Helen Martin: It’s all over, for bitter or worse

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THE caller, a lady from the south of England, wanted to speak to someone – anyone – in a Scottish newspaper – any Scottish newspaper – on election day. She got me.

“I just wanted to say how we feel in England. It’s like the Mongols are coming!” It took me a moment to realise she was talking about the prospect of SNP influence.

“We’ve given you all that money from the Barnett formula – far more than Wales or Northern Ireland, – free prescriptions and everything else. Why do you want to invade us?”

There wasn’t really any other answer apart from pointing out they hadn’t “given” these things to us, Messrs Cameron, Miliband and Clegg could have chosen free prescriptions and tuition, but didn’t, and they had begged us to stay in the Union, so now here we were, democratically taking part in the UK election.

To save ink on the quote marks, I’ll paraphrase her points. The banking failure was down to RBS, so that was Scotland’s fault. The Bank of England was of course, blameless. We were a different people and shouldn’t have any place governing England.

I tried asking her, in that case, if England should have any say over Scotland. And after all, we were talking about the governance of the UK, but the response was that there were only five million of us and over 50 million of them so of course they were in charge.

She went on to add that we only had one political party and we’d soon have to find another to oppose that Sturgeon woman, and that when Scotland eventually got some businesses up and running we’d find out how much we needed England’s expertise and political know-how.

Naturally, I pointed out Scotland did have industries and businesses, plus as many political parties as existed in the south, and that we didn’t all live on windswept Highland sheep farms, spinning yarn and carrying peat on our backs.

By this time, colleagues in the office were becoming highly entertained by the one end of the conversation they could hear.

“Well I think it’s time you stopped bullying the English,” she added, despite having just pointed out how outnumbered we were. “Why don’t you just go it alone?”

I told her to ask the Labour Party who understood only too well that, in the past, they had depended on Scottish votes, otherwise they would never have reached Number 10.

“I don’t believe that – I don’t believe anything you’ve said and we want to be rid of you all,” she said.

In the most polite voice I could muster, I said her point of view seemed to be based on little or no knowledge of Scotland, its politics, its finances, its assets, its people, its systems, its history or its industries. On the other hand, many people in Scotland, not to mention Nicola Sturgeon, wanted the same thing as she did . . . total independence from England.

I could sense her alarm and confusion that she might be in agreement with the SNP about anything.

The call ended and I reflected upon the fact that she was well spoken and at least knew vaguely what the Barnett formula was. Her understanding and opinions were skewed, but then whose wouldn’t be after the last six weeks of nonsense soundbites? She also had the interest and courage to ring a newspaper and put her views across. She can’t just be dismissed as a one-off – and that’s a worrying result of this bitter and divisive election.

£50 for new cycle routes – on yer bike!

A News reader wrote to the paper suggesting cyclists should pay an annual £50 each towards the cost of the new segregated cycle routes around the city.

I see his point but it’s never going to happen. All I care about is that they actually use them and make the expense worthwhile, making life safer for them as well as drivers and car passengers.

The worst outcome would be that, as with current cycle lanes, they choose not to use them at all, preferring to play pin-ball with the traffic. Now that should be a fineable offence.

Let’s get things right in time for next election

NOW that the election is over, it’s a good time to think how we might do things better next time around.

I suggest limiting the number of leaflets and letters any political party can deliver to each house to two maximum; a law forcing leafletters to leave garden gates as they find them ie open or shut; all leafletters to be equipped with plastic forceps to shove things through letter boxes yet keep their digits; demanding that at least one of the endless TV debates is a comedy night where leaders have a ten minute gig each in which to display their sense of humour and get their point across, assessed by a Dimbleby-operated laughometer; and a total ban on personal slurs and mud-slinging for the duration of the campaign.

Can’t spot a drunk

THE diversion of a flight from Glasgow to Turkey because of a drunk on board illustrates how rushed boarding is and how pressurised gate staff are to get the plane loaded and airborne as quickly as possible. If they can’t observe that the guy has a whole bottle of vodka inside him, what chance of spotting a terrorist?