Mentalists in Newtonmore

A report from John Campbell of Aviemore of the Danny Alexander No meeting at Newtonmore Community Hall, Friday 11 April 2014 at the unusual starting time of 5:30 pm.


Danny Alexander in action

Danny Alexander made a rare appearance on behalf of the “Better Together” campaign in Newtonmore last Friday. The gig was well attended by YES supporters. After all, Danny Boy has been Chief Secretary to the British Treasury since 2010. He must surely be in a good position to come up with some blistering facts and figures, some choice bits of hard information that would have YES folk in his home constituency scurrying about excitedly, wearing out our wee paws texting and twittering into the night. But no, it wasn’t really much of a show from No.

The support act was Alan Savage, Chairman of the Orion recruitment agency based in Inverness. As he has threatened to pull out of Scotland if we get independence we assumed that he must have at least some reason.

But reason has nothing to do with it. There was no case for Better Together. There wasn’t even any cogent thread of argument. Alexander and Savage ran through the same old material. A bit like Saturday night comedy, it was an irritating rehash of tired, old routines. We got “too wee, too poor, Alex Salmond, nationalism, nationalism, Alex Salmond”. The only mild surprise was that we didn’t get “too stupid”. Both speakers very carefully avoided that one. Alexander presents very well as a smartly dressed, properly groomed school prefect. He tells us:

“The Scots (he talks about us as if we’re not there) are very clever people. They could develop the necessary structures to survive but it would take them years.”

Of course he doesn’t explain what those structures might be. Law? Education? Health Service? We’ve got those already.

The “too poor” bit is priceless comedy, delivered dead-pan. “I work with lots of spread sheets with lots of big figures and its all very complicated but I can tell you that the figures I deal with are far bigger than Scotland could ever come up with alone” just about sums up his position on the economy. He should know. He works with spread sheets.

Independence, we were told repeatedly, would mean barriers to trade, all because of nationalism. There would be border patrols. Scotland would be out of the EU and it would also have the Euro because it would be a new state, not that the other 28 would allow it in, Spain is against it, but it would have to accept the Euro if it did. Aye, he said that. All in the same breath. That was the basic pattern of his presentation. Avoid cohesive argument, insert some lies, avoid facts, throw in a few mutually exclusive possibilities and jab them from both sides, ha-ha. Got you, you nasty nationalists!

This is how they do it when they have the full power of the mainstream media working for them. They don’t actually have to make sense. People attribute reason to them. In a way it was a bit like a Derren Brown show. The audience have already been fed their responses well in advance of the show. They just don’t realise it. The mentalist pulls out the correct answer that he has prepared earlier, the audience recognise it and clap on cue. That must be entertaining in a theatre after a nice meal and a drink. But it’s a bit disturbing when performed in the political arena of a local hall in one of the former heartlands of Scottish Liberalism.

Alan Savage tries the same trick but unfortunately didn’t manage to pull it off. “I like the Scots but I would have to consider moving my company elsewhere. My company deals with over twenty different currencies. We trade with countries all over the world. If Scotland goes all independent on us we won’t be able to cope with the currency exchange. It will be a foreign country. .” He doesn’t even try to wriggle out of that one, to explain why, if his company is so skilled with currency
exchange and has a world-wide platform, they couldn’t cope with an independent Scotland. He just blinks and stares for a moment that lasts for ever, as if realising the profound stupidity of his own words. Then he goes back to ‘nationalism’. He’s a Labour man from the north of England, always had been. His grandfather fought in the Spanish Civil War and so he hates nationalism. He has given a lot of money to the Better Together campaign so he expects to be invited to speak again
sometime. He’s not joking. No hint of a wry smile. Nobody laughs.

The first question comes from the back of the hall where some YES supporters are lurking. “If you hate nationalism, then why do you both support British nationalism? Surely an independent Scotland will be able to trade directly with the world without Westmonster control. For us there would be far fewer barriers to trade and communication. Your parties, Lib-Dem, Labour and your coalition partners have embraced xenophobic forms of nationalism as a response to UKIP. An independent Scotland would be progressive and open.”

“I understand your viewpoint but I don’t agree with your analysis” says Alexander. “I don’t see the xenophobia.” Savage starts waffling about currency but is reminded that he has been asked about British nationalism. Ed Milliband and Labour have been waving the Union Jack around a lot recently and promoting English/British nationalism and patriotism in a right of centre response to UKIP. Savage merely repeats what he has already said. “I’m a Labourman, I’m not a nationalist”.


Alan Savage

The currency issue is of course rock solid. Scotland won’t get the pound. Danny assures us of that. “I work very closely with George Osborne and when he says something he definitely means it.”

That was the level of debate. Nothing new. The only surprise was that they still can’t answer the most straightforward and honest question that people have been asking since this all began. “Do you not think it’s unfair and undemocratic that Scotland always gets a government it doesn’t vote for? Do you not think that we have a right to proper political representation?”

Alexander’s reply is that Scotland has “One hundred percent representation in its own parliament.” He might as well not have been there and just sent a record or two. A worn out 45 for some of the younger ones in their sixties and maybe a cracked 78 for the rest. He was only there in person for the pictures opportunities. Having established a solid reputation locally as an absentee MP, a wee photo in the local paper makes it look as if he’s still interested.

The big question they really want to avoid is what will the UK do without Scotland. Danny know that the UK hasn’t got any money. It has to keep on borrowing. Savage kept saying that Scotland couldn’t meet its debts and wouldn’t get a good credit rating. Both denied ever hearing about Standard and Poor’s triple A credit rating for an independent Scotland. They actually said they’d never heard of it. They were telling what in polite circles are known as ‘untruths’. If they do another gig, go along and hammer them on that one. The UK is almost bankrupt Danny. You should know. You’re the chief whatever-it-is-you-do at the treasury. What is you actually do again?

There was an odd vibe in the place too. Liberalism has traditionally been strong among crofters and farmers, a relic from the days when the Liberals were a radical force for change. At the last UK election they captured a youngish vote. Now it’s all pish and pandrops. Apart from two local worthies, now coming up in years, real gentlemen both of them, the sort of folk you would enjoy having a good dram with, the rest of the crowd of about 65 in the hall seemed to be much less Liberal than Tory. Taking away the ten or so Alexander staff and organisers and about a dozen local YES! supporters, there were about 40 others there. Given that Alexander is a member of the British cabinet, is the local MP, had sent personal invitations to everybody in the area, (rough cost about 800 quid) and is in the news almost daily, that is a pathetic response.

Most of Danny’s supporters looked well over pension age and most of them looked well off. Many of them seemed to be some sort of toff or another. And they really were bitter together. The atmosphere was tense. An eloquent, gentlemanly activist, declared himself to be a devout internationalist. This earned a brief burst of applause which triggered a ripple of fear through the rest of the audience. As if rowdies had gatecrashed their party. When said activist, having heard enough lies
for one evening (they told us that all of the Highland school referendum votes had been for no, not one for YES!, when in fact Plockton and Dornoch called for YES!), announced that he felt the debate was “quite frankly boring”, people seems genuinely shocked. There was audible whispering about ‘cybernats’.

The impression from this meeting is that Danny Alexander wasn’t even preaching to his own people. It looks as if the Liberals have abandoned the Bitter Together sinking ship and their place has been taken by elderly Tory BritNats who are too rich, too arrogant or just too stupid to jump off. There was a funereal edge to the occasion. Sort of “This might be the last time we all meet together like this. The game’s up. The flag is lowered on yet another part of the empire. Goodbye old chap.”

One of the toffs nabbed me on the way out. He said “You can’t expect people to understand your questions if you don’t talk properly. You should take speech lessons.” I said  “Whit? Sorry, A canna mak out whit ye’re sayin. Dae ye spik Inglish?” He took a real radge at that and shouted: “Yoah just being shilly! I shed you should gow end get shome speesh leshons! Lehn to tok pwopoowy!” I tried another response:  “A’ve nae idea whit ye’re on about. Parlez vous français peut-être?”

The conversation ended there.

Comments (36)

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  1. balandisbalandis says:

    Standard & Poor didn;t technically give an AAA rating. They said that IF Scotland were independent then they would give the economy their highest assessment. That’s without counting in the oil. So Alexander was doing the classic thing wee kids do when they lie — playing pedantically on the phrase “AAA rating” and pretending to not know about the S&P “highest assessment”. A lie by omssion, a half-truth or a “haystack answer”, but dishonest whatever you call it.

    1. I emailed Mr D Alexander the S&P paper on rating an independent Scotland that you talk about, he definitely did not see it, I got an unread reply back on my email!

  2. castle hills chavie says:

    Nice sporran

  3. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    Aye, fit a rare spikir!

  4. David Agnew says:

    A theme I have picked up on and commented elsewhere – Unionism. have you ever met a happy Unionist?
    They are the biggest bunch of misery guts, ever collected in one place. Just endlessly going on about rotten it is to be Scottish.

    Then it clicked. The Scottish Cringe – isn’t really a Scottish Cringe – Its a Unionist Cringe, or Brit Cringe. They’re not embarrassed at being Scottish – they’re ashamed of being British but at the same time needing the UK to like them and give them free money.

    To look at a unionist is stare failure in the face. Failure is only character building if you learn from it though.

  5. Iain says:

    There is so much in this article worth commenting on, but most of it has been said already in one forum or another. Just one point, Willie Rennie, allegedly an MSP and leader of the Liberals, recently called for a Sunshine strategy and Danny Alexander is indeed it. His middle name is ‘Grian’ which is Gaelic for “Sun’. I’ve never met a human being with that name before, but an old friend had a golden Labrador called that. As regards the last part of the article, I remember people in Newtonmore speaking Gaelic not ‘spikkin’ English’.

    1. yesvote2014 says:

      Beil cuimhne agaibh air muinntir an àite ‘s iad bruidhinn Gàidhlig? Bhiodh e uabhaidh math cluinntinn mu dheidhinn. Seanchas sam bith air cainnt nan daoine. Tha colbh againn ann am pàipear naidheachd na sgìre air a bheil ‘Gaelic Was Never Spoken Here’. Sin mar fhreagairt ris an fheadhainn a bhios a’ cantainn sin ro thric.

  6. “I work with lots of spread sheets with lots of big figures and its all very complicated but I can tell you that the figures I deal with are far bigger than Scotland could ever come up with alone”.

    As a Tory data input, tea & biscuit gopher Danny Alexander is speaking from experience here. £1.3 trillion of government debt is a big number that Scotland could never come up with alone. A lot of this debt has arisen while he has been working on said spreadsheets.

  7. Lorraine Fannin says:

    Interesting report. I loved the last paragraph. Alan Savage has been touring the media for several months with his claim that he will move his company and so lots of jobs will be lost. In fact his company is a recruitment consultancy for oil and gas jobs, first set up in Scotland and now successful in other places. The point is that the jobs for which he recruits will remain in Scotland where the industry is, (and elsewhere if there’s demand). If he re-locates, then he may well create a gap that someone else will fill, as a service to the sector. He’s trying to puff out some smoke.

  8. Lauren MacC says:

    Good work John!…glad you put that old boy in his place! would have loved to seen it first hand!

  9. Dr JM Mackintosh says:

    Very interesting post – especially about Danny’s new found Tory friends.

    I find it very sad that a boy from Lochaber, representing the Liberal Democrats appears as more Tory than his coalition partners. Unlike a lot of his Liberal colleagues, he seems very at home on the Tory front benches and seems to be a very enthusiastic supporter of his new friend Gideon Osborne.

    The Highlands have been very supportive of the Liberals over the years and I think the likes of John Farquhar Munro would have been very disillusioned by this turn of events.

    Charlie Kennedy – where are you ?

    Do you not realise that Danny Alexander and Alastair Carmicheal are going to decimate the vote of the Liberals in the Highlands and Islands and consign you to the dustbin of political history.

    1. Alan Mackintosh says:

      Hi Jamesie, I think you are mistaken in your view the liberals will be decimated. (That is, being a pedant, decimation was a Roman punishment for failure, in which every 10th man was killed) I fear the liberals losses will be much more than that. They might be hoping to get away with only decimation. On a brighter note, Danny boy is coming to the Aird next Monday, 21st, so we’ll get a chance too 🙂

      1. Dr JM Mackintosh says:

        Hi Ally Bally,

        Be sure to ask him to get his spreadsheet out and work out what happens to the rUK economy once it loses Scotland’s contribution to GDP and Scotland’s contributions to debt repayment. Is he still sure that he will not negotiate on sharing the £ ?

        I would like to hear his answer on that one – the consequences of his Plan A.
        We already known what his Plan B is.

    2. Iain says:

      Would that be the Charles Kennedy who merrily voted for a cap on benefits spending a couple of weeks ago?

      1. Dr JM Mackintosh says:


        can you also ask him if he has been promised a safe Tory seat in the South of England when he gets booted out by his Inverness constituents.

        I think Southend could be made available – Teddy Taylor’s old seat. He can carry on with his beloved Westminster in the event of a Yes vote.

        With a No vote he could also pontificate on Scottish affairs from the safety of his Tory heartland. Just like a junior Teddy.


        sooner or later the Lib-Dems are going to realise the are going to be annihilated (not decimated) in Scotland if they do not do something.

        Charlie has some common sense and must see this coming. Lib Dems for Indy could do with high level defectors – Charlie could be the one to lead a landslide.

        Danny Alexander and Alistair Carmichael are beyond hope!

  10. Iain MacIlleChiar says:

    ‘S ann agad fhèin a tha a’ Bheurla shiùbhlach! Cuir giorrachadh dhe seo gu Private Eye agus math dh’fhaoidte gun tèid do phàigheadh air a shon.

    1. yesvote2014 says:

      Ge-tà, tha mi faicinn mearachdan ann. Droch litreachadh is droch ghràmair! Cha bu mhisde am pìos seo de dheasachadh is ceartachadh.

  11. John Hutchison says:

    More or less the same script was used by Danny Alexander at Lochaber Chamber of Commerce in Fort William last night (Good Friday but 35 attended).

    During discussion he claimed that that the UK Govt baled out RBS and HBOS because other money wasn’t available. I explained that Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp had presented and a completely different version from him and that the Business for Scotland website states; “It’s worth also noting that the UK Government bail out of RBS and HBOS amounted to £65bn. That’s a lot of money, but the US Federal Reserve made emergency loans available to RBS of £285bn and to HBOS of £115bn.”

    When challenged about this DA claimed BfS website wasn’t correct. I’m sure we’ll get reaction from BfS.

    Folk attending future DA meetings could perhaps check and use this info.

    1. cirsium says:

      The figures were presented in Table 8 on page 131 of the GAO analysis of the Federal Reserve System data (GAO-11-696). The GAO is the Government Accountability Office which provides audit and evaluation services for the US Congress. Barclays, RBS and HBOS were kept afloat by the US Federal Reserve. The sums involved were $868 billion to Barclays, $541 billion to RBS and $181 to the Bank of Scotland. I accessed this document through The New York Times.

      I’ve only seen the Federal Reserve bailout mentioned on the BfS site and in an article in The New Statesman. Mr Alexander is clearly hoping that most people remain in the dark about this issue.

  12. Jim says:

    Stop trying to show off with conceited sarcasm to an audience that is already voting Yes. Start trying to give those who have not made up their mind some confidence that we have the character and objectivity to debate the matter rather than resorting to self displays of clumsily ridiculing the opponent. This goes for both sides!

    1. Wow, somebody’s not a happy,( Easter), bunny today! It must be braw to be so incredibly self righteous.

  13. oscartaime says:

    Bien joué Jean. Etant également un internationalist il me semble évident qu’un pays serait mieux à l’aise sur la scène mondial quand il n’a plus besoin de l’accord de son voisin pour tout décision. En tous cas il y a très peu, voir aucune, exemples d’un peuple que reste volontairement sous les ordres d’un autre! Bonne chance

    1. yesvote2014 says:

      Oui oscartaime, c’est vrai. L’indépendance, c’est normal, n’est-ce pas?

      Australie 1907, la Nouvelle-Zélande 1907, Ghana 1957, la Jamaïque 1962, Bahamas 1973. et bien d’autres. Personne ne veut y renoncer à leur indépendance maintenant. Qui dirait non? Mes apologies, je parle pas trés bian français mais nous, nous les sommes internationalistes. Nous voulons à profiter de la communication avec le monde extérieur, sans le filtre de Westminster. Sans filtre = plus de saveur, plus de plaisir!

      1. oscartaime says:

        Thanks for the lovely rejoinder in French. I’ve seen the odd comment in Catalan – ¡Visca Catalunya! btw – but so far most of those I talk with outside the UK indeed outside Scotland are only vaguely aware & often dismissive. Both of which change fairly quickly but if we think the message is distorted inside the UK then I guess it is hardly surprising to learn we have loads of informing to do outside too. Bearing in mind what the UK Foreign Office have been up to I submit that it is incumbent on those of us who get the chance to spread the message as far as we can. Until we get an official Scottish Foreign service a motivated diaspora will be a good start. Alors: Allons enfants de la patrie!

  14. Big Jock says:

    I love it when they say they hate nationalism but don’t want to be run from Brussels.Is it just Scottish nationalism! Is British nationalism legitimate? Union Jacks,Rule Britannia,West Belfast,National Front,BNP,UKip,Rangers fans,imperialism,colonialism.?.?

    1. Graeme D says:

      Well said Big Jock. Plenty people waking up to the nonsense we’re being fed by the powers that be but many still gullible. Lets keep challenging the nonsense and hypocrisy that has kept this country subservient for far too long.

  15. Dinna_fash says:

    An exploiter and a spread-sheet politician threatening to leave Scotland if we vote Yes, what’s not to like?
    Lets shake these twa monkeys aff oor backs on September 18th.

  16. @Big Jock

    A fair few Rangers Fans will vote ‘Yes’.

    There are repulsive Unionists among us, but please refrain from tarring us all with the same brush.

    Tiresome it gets.

  17. Suzie says:

    Please please please do not call your article mentalists in Newtonmore. It’s just so offensive that I don’t know where to start? Are you asserting that the Better Together Speakers and supporters are mentally ill in some way? Please amend the article headline. Thanks so much.

    1. Dcanmore says:

      Hi Suzie,

      The description of mentalist means a person who ‘appears’ to show great ability during a public performance but may subject the audience to fraud such as a clairvoyant, magician or a telepath. It doesn’t mean mental retardation in any respect.

  18. bringiton says:

    Thatcher ended any possibilty of consensual politics in the British Isles.
    You were either with her or against which to say the least was polarising.
    That was the death knell for the British Liberal and British Labour parties who have been sucked into the same downward spiral affecting all of the Westminster establishment since.
    These “British” political parties are now trying to out do themselves in terms of how market friendly they are and against anyone who doesn’t contribute to corporate profits.
    Thatcher was about markets and not people and had a very limited view of politics in that respect.
    The so called “Liberal” party are now completely irrelevant in Scotland where people are increasingly saying that they want to control our democracy and not leave it up to politicians who are in the pockets of various corporations.
    Alexander may return to Scotland at some future point but not as a politician.

  19. John Watson says:

    ‘Pish and pandrops! ‘ I like it. Perfect description of the North British Tory party.

  20. Brian Hill says:

    ….the conversation ended there. maybe he didnae speak German though, ken? More to the point, was there a vote at end?

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