed by the British media as a deliberate attempt by the SNP to drive a wedge between Scotland and England. That’s how paranoid and insecure they are.

If this were simply a question of the laughable insecurity of British nationalists, it would merely be a source of amusement for independence supporters. But it’s more serious than that. By framing any distinctively Scottish response to the crisis as a cynical political ploy to undermine the British Government, the British media legitimises and validates those in Scotland who don’t wish to adhere to the Scottish Government’s recommendations and advice.

As we all know, Scotland is not an independent country, and it doesn’t have an independent media either. The Scottish Government is faced with attempting to deal with this emergency while the bulk of the media in Scotland is determined to persecute it for any divergence from the Westminster line. Yet as we have all seen the UK is on course to become the worst affected state in Europe. Now if the Scottish Government was proposing far less restrictive measures than Westminster was, perhaps the British media in Scotland would have a point. But the Scottish Government isn’t doing that. At every step along the way the Scottish Government has proposed stricter measures than the British Government, or has sought to implement measures more quickly than the British Government.

Tied as we are the overall policies of the British state, anything that can be done to save lives and keep people safe ought to be lauded. Instead we have a media which is so terrified of independence, and so terrified of the anger that there will be against Westminster’s woeful mishandling of this emergency once we have got through it, that it’s desperate to demonise and undermine the public health decisions of the Scottish Government. That’s dangerous and irresponsible. They are preventing us from having the debate that we really ought to be having, because they are far more interested in protecting the British state from the consequences of its own failure.

At some point after the immediate emergency has passed, people will get back to the only debate we need to have, and they will conclude that they’ve been let down by both the British state, and the British media. Their own hatred of the SNP and their panic to attack anything that smacks of “separatism” will be their undoing.

And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…


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If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


Tall oaks

I’ve blogged every single day of lockdown without a break, so today I’m putting my feet up, lying on the sofa, and am going to binge watch sci-fi.  To keep you all amused and edified in the meantime, here’s a guest post.

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Tall oaks

by Mark Russell

Before any effective treatment can be commenced, it is essential to first establish an accurate diagnosis to save the life of a severely ill patient. To do that, the doctor will apply years of knowledge and experience, then balance their judgement after a careful and objective examination of all the evidence.

In some cases, like septic shock, the only effective treatment may involve the loss of an organ or limb so the life can be saved and then, the onus on doctors to make that accurate diagnosis quickly is paramount, if the patient is to have a chance of survival.

Many of us experience these difficult circumstances in our lives – from both sides of the coin – but when it is our own life in the balance, all we can do is place our trust in those doctors – and have faith in our own resilience.

But by the time a cancer patient faces the surgeon’s knife, they will understand what is required to have a good outcome. The diagnosis and treatment plan will have been carefully explained and they can prepare themselves to make whatever sacrifices required to ensure survival. If they are fortunate, for sometimes the disease is so severe and threatening, there is little time to prepare.

Humanity is that acutely ill patient. Without warning, our busy life has been rudely interrupted by a critical health crisis that is rapidly progressing towards the gravest outcome – unless appropriate treatment is commenced without delay.

But as we lie in Intensive Care, watching our doctors’ dither and argue and fail to even recognise the most obvious symptoms of the illness, what hope do we have for our survival when such glaring incompetence and inexperience is revealed before us? Our predicament is made even worse with the knowledge that some of the doctors we are relying on are complicit in our demise by their neglect and mismanagement.
Should we resign ourselves to the inevitable tragedy – or do we seek a second opinion without delay?

The virus outbreak has provided much clarity. We have known for many years that our “economy” – our way of life – has been truly toxic for much of the planet and has destroyed many of the ecosystems and resources that are essential to maintain the diversity and environment we rely on to survive. Even with all the warnings, we have been unable or unwilling to change our ways.

Just like a chronic drug-addict whose unfortunate exposure to prescription opioids has created a potentially terminal illness, humanity has several urgent decisions to make before commencing life-saving treatment. Who do we trust? Which sacrifices must we make? What can we do to ensure a good recovery and prevent recurrence? What is the best treatment available?

On the question of trust, we can now see that our ‘doctors’ – with their extensive entourage – are no specialists, but snake-oil salesmen – and we would be foolish in the extreme to have any faith in their opinions.

In seeking to preserve the economy, politicians are not only prolonging and exacerbating the crisis, but risk our very survival by their actions. A complete change of direction is required yet it is increasingly obvious they are ignorant and incapable of doing so. Even at this late stage, we must summon the courage to dismiss them from any further responsibility in our affairs before they inflict the fatal blow.

We must remember this:

As a country with its own currency, the UK can never run out of money – but it can run out of people and the essentials to life – food and fuel – if the combined consequences of a pandemic disease with unknown potential and the evaporation of trust in the authorities are realised. By ignoring the desperate plight of millions of ordinary people, governments across the world are failing in their principle duty – to protect their citizens. Instead many have already been sacrificed on the altar of greed and power in the desire to save the status quo. This neglect can only lead to social collapse and disorder, which will greatly enhance the deadly progress of the virus and render recovery impossible for many generations to come.

That will be our final legacy if we fail to act decisively now.

We must first realise and accept that the virus has completely destroyed the global economy – and in doing so, it has done humanity and the planet a great favour. Within a few months all of the established fiscal frameworks have collapsed, forcing governments to issue new currency to meet increased spending costs amidst grave uncertainties and falling revenue. Growth and productivity have all but ceased and many businesses have already closed for good.

Our malign problem has been surgically and efficiently removed, but our dependency and addiction has left us weak and vulnerable following the operation and we face a critical time ahead on life-support. But as we recuperate, there is time to consider the clarity the outbreak has also provided in clearing the mists and myths obscuring the reality with money and government spending.

Last week (23r April 2020), Gertjan Vlieghe, an ‘external’ member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), gave a speech headed “Monetary Policy and the Bank of England’s Balance Sheet” in an attempt to explain the extraordinary sums of money that are appearing out of thin air. It’s a good effort, using the prevailing mists and myths from telling the story in everyday language – but really the game is well and truly up for these dishonest characters, who by their own admission, have been exploiting those mechanisms for the last half century.

Thankfully, we now have, a simple translation of the speech and its implications for governments and individuals in every country.

This is one example how HMG could structure a response where money is no problem:
All policies directed to maintain the two vital ingredients essential for our recovery; preservation of the individual and those services fundamental to our survival – the NHS, food and medicines and the basic utilities – power, fuel and communications. It is incumbent on the State to apply adequate fiscal support to both until the outbreak and its inevitable consequences are contained and absorbed. That process may be counted in years if not decades.

Thus, direct payment to the individual must be apportioned immediately. This can be achieved by making everyone an employee or student of the ‘State’, with every person receiving a regular monthly ‘salary’ in addition to other supporting measures.
No debt repayments of any kind – mortgages, rents, loans, taxes including VAT, will cease immediately.

No payments for utilities, communications, prescriptions.

A weekly free-of-charge package of groceries and household items.

Emergency grants and funding for all community activities assisting the response and for restoration and support of essential business and services.

This represents a critical investment in a workforce we will desperately need if we are to survive intact and in sufficient numbers to bring with us the expertise, skills and knowledge that will be essential in the years and decades ahead.  We will need new skills and a radically different focus for business. This will take time, careful planning and consensus to formulate. The difficult, but crucial period of isolation provides a unique opportunity for everyone to participate towards that goal.  But only if they have support.

To achieve this, the ‘State’ – using emergency powers – assumes responsibility for all utilities, telecommunications, mobile and Internet providers, insurance and other essential business such as food production and distribution, supermarkets and pharmacies.  The commercial banks are nationalised and serve as a conduit for funding from government. All off-shore banking activities and financial markets under UK control, should be suspended immediately and access to existing deposits will be restricted.

Without this investment and reforms, our children will never know or benefit from anything we have learned and achieved in our lifetimes. Instead they will face the bleakest and most savage future imaginable.

If we are in in this together, it must be on equal terms – or not at all.
The net worth or earning capability of any individual is no longer important or representative of their true value. It never was. Is a footballer or media celebrity more important than a cleaner or carer? Do billionaires like Branson, Green and the Windsors deserve any better than you or your family?

It is simply not possible – and highly undesirable – to transition from one society to another under the heavy burden of unjust inequality and unrestrained greed. In time we will need to reconcile these discrepancies in a fair and sensible manner – but for the foreseeable duration, whilst our very survival is in the balance, we must all be on an equal footing financially – and in all other areas of support.

Nothing less will do.

History has taught us that every civilisation, at the point of collapse, has but the briefest of time to adjust to the new circumstances and threats. As yet, none have grasped the moment or faced the challenge with any realism and all have failed.
We have everything we need at our disposal to navigate through the troubled waters ahead, but we are being dragged down by the weight of a snarled anchor.

Just as humanity must dispense with the discredited snake-oil salesmen it is time to cut the chains from the deadweight below – those who the salesmen truly represent. There is much to be done – how we organise and support each other through the difficult times ahead.

How we recover and rebuild. How we restore, not only ourselves but also this place we call home. Unless we do this together, many of us will perish. Together, on equal terms, we may yet again flourish and learn to appreciate the true value of this life and each other. But everything needs to change.

Unfortunately, it won’t – at least not with any Westminster government and the British Establishment in charge of our affairs. As Vlieghe’s speech illustrates – even when Pandora’s Box has been opened, they still try and claim it’s nothing more than a meaningless trinket. They are the very worst of the snake-oil villains and will stop at nothing to preserve the status quo. They have yet to realise that is no longer possible. That dichotomy spells disaster.

On that basis, I appeal to those in Scotland in a position of authority to urgently consider the potential for Scotland, as an independent country with its own currency, to provide for its citizens a radically different fiscal stimulus, where the only limit on spending and progressive policies is our own imagination.
All of the suggestions outlined above can be achieved in a moment if the Scottish people and government have sovereignty over their own affairs. The time for decisive leadership is surely upon us. It is a matter of survival – nothing less.

When I was a young boy, my grandmother died from a simple act of medical negligence that was completely avoidable. No one had the knowledge to speak up at the time and we can never bring her back. I still miss her today. She instilled in me her great love of this beautiful country, its people, their history and traditions. “It has everything you could ever want”, she used to say. It does; we should hold onto it with everything we can. Especially the Blackmount Rowan.

On her mantelpiece was another tree – a porcelain ornament with an inscription below and another lesson:

“Tall oaks from small acorns grow.”

Now is the time to make that happen.

Jackson’s car lot

jacksonscarlot
Jackson Carlaw has been at the Dettol again. This time the office manager of the Scottish branch of the We’re Not Nationalists Because We’re British Yay For Boris And Brexit And The Queen Party has, in a single tweet, erased 1000 years of history. There is no border there is only one United Kingdom, he harrumphed in response to Nicola Sturgeon’s suggestion that if the circumstances of the epidemic demanded it she might “ask” for the power to close the border between Scotland and England, a power which she notes she does not currently possess.

Her answer made it clear that in her view we’re dealing here with something that is in the realms of the hypothetical twice removed. Yet even that is a threat to Surname Surname’s preciousssss, a threat which has to be removed. Nicola Sturgeon might have suspended campaigning on the issue of independence, but Jackson sure as hell isn’t going to. He’d have nothing to say otherwise. Indeed his comments about the border show that even when he is banging on about independence he’s got nothing to say.

The insistence that there is no border between two territorially defined entities which everyone else believes to be adjacent to one another can only mean that in the view of the Conservatives there can be no border between any two legally distinct pieces of land which happen to be a part of the same internationally recognised independent state. Logically this means that there can be no border between Jackson’s car lot and the adjacent car lot. All cars for sale on Jackson’s car lot should be sold by the larger car lot next door and then they can give him part of the proceeds and tell him that they’re subsidising him. They might even give him the loan of a painting as well. And it’s very handy of those of Jackson’s neighbours who are without a garden – they can have a barbecue in Jackson’s for the duration of the lockdown.

The border between Scotland and England is one of the oldest borders in Europe, and – much to the chagrin of Jackson Carlot – it remains politically salient today. The border dates back to over 1000 years ago, when England finally acknowledged that Lothian was a part of the Kingdom of Scotland after the Battle of Carham in 1018, although Scotland had actually taken control of Lothian even earlier, in 973 and Scottish influence had been strongly felt in Lothian even prior to that date. With minor revisions, it has remained the English Scottish border to this day. There are few other borders between adjacent European nations which are as ancient as the Anglo-Scottish border.

Even today, the border remains politically and legally important. Different legal systems and laws apply on either side of it. People from on opposite sides of the border have different national identities. The electorates on each side of the border have a very different set of political loyalties and preferences. Different education systems operate on either side of it. Although less important in this modern secular age, the border also marked a boundary between different religious traditions. The border represents a sharp delimitation in differing public attitudes to the EU, that deep political fault line which runs through modern British politics. Since devolution the border also represents the boundary of the area which is governed by the Scottish Parliament.

The political border between Scotland and England is also an important linguistic border, forming the boundary between northern English dialects and the southernmost dialects of Scots. Whereas English dialects merge seamlessly into one another, as Scots dialects do likewise on their side of the linguistic border, the border between the Scots and English languages is sharp and well defined. Even if you want to insist that Scots is merely a set of divergent English dialects, there’s nothing else like it anywhere in the English speaking world.

But according to the Scottish Conservatives, none of this really exists. It tells us that in their eyes there is only a unitary British state in which Scotland exists solely as a colourful continuation of the north of England. That’s exactly the kind of Scotland that they want, a Scotland that is quiescent, obedient, and which has the exact same political priorities as the Berkshire Conservative Association. Any expression of Scottish distinctiveness is seen as a threat.

What Jackson’s idiocy really tells us however is something serious. It shows us that despite the announcement of Nicola Sturgeon that she will not press the case for an independence referendum during the Coronavirus crisis, British nationalists like Jackson have no intention at all of ceasing their campaign against independence. In fact they are hell bent on weaponising the crisis as a campaigning tool against independence, while at the same time railing against independence supporters who have the temerity to point to the UK Government’s woeful mishandling of the crisis as a reason why Scotland desperately needs the ability to take charge of itself.

It’s entirely understandable why it’s inadvisable to press for another referendum under the current circumstances. Under lockdown we would be campaigning without access to the greatest strengths of the independence movement, our proven expertise in face to face, individual persuasion, and our grassroots mass movement’s ability to organise local events and initiatives which are able to tailor the message of independence to individuals and to different areas of the country. The British nationalists are however not so constrained. Their areas of strength rest in the traditional media, which is less affected by the lockdown than the independence movement’s brand of a mixture of individualised campaigning and mass rallies.

But this doesn’t mean that we should stop campaigning for independence, and it certainly doesn’t mean that we should be shy of pointing to the British state’s mishandling of this crisis as a reason for Scottish independence. With less than a mere 1% of the world’s population, the UK is now home to over 10% of reported deaths from the virus. And that’s just on the British government’s figures for deaths in hospitals. The true figure as we all know is considerably higher. According to the website https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/total-deaths-covid-19 which collates worldwide information on infections and deaths, as of Monday 27 April there have been 205,923 reported deaths from the virus of which 20,732 are in the UK – 10.07% of the global total. Britishness kills disproportionately. And now we’ve got the waffler in chief back in Downing Street, under pressure from his frothing backbenchers to end the lockdown even though this will risk a resurgence in cases. Every other country of Scotland’s size has done better. It beggars belief to insist that an independent Scotland would have performed worse than the UK.

So we should not be reticent to point out British mishandling of this crisis, the constraints the the British state puts on the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and the fact that other comparable – independent – nations are doing so much better. Ireland doesn’t have to ask Westminster for permission to close its border or to impose checks on people arriving at airports. Denmark doesn’t have to operate within the framework of devolved powers and leave the most important economic levers to Westminster. Finland doesn’t have a government which needs to constantly fend off a hostile media which is furious at any minor policy divergence from Westminster. The Czech Republic doesn’t need Westminster to borrow money for it to keep families and business afloat during the crisis and then be told that it’s economically dependent. All of those countries are facing the exact same issues that Scotland is, and all of them are performing much better. Scotland could do better too. We must not be shy about pointing that out.

And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…


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Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


British exceptionalism is lethal

britishnationalismiskillingus
Remember Brexit? Remember those halcyon days when the worst thing that we thought was going to happen was leaving the EU without a deal? While we are focussed on the coronavirus epidemic that is having such a tragic effect on the lives of thousands, and which is causing economic worry for millions more, the British Government isn’t being as focussed as we are. Despite everything that’s going on, Boris Johnson and his band of miserabilist ideologues are not being distracted from their pursuit of the hardest Brexit possible. That the economic impact and disruption will come on top of a UK that is already reeling from coping with the coronavirus epidemic and less capable of resilience than it was previously means nothing to this Government. Because sunlight uplands, great British spirit, Vera Lynn, Dunkirk, taking it on the chin.

What has become clear from the Conservatives’ mishandling of the epidemic is that they were slow to respond because they were blinded by the arrogant ignorance of British exceptionalism. They saw no reason to introduce the same measures that other European countries have introduced because they were convinced that Great British exceptionalism would see them through. They are making the exact same mistake with their refusal to ask the EU for an extension to the Brexit transitional period and their single minded pursuit of the hardest exit from the EU and again it’s because of their unshakeable belief in British exceptionalism.

As the virus started to take hold, the British Government was far more interested in the glories promised to it by the Brexit dream of British exceptionalism. The UK lost valuable time, and lives have been lost because of it. Yet even now with all that is happening the Conservatives are determined not to let go of that deluded dream of Brexit even though the negotiations on the UK’s final trade deal with the EU have stalled. They are prepared to risk further disruption, further economic ruin, the further cost to livelihoods and life opportunities, all in order to pursue the vainglorious fantasy of British exceptionalism.

Talks with the EU had been suspended while EU states dealt with their own responses to the virus. They resumed last week with a bald statement from the UK’s lead negotiator that under no circumstances would the UK seek an extension to the Brexit transition period. This is despite the fact that the EU has its own issues with dealing with the virus and is in no mood to accommodate an artificial timetable imposed upon it by Boris Johnson. All the more so when the UK is approaching the negotiations inflexibly and is refusing to accommodate to the EU on any issue. The truth is that the UK still appears to have no coherent plan other than cherries, cake, and unicorns. If it were not for the coronovirus epidemic this would be a huge political crisis. But the UK is walking into the nightmare blindly.

Since there was already only a small chance of reaching a deal before the virus struck, there is now no chance at all. What that means in effect is that the UK is preparing to leave with no deal at all on 31 December this year. The economic dislocation that this will create will crash into an economy that’s already reeling from the effects of lockdown and closures due to the pandemic. But hey, Vera Lynn.

British nationalism is founded in delusion. The biggest delusion of all is one that I’ve mentioned frequently on this blog, the delusion that British nationalism is not nationalist at all. But that is only one of the many delusions and myths that the British state uses to protect itself. It’s also founded in the delusion that the rest of the world admires and looks up to the UK. Opinion polls show that a majority of people in the UK neither understand what the colonialism of the British Empire really meant for those on the sharp end of it, nor appreciate that the victims of British colonialism do not regard it as a force for good. There is a widespread belief that the rest of Europe admire the UK – with all its structural inequality and its creaking constitutional arrangements – as a beacon of liberty and democracy. It seems clear that the real reason that so many in the UK wanted to leave the EU was because there is nothing within British nationalism which permits Britishness to survive intact unless it is leading and dominating. The concept of acting as an equal partner is alien to British nationalism. The only model of international relations that British nationalism understands is one based in power.

We are now seeing that British exceptionalism endangers lives and damages us. That has been put into sharp relief by the British state’s reluctance to face up to the pandemic, its running down of preparedness due to an ideologically driven austerity, the secrecy which it shrouds its scientific advice in, and its willingness to see that scientific advice be prejudiced by political considerations. It is being compounded by the looming threat of entirely avoidable economic dislocation as a result of this government’s insistence on continuing with its Brexit plans as though the pandemic wasn’t happening.

It was one thing to live in a British state whose delusional fantasies of exceptionalism were constrained by its membership of the EU, it will be quite another after 31 December when the Conservatives with their crushing majority in the Commons will be free to do precisely what they please. The Conservatives’ obsession with Brexit is costing lives, and the damage that it’s done isn’t over yet. Escaping from it must be the single minded priority of every Scottish independence supporter once this current crisis is over. Because there will be another crisis at some point in the future, and if we do not ensure that Scotland protects itself from the malign effects of British exceptionalism, people will suffer and die needlessly in the next crisis too.

Scottish independence is no longer merely about ensuring that Scotland gets a government that is accountable to the people of Scotland and which works in the interests of the people of Scotland, it is about making sure that Scotland has a government whose decisions are founded in reality and clear thinking, not in the dangerous delusions of British exceptionalism that risk our lives, our livelihoods, and our well being. British exceptionalism is killing us.

And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…


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If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


If it’s got Cummings in it, it’s not The Science

cummingsconsultation
We’re following The Science. It’s been the constant and repeated mantra of the British Government ever since the Coronavirus epidemic started. Any criticism or question about the wisdom of the British Government’s policy has been batted away with The Science. No politics here, oh no, this is The Science, with a capital letter and everything. The Government’s daily press briefing has turned into one of those expensive cosmetics commercials. You know, where a beautiful model who clearly has no need of the nostrum on offer waxes lyrical about the benefits of the product, and then talks about The Science, which is the cue to descend into nonsensical gobbledygook about which serves no purpose other than to throw up a smokescreen of pseudo-scientific respectability and justify the extremely high price.

We already know that the British Government’s snake oil is going to cost us dearly. Matt Hancock is to be fair a very good model – if we are talking about the plastic variety which is a diminutive copy of the real thing but without any appreciable signs of life. He’d be just as well telling us that the UK Government is basing its policy on its Advanced Borisfnaughfinol Complex and OCULAQUA™, a unique lubricating complex formulated from 18 essential elements found naturally in Conservatives with radiant, healthy hedge funds.

Science is above all an open process. That’s what allows science to be science. Data must be checked independently, conclusions debated openly. Findings are presented to the wider scientific community which can then openly discuss, debate, and investigate the conclusions arrived at. It’s through this rigorous process of peer review by other scientists that hypotheses which do not stand up can be winnowed out and rejected. Where there is secrecy and opacity, science dies. Which makes it alarming that the British Government, seemingly uniquely amongst Western governments, has been so secretive about the scientific advice that it has been given by SAGE, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. SAGE operates in secret, its membership list is a secret, its meetings are closed, any recommendations that it makes are kept secret, and the minutes of its meetings and its conclusions are not published. This is not a government which is treating the public like grown ups.

The truth is that governments of any hue do not “do science”. Scientists give advice, and the government formulates a policy by making political decisions based upon that advice. It is up to the politicians to decide how to act or not to act upon that advice and they do so refracted through the prism of their own political imperatives. This current British government is the most ideologically driven for generations. It beggars belief that this bunch of swivel eyed Brexiteer ideologues have put their obsessions to one side for the duration. All the more so because we know that they are refusing to delay Brexit negotiations in the interim. Governments most certainly do not follow the science by keeping that science a secret.

There are plenty of respected and respectable scientists on SAGE, men and women who are experts in their fields. However the concern about SAGE is that the British Government is using SAGE not primarily to obtain independent scientific advice, but rather to provide itself with a veneer of scienciness to cover up its political decisions. To formulate some Borisfnaughfinol rather than to formulate a science based strategy for dealing with the crisis. These suspicions are only worsened by the secrecy which the British Government surrounds SAGE advice, their refusal to publish that advice in full, and the revelation that Dominic Cummings and a data scientist prominent in the Vote Leave campaign are participants in SAGE meetings. So we’ve got the UK’s leading political supervillain and one of his little henchpersons on the government’s scientific committee. You can see now why they wanted to keep the membership list quiet.

Dominic Cummings is no scientist. He has neither been trained in science nor gained any recognised scientific qualification. He has a degree in Ancient and Modern History. This is not a scientific qualification. Since leaving university he has spent his career working on one right wing political project or campaign after another. His primary concerns are political and the promotion of a right wing agenda. No meeting which contains Dominic Cummings as one of its participants can claim that the consensus it arrives at is independent, neutral, and based solely in science. It’s hard to understand what qualifies him to sit on a scientific committee. Is it his interest in eugenics perhaps? Isn’t this the guy who embraced herd immunity and quipped that it was too bad if some pensioners had to die?

The opinions of those real and genuine scientists who sit on the committee have been compromised by the views of Dominic Cummings. It means that we cannot be sure of the extent which the decisions of the committee are based on a dispassionate view of the data, or of the extent to which they are based on political considerations. It means that there is a real risk that the politics are leading the science, instead of science informing the politics. The Government tells us that it’s following the science, but that science is being influenced by Dominic Cummings.

The truth that has come out about SAGE also put to bed any claim that the UK operates as a family of nations where the different countries of the UK have a voice and a say. The chief medical officers and scientific advisors of the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish governments have not been allowed to participate fully in SAGE meetings. Their role is restricted to that of observer status. If they want to ask a question they must submit it in writing in advance. This makes it unlikely that any decisions made by SAGE are fully informed by the situations in the devolved nations.

In turn this makes a mockery of the insistence of Jackson Carlaw and Richard Leonard that Scotland must not diverge from the rest of the UK in how it manages its response to the virus. They want Scotland to adhere to a policy which was formed with only limited input from the leading Scottish scientists and medical officers who inform the Scottish Government. If they still adhere to their insistence after these revelations, we can be confident that their first priority is not what is good for Scotland, but rather what is good for preventing Scotland diverging from the UK. They stand revealed as using the coronavirus as a weapon to fend off the rising tide of independence.

Science dies in the darkness. The public cannot have confidence in the science of a committee which operates in secret and which contains such a controversial political figure amongst its members. The British government must remove Cummings from SAGE immediately, and make the minutes of meetings public. It needs to do what Nicola Sturgeon has done, and to treat the public as grown ups. Scientific advice that is formulated in consultation with Dominic Cummings is neither scientific nor advisable.

And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
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If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


Drinking Dettol to own the Nats

dettol
Just when you thought that things couldn’t possibly get any worse in a universe in which Boris Johnson is Prime Minister, Donald Trump is the president of the USA, billionaire Richard Branson is demanding that you and I bail him out, Madonna tells us that the coronavirus is a great equaliser as she sits in a bathtub filled with rose petals, and Gemma Collins’ celebrity is an actual thing, the world got worse. This is what we get for living in a society which rewards stupid vacuous people with their own reality TV shows. They end up getting elected and giving us health advice. Now we have the intelligence vacuum that is a Cheeto coloured game show host leading the most powerful country in the world and openly wondering whether it’s a good idea to inject yourself with bleach.

If you had told me five years ago that Boris Johnson would be Prime Minister, we’d be out of the EU, and Donald Trump would be president of the USA advising people of the health benefits of drinking Cillit Bang as a cure for a virus that’s killing thousands of people around the world every day, I might very well have considered making myself a disinfectant cocktail.

Today Nicola Sturgeon had to make a public statement warning people that ingesting disinfectant was a really really stupid idea. This is because during his press conference last night Donald Trump suggested that since disinfectant can destroy the coronavirus within a minute, then perhaps it might be a good idea to inject disinfectant into people to cure them. It would certainly cure them, it would cure them of living. That’s yer actual President of yer actual USA there, suggesting that mainlining toilet duck might be a good idea. To which the world can only reply – sure thing Don, you try it first.

A journalist for an anti-independence newspaper retweeted Nicola Sturgeon’s remarks about the idiocy of drinking bleach, and said that on this subject she was speaking for all of Scotland. There are many things about which there is disagreement in Scotland, but you’d like to think that the stupidity of drinking bleach was not one of them. Sadly you would be wrong. As soon as the journalist had tweeted, there was a response from a particularly staunch union flag waver that Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish “Nationalist” party did not speak for him and his family. How dare Thatessempee tell a true blue Brit not to drink dettol.  He’ll bloody well drink dettol if he wants to, and he’ll do it standing on top of the White Cliffs of Dover while singing a Vera Lynn song.  That’s what WW2 was all about you know. So there you go, a British nationalist drinking bleach to own the Nats. It didn’t take long to get from coronavirus will kill off hopes of independence, to drinking Cillit Bang will show those Nats what’s what. The world’s stupidity has consumed itself and is now working its way up its own colon, where it will meet bleach on its way down.

To be fair to the Britnat zoomers of social media, there’s plenty of stupidity from politicians to inspire them. Today a suspiciously bleached looking Jackson Carlaw released a wee video online in which he demanded that the lockdown in Scotland should only be ended at the same time as in the rest of the UK. This came in response to the tentative suggestions from Nicola Sturgeon about a possible exit strategy from the lockdown in Scotland, with a phased loosening of restrictions, and the publication of a very welcome document from the Scottish Government setting out the conditions that would be required in order to loosen the current restrictions. This is in marked contrast to the Westminster Government, which has so far refused to publish any detailed information about its plans for an exit strategy, or indeed about that scientific information upon which it’s constantly claiming to base its decisions.

The Scottish Government very clearly recognises that we can only loosen the lockdown once the rate of infections has declined sufficiently, and once there’s a system in place to ensure that the contacts of those who do become infected can be traced, tested, and quarantined. This is very different from the UK Government, which explicitly abandoned efforts to contain the virus in mid-March. The document, and the careful statement from Nicola Sturgeon, both point to a very welcome divergence by the Scottish Government from the discredited herd immunity strategy which the British Government is now desperately trying to pretend never happened at all.

However in the interests of not being different from the rest of the UK, the Scottish Conservative branch office manager Surname Surname thinks that the lockdown in Scotland should end at a time when it’s not necessarily in Scotland’s best interests to do so. There are two logical possibilities from Jackson Carlaw’s suggestion – given that he appears to have no clear idea himself on an exit strategy for Scotland and wants us to wait for a UK wide strategy decided by Westminster. Either he’s willing to open Scotland up because Westminster has decided to loosen lockdown restrictions in England even though the health advice for Scotland is that it’s not safe, or he’s perfectly prepared to risk jobs and livelihoods because the advice is that it’s safe for limited reopenings in Scotland even though it might not be safe elsewhere. And all for the sake of remaining in lockstep with Matt Hancock and proving a spurious political point.

This is not the solidarity of the four nations of the UK, this is a suicide pact. Because you can bet your last bottle of dettol that the Conservatives in London will not delay the ending of the lockdown across the entire UK just because the public health officials in Scotland say that Scotland might not be ready. We know this Conservative government and we know that the best interests of Scotland do not figure high on its list of priorities. In fact it doesn’t figure at all. This is a Conservative government which will end the current lockdown when it judges that it’s best for the Conservatives to do so.

Surname Surname’s suggestion is way up there in the dumb suggestions league with the Mayor of Las Vegas saying that she’d like the casinos to reopen, and then the ones where there was the greatest number of infections could be closed down again.  A sort of viral roulette then.  It’s just a stupid stupid idea, and most voters in Scotland – at least those who don’t have union flags in their avatars on social media – will conclude that it’s a stupid stupid idea and that Surname Surname is not prioritising the best interests of the people of Scotland. While any sensible person understands that it’s a dreadful idea to drink bleach or disinfectant, there are still plenty of British nationalist politicians who want Scotland to keep drinking the red white and blue Kool-Aid.

And finally, because we could all do with some cheering up during these difficult times…


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
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If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com