Ten questions about what happened in Scotland yesterday


By Kenneth Roy (First Published Thursday 9th Feb)

A passenger came off a flight at Prestwick yesterday afternoon, headed straight for this office, and asked politely to be introduced to Scotland, a country with which he was unfamiliar. We gave him a cup of coffee, sat him in front of a computer terminal, and logged him on to the news website of a publicly funded broadcasting corporation. It was the least we could do.

‘You’ll see here at a glance a summary of the main events of the day,’ I explained. ‘That should bring you up to speed on what goes on in Scotland and what we are like as a people.’ I looked at my watch: 5.30pm. From the point of view of news, the timing could not have been better.

‘Oh,’ I added in a matey fashion, ‘you’ll find that the Scots don’t bite.’

Five minutes later, I was surprised to see this mysterious stranger hurtling down the stairs of Liberator House as fast as his little legs could take him.

‘What’s up?’, I asked a colleague.

‘He said he couldn’t suffer it any more,’ Miss McLeod replied. ‘He muttered something about returning home in the first available inter-galactic spaceship.’

What had so terrified this agreeable green man? I went straight to the web page I had opened for him, and studied it more carefully. I could see at once the likely cause of his premature departure: of the 16 main items, eight – exactly 50% – were concerned with crime or violent death.

There was the 83-year-old great-grandfather, a former miner from Tillicoultry, jailed for five years for sexually molesting two young girls. The BBC left little to the reader’s imagination: ‘He had taken her hand and placed it on him’. A photograph of the accused accompanied the report. There is every chance that this wretched old man will die in prison.

There was the 78-year-old former Scout leader who abused members of his troop in Coupar Angus 40 years ago and has been ordered by a sheriff to sell his home in order to pay compensation to his victims. He too had been photographed by or for the BBC.

There was the woman police officer in Dundee, acquitted of wilfully neglecting her duties, who had a ‘late-night tryst’ with a man who turned out to be a wanted criminal.

There was the young motorist – with his cropped head and burly appearance the stereotype of modern Scottish manhood – who killed a friend in a crash as he drove at a speed of more than 85 miles an hour on a dark country road.

There was the man in Aberdeen who stabbed his ‘frail’ 79-year-old father six times. For his attempted murder the man was jailed for six and a half years – one year for each stab, then some.

Also in Aberdeen, someone had been charged with an ‘alleged sexual assault’ – no further details, but apparently one of the 16 most important events in Scotland yesterday.

There was the latest instalment of the saga in which a passenger famously removed an alleged fare-dodger from a train. I was relieved that our visitor vacated the premises so quickly that I was spared having to tell him what ‘going viral’ means.

I am nearly done with yesterday in Scotland, but not without mentioning the ‘death probe’ (as the BBC so delicately put it) into the case of two girls, 14 and 15 years old, who held hands and then threw themselves off the Erskine Bridge.

What else was happening in Scotland yesterday? Were useful, interesting things going on – contributions to our society – about which we know nothing because we are fed a diet of miscellaneous depravity?

To summarise: one dead on the roads; two young girls molested; a number of boys also molested; two suicides; one old man brutally assaulted by his son; one sexual assault; one late-night tryst; and more bad behaviour on the trains.

This appalling catalogue prompts a number of questions. I’ll put them in no particular order of merit or importance.

(1) Was this a particularly sordid day in Scotland’s criminal courts, or is every day like this?

(2) How are octogenarians serving long sentences treated in prison?

(3) What on earth has happened to small town Scotland – the Scotland of Tillicoultry and Coupar Angus – places which stepped straight out of the homely pages of the People’s Friend and once inspired a sentimental sub-culture known as the kailyard?

(4) Is it conceivable that the police officer who had the ‘late-night tryst’ will keep her job?

(5) Who talks of trysts these days, except in court reports?

(6) What are the ethics of putting the elderly Scoutmaster on the street for offences which were not grave enough to be dealt with by the High Court?

(7) Why has the language of BBC Scotland been degraded to that of the low press?

(8) Can anything positive be done to discourage young Scottish men from driving at suicidal speeds, particularly on dark country roads?

(9) What is the effect on the psychological health of a people – the Scottish people – of this obsession with crime, especially sexual crime?

(10) My last question is really a series of inter-linked ones. What else was happening in Scotland yesterday? Were useful, interesting things going on – contributions to our society – about which we know nothing because we are fed a diet of miscellaneous depravity? What, for example, has happened to public affairs? Is Scotland now a country of the referendum and Tillicoultry perverts with nothing much that matters in-between?

I have no answers. If anyone does have an answer to any of these perplexing questions, do get in touch. But there is no need to call personally. After yesterday’s unsettling experience in Liberator House, we’re a bit wary about unscheduled arrivals.


Courtesy of Kenneth Roy – read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review