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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 109 - Getting off the crowded moral high ground

WELL, here I am, at the topmost tip of the moral high ground, a place buffeted by winds austere and pure and as invigorating as a glass of tonic wine mixed with creosote.

Here, people like myself, unsullied in thought, word and deed and with "holier-than-thou" expressions on their faces, can view the climate of opinion that buffets and batters Britain, especially Scotland, "a tiny country that does not much matter", according to historian David Starkey, a one-man area of polemical perturbation and now about as popular in Caledonia stern and wild as was the English knight, De Bohun, toppled by The Bruce at Bannockburn.

Below, as if on a scroll, is a country surrounded by water and awash with alcohol. Over there, under a nine-tenthsí cloud blanket and through the horizontal rain, is glimpsed the land of mountain and flood, resembling, in postal terms, a ragged selvage on the edge of the stamp of authority that is, as Starkey might assert, England.

Under the blanket, the bedraggled, sodden Scots emerge, beating their breasts - and sometimes each other - in their meteorological frustrations and desire to lick England in every possible field of activity, both spiritual and temporal.

Commendable ambition surely, but Scotlandís population is dropping like a storm-forecasting barometer. According to heavy precipitation of facts from the Office for National Statistics, life in Scotland can be bad for oneís health.

Eight out of ten local authorities in Britain with the lowest male life expectancy are north of the Border, and Glasgow is the only place in Britain where the average man can expect to die before he is 70.

FROM THAT, one would expect a large area of depression over Scotland, especially Glasgow, but adjusting my steely, Edinburgh scrutiny onto that average man, I find him cheerfully unimpressed by the rain of statistical terror that has swept the country. Indeed many in the land oí cakes, fried Mars bars and the knuckle sandwich, apparently relish the hail of stinging facts in their faces that brings the roses to their cheeks.

We Scots are a stout people, and, considering our diet, getting stouter by the month.

But enough of looking on the bright side, dirty weather lies ahead. Although forecasters, drinking updraughts at the isobar of public opinion, believe that a final deluge of government reasons for going to war in Iraq, summed up in the phrase, "It seemed such a good idea at the time," is gathering force from the direction of Downing Street, the political, social, moral and industrial outlook remains uncertain.

There could be occluded fronts from Westminster and Holyrood, bringing with them a series of national crises ranging from an increase in binge-drinking among toddler playgroups to soaring incidents of unprotected conker-playing in schools among children of single mothers.

I PREDICT severe contrition warnings as apologies, ranging from sporadic hand-wringing to a full-blown frenzy of self-abasement, take the country by storm. Other, now regular, phenomena are non-illuminating lightning flashes such as, "No-one is to blame," "Lessons will be learned," "It is certainly not a resigning matter," and "Donít let us dwell on the past; it is time to move on."

These flickers are usually observed playing around areas that include political, social or medical disturbance relating to anything from bungled surgery to zones of extreme tempest, commonly called a war.

On the local and national government weather horizon are scattered showers of initiatives, perhaps causing occasional floods of mission statements, sporadic outbreaks of calls for judicial and public inquiries and high polemical pressure and hot air rising from Westminster and Holyrood.

So, not much change there; neither is there anything unusual in jet-streams across autumnal skies - caused by planes carrying MPs and MSPs on fact-finding forays, or, in demotic parlance, holiday "freebies".

Still causing interest in politico-meteorological circles is the "Blair Effect", which appears as a fading halo moving about the Prime Ministerís storm-tossed head. The phenomenon, not fully understood, once dazzled onlookers in a shock-and- awe effect to induce feelings of trust in government policies and pledges.

Look for it also on the moral high ground as well as Labourís pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but donít look for me; itís getting too crowded and Iím getting off.

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