A while ago, I was asked to work on a local project building a canal and a rotary boat lift near Daventry, the place known for its association with the BBC world service and the old 1930's slogan "Daventry calling". I was astonished to find that the only existing machine is in Falkirk, and it is a spectacular device that lifts canal boats out of one canal to drop them neatly in another. It is now 13 years old and well-worth a view.
My astonishment is based on a number of personal factors. The first is that I knew Falkirk many years ago when I was a student in St Andrews' University just down the road, and I had been scouting around for a suitable and interesting place to live in my second year. Falkirk is a busy town with imposing baronial architecture. But at nearly 50 miles, it was too far; and seemed a bit quiet. Not so much now! Today, it's a tourist resort in its own right with the two 30m Kelpie statues by Andy Scott. Both the canal lift and the sculptures are part of a lottery funded project of some £43 million to revitalise the area.
The Kelpies are daemons who inhabit the Lochs, sometimes human, often horse-like, and according to Burns, controlled by the devilThen, water-kelpies haunt the foord
By your direction
An' nighted trav'llers are allur'
To their destruction
The second personal factor is political. During the last election, I had planned to stand as a parliamentary candidate in Northamptonshire, but at the last moment I resigned. The reason for my resignation lay in Falkirk which was the target seat for David Coburn MEP who was UKIP's candidate and the spokesman in Scotland. Coburn had been caught mouthing off about a senior minister in the Scottish National Party. In fact, Coburn had been dismissive of the Minister for Europe, Humza Yousaf, "or Abu Hamza as I call him", he said. There is no doubt that Coburn intended his comment to be funny, but it was also racist and islamophobic; significantly, no one laughed, and Humza was deeply insulted. I know. I spoke to Humza.
I joined UKIP on the assurance from its leader that the party was neither racist nor homophobic. In addition, I had lived long enough in Greece to know that there are certainly problems with EU bureaucracy & I thought that UKIP might offer a quick fix or at least "cause a stir". I was propelled through the party at a whopping speed, and found myself contesting a seat almost without realising what I was doing. But racism has always been a red line, so once I heard about Coburn's comments, I wrote to Nigel Farage and heard nothing from him for 10 days. At that point, having spoken to Humza, I resigned and found myself on the BBC and across Scottish media. I think I made my point, but it's odd to be so thrusted into the spotlight. I made it very clear from the start that Mr Coburn should resign, but also that Farage himself to apologise to Humza. To date, I believe no such apology has been written or received. It's disappointing.
What I had not fully realised, however, is that the former MP for Falkirk, Eric Joyce, was also problematic, and was, yesterday, convicted of assaulting a 14 year old boy in a London shop. Thank God, then, for John McNally who captured the seat for the SNP! Let's hope he makes good on his promise to "work hard for the area" and be a man of "honour". Let's also hope, while reflecting on the developments around the canal, that it was not a wayward Kelpie or something in the Falkirk water that led to the downfall of those other two men. #Government #Society