Thursday, 18 September 2014

Freedom is a Sweet Word

Freedom is a sweet word – a word that resonates within me. A rebel cry that declares my desire for... For what?


No. For justice.

A little known band from the Eighties – Fat & Frantic – are responsible for that twist.

I’ve had the lyrics for their song – Freedom is a sweet word – going round my head for weeks. An a capella number that still has the power to haunt me.

The song was released at a time when Apartheid still had its soulless grip on South Africa. It dared then to subtly challenge racist oppression worldwide and still has just as much power today as we debate - and finally today decide - Scotland’s future.

We may gain independence after September 18th, but will we gain justice? If we fail to achieve justice then what will have been the point in striving for independence?

Freedom is a sweet word...

The song’s three verses have the power to question much that is wrong about Scottish society today.

“Freedom means you are allowed to make and guard your pile against the people who have freedom to do... As they please but haven’t used it so constructively as you”

Believe it or not, we have a great deal of freedom in Scotland today. Every single one of us – as a UK citizen and even more so in a Scotland which is part of the UK – has the chance to work hard; to educate ourselves; to choose a goal and strive to achieve it.

We have the freedom to do as we please.

We have freedom, yet for many of us, our options are limited by the actual costs of going to work; the increasing costs of simply surviving; the costs of education (even in Scotland with tuition fees mostly being paid); the cost of our tax burden... I could go on.

 The rich – whoever they are – have indeed made their piles of cash. Some is stored off-shore. Some is invested in land or property. Others are raking it in through lucrative businesses.

Yet it’s not injustice to be rich. It’s not wrong to be wealthy.

I've blogged for years on my 100 goals. Some of my goals are to enable myself and my family to be wealthy. Yet if you go right back to the beginning and read every page of this blog, you’ll find that in pursuit of some of these goals, I’ve done things which I cannot be proud of.

I’ve gambled. I’ve shown a love for money which blinded me to danger. I’ve exercised my freedom and it hasn’t always been a pretty sight.

Personally I have been unsure that we have a right to set tax rates too high yet conversely, or perhaps perversely, I’ve published a novel – The Great Scottish Land Grab – which has a theme of modern day land confiscation. Many of you will have seen the info-graphic videos on unequal wealth distribution. I posted two of the mostshocking on this blog last year.

When I heard that the richest 10% in the UK have declared wealth of three times more than UK national debt, I started to wonder – why doesn’t government just pass a law seizing wealth from the richest ten percent; pay off the national debt; use the money saved in interest payments to transform the economy?


Is it because, as Fat & Frantic so elegantly put it, freedom without justice is a freedom for a few?

I don’t believe that every wealthy person has obtained their wealth through unjust means. I don’t believe that every wealthy person is hoarding their pile of cash and refusing to share their wealth with the poorest in society.

I do believe that the ever increasing disparity between rich and poor is an injustice. Something has to be done before we reach that tipping point and some powerful but idiotic, cash laden whore tells the people they can eat cake.

Or am I just scare-mongering?

Could our allegedly first world, politically correct, oh so equal Scotland really descend into riots or civil war?

Perhaps I’ve spent too much time volunteering at our local food bank.

I currently work in Edinburgh where the majority consensus appears to be that we’re alright as we are, why would we want to risk that by leaving the UK?

It’s an understandable opinion. If you have benefited from the current political system, why would you want to change it?

But not everyone has benefited...

As I’ve been promoting my novel around Scotland I’ve heard a wide mixture of views, from the simple Yes and No, to apathy, to indecision, to extremes on both sides. There are many who have not benefitted from our current political system that persecutes the poor, keeping them in a form of slavery.

Some Yes campaigners may struggle to understand that some of those poor have been so beaten down that they cannot imagine anything changing and so have not even registered to vote.

Some Yes campaigners may also struggle to realise that the haves in modern day Scotland might just outweigh the have nots. If a majority of people in Scotland do perceive themselves to be well off under the present system then it will be a close vote today.

I want Scotland to be prosperous. I strongly believe that success and entrepreneurship should be rewarded. That hard work and ingenuity should result in success.

But I also know that many of the poorest in our society work just as hard and are just as ingenious as the rich – sometimes more so. Yet many of the poor cannot break free from debt or poverty.

In the last decade my wife and I have taken ourselves from being utterly dependent on Tax Credits to being able to provide for ourselves without that insidious burden. We’ve had to fight and struggle all the way.

I know how difficult it is and also know that some fellow Scots that I’ve worked with have not been willing to make the same sacrifices or take the same risks that we have.

Apathy and laziness and depression will not disappear in an independent Scotland.

Is it right that those who are not willing to take the same risks, to make the same sacrifices, to work as hard should fail to reap the same rewards? Personally I believe so.

But my capitalism is edged with a form of socialism. As stated above, I have considered whether a one off tax on the wealthiest would redress the massive injustice in wealth distribution.

I would be willing to pay more tax if that money was distributed to the poorest – but I would not be willing for the recipients of that tax to be allowed to sit around and fail to contribute to society.

Regardless of how the vote goes today, tomorrow we will have the same problems to face. We will still have politicians in Westminster and Holyrood who ignore the people they are supposed to serve, who prioritise their narrow political agenda, ignoring the majority.

This week I debated for Yes on Revival FM radio. I agreed with my opponent who argued for No on far more issues than I disagreed with. A vote for No will not change the fact that we the people are ruled by corrupt politicians desparate to hang onto power. Neither will a vote for Yes.

Yet I will vote Yes today, not because it will magically fix our problems but because it is a public statement that something radical needs to change and this is the only way I can see to start the process.

As I’ve been writing my novel I’ve been able to dream what a just Scotland could look like, to give voice to my own vision of a system that rewards those who strive and enables everyone who wants to be productive. A Scotland where there is full employment, a Scotland where the historic injustices of the clearances could be reversed.
This is a future I want to work for, one that I believe will be more possible (though require no less work) in an independent Scotland.

Could we create a Scotland where people are encouraged to make themselves wealthy and every person has the same opportunities to better themselves?

It will be difficult but isn’t that worth fighting for?

You can get a flavour of how ‘Freedom is a sweet word’ sounds here:

The Ken Thinks Aloud blog has kindly provided the lyrics to ‘Freedom is a sweet word’ here:

Friday, 12 September 2014

A recipe for Democracy!

Goal achieved!

Somewhere back around 2007 I set myself three impossible goals to achieve before I turned 40. You can read about them on my list of my 100 goals. I wrote the first draft of The Great Scottish Land Grab in 2011 as part of NaNoWriMo and considered the goal achieved. I always felt like I'd cheated though as the real goal was to publish a book - even though I had only said write one.

Today that goal is fully achieved: The last part of The Great Scottish Land Grab has been published on Amazon!

Book 3 went live this morning:

A recipe for democracy…

“We’ve said all along that the fight for Scotland does not end with the referendum, well it doesn’t end with this election either. Scotland has voted for a Land Grab and Scotland is going to get one!”

With these words, Robert Castle declares war on all who would oppose him as he seeks to overturn the injustice of the Highland Clearances.

A victory has been won but many will fight to retain their power and their property. Can Castle and his Café Politics win the struggle or could Scotland descend into civil war?

Helen Castle has sacrificed much to support her husband but as the pressure mounts, will she have to sacrifice her last dream?

Irene Newlands has only known poverty. When a stranger appears on her doorstep, how will she cope when he threatens to take away the little she has?

Imagine a country without politicians, a country governed by the people, for the people. The Great Scottish Land Grab is a vision of democracy. A blueprint for a future Scotland.

Praise for The Great Scottish Land Grab:

“The first book left me intrigued - the second one has left me excited! Mark Anderson Smith has set up a scenario that seems totally implausible but he manages to make it wholly believable. I think there is discontent generally with political life across all of Great Britain and the idea of another way is very attractive. I love the concept of voting for new policies with your mobile phone just as you would for your X Factor favourite! Really looking forward to book three!” J Kluver

“What a great follow up to book one, particularly enjoyed the cafe politics that allows people to have a say as opposed to not being listened to by politicians (sound familiar), just a pity it's fiction…” A Welsh

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Cover design by David MacKenzie

Talking to random strangers over the past few weeks - as you do when you're selling your novel - I've had some useful feedback on my novel's book cover. Here's the original image for book 1:

One person said they didn't read non fiction. Another said you'll be voting No then...

Neither of these is the impression I wanted people to have looking at the cover.

I'm beginning to detest the saying "Never judge a book by its cover." Every single person I've offered my Great Scottish Land Grab business cards to over the past two months - over 600 people - has made a judgement. Some have been immediately interested, others turned off, whether by the photo cover or the title.

I judge books by their covers and have been wondering whether I needed to get a professional in.

Enter David MacKenzie ( He designed the logo for my company: Goal 31 Ltd and I absolutely love it:

I could have gone to many different cover designers

but I had such a good experience working with David to design the logo that I wanted to go back to him.

He's now drafted four simple designs based on an idea I gave him. My rough sketch was of a coffee cup with steam rising out with the book title in the steam. Here are his initial layouts (as he's said, these are rough drafts) at postage stamp size - which is how most people will see the novel initially on Amazon/iBookStore/Lulu:

I'd love to hear which you like best and why.

I've already had some fascinating feedback and will be writing that up in a later post.

Larger images are below.

And in case you're wondering - that is a Cafe Politics logo on the coffee cup... If you don't know what that means, you'll have to buy book two!