To Live in an Independent Scotland


the work of
making a state

for the task
of shaping
a community


power is shown
on the platform

but dealt
in the back room



an etching by Smith
after a vow by Brown

(after Brecht)


Brown has no Lordship
though his Vows accept one

(after Satie)


British Sign Language

how could a union
of pointy index fingers

and flapped elbows
ever last?

(In BSL Scotland is an extended elbow brought towards the body twice; England is a dominant index finger stroking a pointing index finger – the index finger represents the letter E)



not flags
but food-bags





is lost
in low mist

Brownsbank, Hugh MacDiarmid and Valda Grieve’s home


the losing side
renewed their alliances

the winning side split
into warring factions


I am union

I am Gordon Brown
I am the son
of the manse
where the poor folk came
with their children

I am my two sons
I am the NHS
which is Bevan
and everything that is Britain
which I am saving

I am the blood and organs
which are safe in my hands
protecting them

and you know
I am football too
on Saturday afternoon

and I am
my friend Nelson
Mandela and Kofi

and when I was saving
the economy then

so I am now
making a vow
which the leaders are signing

I am saying Scotland
all of Britain
I am saving our union

I am saying
it will be almost modern
‘Home Rule’
and it must be
inside the union

I am promising a motion
the day after October
Burns Day before
March anyway

and what is happening
now  – and I know
and the vow
and the leaders
must know too

I am a petition
100,000 signatures
growing in my name

now I can do no more –
the rest is up
to Lord Kelvin


’45                                  (too Jacobite?)
45+                                 (too aged)
Yes                                 (too 2014?)
Yes Scotland                  (too ‘team’?)
Yes Alliance                  (too David Owen?)
Yes Union                      (too much irony?)
The MacCruslick’s        (too folkie?)
some of the proposed names for a renewed Scottish alliance of Yes parties; McCruslick – in his Tour Johnson is introduced to someone of this name on Raasay, a pseudonym used by men who had been out’ in the ’45.


Addenda to Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary

Briton : one who is cruel to strangers (after Horace)

satire : (late 20th / early 21st C.) an endorsement of the status quo masquerading as an attack on it; a reactionary joke

Scot : one who, lacking a nation anywhere, sees his own land everywhere
Scotland : a very learned nation without any trade, any trees, any money, or any elegance

yes : a hopeful affirmation; c.f. “hopeful, full of hope; full of expectation of success; this sense is now almost confined to Scotland…”, SJ, Dictionary

from Out of Books





known for not
giving ATOSs


To Alex Salmond, Leader of the Scots

   for Lorna Waite

The salmon never turns from the current,
Swimming from dawn, on through the night.

ALEX, we have given you our YES. By right,
The tide of fate you meet, we complete.

praise poem, after the Scottish Latin poet Arthur Johnston, written in 2012.



“Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron has invited key Tory figures to his country residence to discuss his plans for constitutional change.”

from Dee Heddon

PLEDGE: a promise not worth
the paper it is written on

   for NC, GB, EM, & DC


from Cecilia Vicuna

I could feel all the way from here
the way people were
being manipulated by fear

the spirit that rose from the people
will live forever in your heart

now a whole universe of perceptions
will open up for you
through the pain

you will be closer to all of us
who were there

it is a place beyond space
   and time

the ‘there’ she speaks of is Pinochet’s Chile


“I have never heard a Scottish person say something good of the English; I have never heard an English person say something bad of the Scots.”

provocation on social media from an eminent poet, resident in England


Spacehopper politics

Brown bounced Milliband
Cameron bounced Brown
Farage bounced Cameron


And the poor spoke with one voice

Charleston 70%             Yes
Happyhillock 75%         Yes
Dryburgh 70%                Yes
Kirkton 72%                   Yes
Fintry 72%                      Yes

Some of the deprived housing estates that voted overwhelmingly for independence


Devo Max’s a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw –
– For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scottish voters, the Electorate's despair:
For when they reach the polling booth –
Devo Max’s not there!

You may seek him in the papers, you may look up on the airwaves
– But I tell you once and once again, Devo Max’s not there!

Devo Max , Devo Max, there's nothing like Devo Max,
He's broken every enquiry, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of manipulation would make a voter scare,
And when you reach the polling booth
Devo Max’s not there!

You may seek him in the papers, you may look up on the airwaves
– But I tell you once and once again, Devo Max’s not there!

Devo Max, Devo Max, there's no one like Devo Max
For he's a fiend in wolf’s clothing, a monster of deception.
You may meet him in a leaflet, you may see him on an advert –
But when the result’s discovered, then Devo Max’s not there!

With few apologies to T. S. Eliot



a compass-point by weather
a satellite by media
a country by Westminster
a mandate by oil
a nation by resolution





a rare species, now threatened with extinction

Devo maximalis


after it was all over
and the old order
was secure
the Queen was heard
to purr purrr purrr


for Ed Milliband

I was told a story about the new Minister arriving at the kirk at Dunsyre in the 1950s. He was a keen gardener and one of the parishioners asked if he would like some manure. A horse and cart from Dunsrye Mains delivered a fresh load the next day. The following Sunday, as the flock left after the service, the Minister thanked Jimmy Barr, of Dunsyre Mains, for his kind gift. Jimmy replied” “Meenester, fir a sermon the like o’ the one you gave the day I would gladly hae’ given TWA carts o’ manure.”


as Gerry says

the thing that hurts the most
is being called a NATIONALIST


the First Minister
remains popular
with most Scots

so much so
that he is booed
by golfers





equality is balancing
different things


after WB

the rich are all romance
but without the beggar
there’s no myth


from shieling to shooting butt

a rise in class
a fall from grace


N A T I   N A L    M E M   R Y


Muir’s Law (for KILTR)


after John Muir




The St Kildans shared a single boat and each contributed a piece of cloth to the sail


after Broch

the rich have the poor
to do their work for them

conserving light, heating,
eating less, or nothing


The Third Horseman

I send ye these saws
Kneedeep i’ The Rotten Burn
up tae ma oxters in the Stinkin Lochie

Lost and Rotten
hae a’ been ill-begotten

Sourfold and Scrapehard
hae came tae Windyraw

Wha bit a beggar wad gang tae Poorhouse
Whit bit a Pyke wid swim i’ Drywells

You’ll gain yir fill at Dish Pot
e’en it is Green Swile

Frosty Nibs and Blackmiddens
are gaan to Reekimlane

Badchear and Mirydubs Burn
haste ye return

Bakebare and Peeled Egg
they’ll noo cam back ava!

fetch me tae Goryhill
lay me oot on Dead Wife’s Hillock

Semi-Ironic Coda

Maiden Paps
Naked Hill
Williehead Burn
Trembling Tree

after verses on place-names, from letters published in The Deeside Field (1924), contributed by a farm servant who used the pen-name ‘The Second Horseman’.


live as if you live in an independent Scotland

I joined the Green Party
I donated to Commonweal
I ended my TV license
I gave to a food bank
we sorted the recycling

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