Back Home
SPECIAL REPORT published 12.02am



from The Scotsman 2/9/00

A PRIME Minister arrived in the Semi-Independent Republic of Scotchland yesterday. Mr Tony Blair had come, in his flesh, to see what the natives were up to in the land of haggis, whisky, and excitingly random exam results. (I myself received top marks in domestic science without even knowing I had sat it.)

In the morning, Mr Tony visited Strathclyde Police, where 80 recruits were passing out, if that is the phrase. This was the largest intake of rookie rozzers since the 1970s, when people flocked to the force so they wouldn't have to wear flares. Yesterday, however, the big question was: after all this training malarkey, where do the young coppers go? I imagine them all locked up in a barn somewhere, talking and smoking tabs till the next shift arrives. Let's face it, a cop on the street is as rare as a nun in a Rangers scarf. Indeed, the only time you see the constabulary is at soccer tournaments. Never mind.

They were on parade yesterday at Strathclyde's headquarters, a redbrick building that looked like a 1960s biscuit factory. And, hey, it's still turning out Jammy Dodgers. I didn't write that. A big boy came and did it. The Union Flag flew side by side with the Saltire, symbolising the general contentment felt by everyone in the empire.

The Prime Minister arrived in a cavalcade of flashing motor cycles and fancy cars, and leaped out to exchange palm sweat with some waiting women. A crash barrier had been erected but, really, a dwarf with a dustbin lid could have kept back the crowds. As Mr Blair entered the building, somebody let out a solitary "Whoa-oa!" of support. Alastair Campbell, his press officer, probably.

The Prime Minister looked tanned and fit, testament to the superior merits of Italy to Skegness as a holiday destination. Inside, rows of rozzers were formed up. Before Mr B arrived, a sergeant with a swizzle stick brought the men, and quite a few birds, to attention. Then he made them stand at ease. Then he said: "Final adjustments of studs." Then he brought them to attention and made them turn to the left. Then he said: "You've got five minutes. Make only slight adjustments." Then he said: "Just stay relaxed." I was dying for some poor recruit to shout: "I could relax if you would shut up with your bloody adjustments."

At last, Mr Blair arrived and inspected the troops, stopping at one point to make small talk with a small policewoman. It was difficult to catch the exchange, but fortunately I am adept at lip-reading: "Gosh, you're not very large. What made you join the police force?" "The violence, sir."

Mr Blair then made a speech, in which he urged the nation's criminals to give it a rest. The nation's press urged him to say something about the exams malarkey, and he said it would be wrong for Sam Galbraith, the education minister, to resign since exams had nothing to do with him.

Later, in the afternoon, Mr Blair proceeded to Edinburgh, capital of English-speaking Scotland, where it is understood he may have encountered the amusing patois of Mr Galbraith, as this leaked extract from the recorded minutes makes clear.

Mr Galbraith (opening tin of Irn Bru): "Ah'm no resignin', neither I am."

Mr Blair (sipping Perrier): "I'm sorry?"

Mr Galbraith: "Resignin'. Ah'm no daein' it. Neither I am."

Mr Blair: "Quite right. Good stuff. Er, neither you are."

I caught a glimpse of His Tonyness later, at Victoria Quay, where he had been meeting Donald Dewar, the Leader of All Scotland, Rhodri Morgan, the Leader of All Wales, and David Trimble, the Leader of Some Nutters. While they chuntered on, at a press conference outside the building, Mr Blair swept past and got into a Daimler, ignoring questions. As his car pulled away, someone from a tabloid shouted sarcastically: "Missin' you already!" I tell you, a prime minister's lot is not a happy one.

back to top








  • or click here for more stories