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Last Updated: Friday, 29 April 2005, 20:24 GMT 21:24 UK
Fish tales and the Whisky Trail
By Iain MacDonald
BBC Scotland

Back in 2003, Good Morning Scotland sent reporter Iain MacDonald off round the highways and byways of the country to document the Scottish parliamentary election campaign.

Now he is doing it again for the general election. Older - but not wiser - this is his weblog of the 2005 Tour of Scotland.

We're into the last week of this campaign as I head east, and the pace hots up.

I decide to follow the Whisky Trail east

Labour has published the Attorney General's advice on Iraq, for reasons that aren't clear to me - after all, they've refused to do it for two years and now, in the last week, people like the Lib Dems are campaigning on the war, and Mr Blair's already coming under unfriendly fire.

You can't trust Tony, say the other parties. He should resign, says the SNP's Alex Salmond. I'm heading for the constituency Mr Salmond's defending, Banff and Buchan.

But first it's Aberdeen. I decide I can't face the A96 from Inverness, and, as I have to see someone in Tomatin, make for the Whisky Trail east.

Dulnain Bridge and a stop for the Roches Moutonees. Very odd tourist attraction this, consisting of strangely shaped rocks, left that way thousands and thousands of years ago by the advancing ice.

They may be sheepish rocks, according to the translation, but they're actually named after wigs. By a Frenchman in the late 18th Century.

Bitter thoughts

These wigs were worn smoothed down with tallow - or possibly even mutton fat - and presumably stuck up at the back like the rocks do.

Further along, past the splendidly painted Tormore Distillery in Keith: Dewars at Craigellachie: then the Speyside Cooperage where huge barrels seem to be roaming round the garden.

Dufftown, the self proclaimed whisky capital, is en fete, with its somewhat eccentric clock tower - battlements and all - in the middle of the village, decked out in bunting. It's a Whisky Festival.

But I'm working AND I'm driving. Unlike the Guinness, I drive on, thinking bitter thoughts.


In Aberdeen, we're tackling the topic of whether people get into the privacy of the polling booth and then let their wallets make the cross.

Pocket book politics, is how it's dubbed by the Aberdeen-based prof and former spin doctor who invented it. Which seems unfair typecasting for Aberdonians.

Especially given jokes like the Jimmy Logan crack about how inhabitants of the Granite City would welcome strangers into their homes and produce tables groaning with fine food - and all of it, he used to say, reasonably priced.

But I get a blast of purest Aiberdeen from the taxi driver who conveys me back from a city centre interview with the Chamber of Commerce.

Iain MacDonald
We put together a report on what various people think of pocket book politics

As we pass His Majesty's Theatre, presently undergoing a major face-lift and extension, he wants to know if I can see the difference between the old granite, from which the original building's constructed, and the new stuff they're adding on. I can.

And for the next 15 minutes he regales me with tales of how his nephew told them it wouldn't match, but they pressed on regardless.

Kemnay granite and Chinese granite play major roles in all of this, but I'm starting to lose the will to live by this point, so I'm afraid I can't bring you the full explanation.

Bloody councillors, he concludes. Fine. I can subscribe to that.

Anyway, we put together a report on what various people think of pocket book politics.

And the star is a man I've known for many years, Bob King, now a pensioner who lives by Loch Ness, and never says "spade" when "bloody shovel" is available.

He doesn't necessarily agree with the prof's thesis. And he has less than faint praise for the two big parties. It's a traditional Scottish expression, he claims, but they're both cheeks of the same erse.

I think myself it's an old Bob King expression. And yes, we did broadcast it.


The following morning, early if not bright, we're in Peterhead to do a live broadcast on the aforementioned idea.

And it all goes horribly wrong. One fisherman's rep who should have been back from Brussels, isn't. Or at least not at Peterhead Harbour at half-past-eight.

Another potential guest turns up with about a minute to spare. But somehow it all works, though we're hardly off the air before another guest is coming under fire from A Political Party. I love this job.

The future of fishing grounds is key to Peterhead

Before we finally scramble onto the airwaves, I've already been harangued by a retired gentleman, who has no business being up at this hour, about the fishing.

Used to have boats all round this harbour, he says - you could have walked on the haddock.

They've all ruined it, he says - the scientists and the politicians are to blame. One of my guests disagrees.

We fished it out ourselves, he claims - we should close vast areas of our own waters, there's no other solution.

I'm amazed he's survived in this community, holding these views.

Whale song

Last night in the hotel, the place seemed to be swarming with young, blonde, tanned and cheery kids, a fair number of whom kept breaking into song.

This morning I finally figure out why. They're a Christian choir from the Faroe Islands, taking part in a Gospel convention in Fraserburgh.

And, between giggles, they tell me they'll do fine. After all they've just about tanned us at football already, though the Tartan Army did march ashore that time singing: "We're the famous Tartan Army, and we've come to save the whale".

So it's weekend off time. Someone phones to tell me Charlie Kennedy and Mrs K will be in the Highlands this weekend, bringing baby to meet grandparents.

When young Donald James was born, I sent him a message suggesting that now his father would have to get a proper job. Strangely, he's never replied.


I take the road north by the Broch and Banff. Through Fraserburgh and along the rocky, spectacular, secret coast that more people should know about.

The breathtaking descent through the culvert at Cullen, Macduff's busy wee harbour and the Meccano-like sprawl of the St Fergus Terminal.

And, for some reason, on a road where nobody seems to hurry, a host of speed cameras.

Oh, and either side of Peterhead's spectacular harbour, there are some more great roadside names.

A village called Blackdog: Nether Boyndlie, which sounds somehow bouncy: Berryslacks: Hardslacks: Clochforbie: Little Tillybo, which conjures up images of little girls with shepherd's crooks and blue bows - or maybe that's just me: the fantastically evocative Hungryhills and my all-time favourite house name, which must be owned by a football player. It's called Headiton.

Broadcast news

There are loads more road works. At one point I'm in Moray, becalmed and waiting for a convoy system to operate, as a Nimrod aircraft performs long, slow manoeuvres in the sky like a great ship.

It's over-flying the two air bases - at Lossiemouth and Kinloss - which, after the cuts, and in fear of closures, will play a central part in the last days of campaigning here.

I don't knew if this is one of the new Nimrods Kinloss is getting or one of the old ones, known to RAF types as "40,000 rivets flying in close formation". I've been in one. It's a pretty good description.

I pull back into Inverness where a bunch of us discuss last night's Operation Christian Vote election broadcast.

It was fantastic and paraded under the slogan: "If you tolerate this, your children will be next".

I have seen too many roads and eaten too many chips

This is not a Manic Street Preachers copyright. THEY pinched it off a Spanish Civil war poster. Nuff said.

Much the same might also be said about the UKIP broadcast which I also saw last night.

It was a cross between juvenile Alfred Hitchcock and Monty Python, with a great green monster that may have come out of somebody's bath set, and apparently representing the evils of Europe, eating the Houses of Parliament and terrorising some very bad actors.

It's getting my vote so far, though there was a great series of not-very-serious PEBs on Channel Four last week.

Anyway, it's over for another week. I have seen too many roads, eaten too many chips and spent too much time reading manifestoes.

I have also seen too many rear windows with cheerful little announcements like "Cheeky Little Rascal On Board".

You know the kind of thing I mean. I'm designing my own, and I hereby claim copyright.

It will read: "Bad Tempered B****** On Board".

On the road and picking up pace
27 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Taking the high road back north
26 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Glorious days and VAT on shoes
25 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Discovering the river in Dundee
21 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Old MacDonald and the SNP stalker
20 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Nuclear fallout with the enforcer
19 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Militant motorist is parking mad
15 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Broad church of Scottish politics
12 Apr 05 |  Scotland
Start of long road to polling day
11 Apr 05 |  Scotland


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