I’VE been sent north to Holyrood to work at the heart of the SNP war machine as a Boris Johnson sleeper. My mission? To provide intelligence on Sturgeon’s independence plans. But who is the mysterious “H”, the Scottish cabinet secretary who is to be my handler? And where do the Brothers Grim – Smyth and McDonald – fit in after they gate-crashed my farewell do at Masopust’s?


IT’S my first day at the Scottish Government’s Department of Sustainability and I arrive all eager-beaver and tally-ho. I’ve put on my green linen Bettega & Scirea sports jacket that I purchased from Bearzot’s in Jermyn Street for Carrie’s gender-reveal party earlier this year. “What if it’s, um, one of those, um, ah, transgender babies that lots of people seem to be having these days,” asked Boris before he was hurriedly ushered away.

I chose a lovely kilt in the rather fetching Gunn tartan to go with it. It’s the first time I’ve ever worn this famous Scottish working apparel and, if I do say so myself, I cut rather a dash. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what colour combinations my new colleagues have chosen on theirs. Perhaps we might even mix and match. Curiously, on my way in to the office, I only see two other people wearing kilts. Perhaps people keep them at work to change into. That’ll be why.


I FEEL rather a fool. No one else is wearing a kilt and everyone keeps telling me that it’s a lovely day for a wedding. I rather suspect that McAllister, the Scottish barman at The Merry Ploughman on Oxford Street, was setting me up when I asked him about the dress code in Scotland.

No matter; my new colleagues all seem quite polite, though there’s not much chit-chat and no one seems to smile much. And when I ask them about the best restaurants for luncheon they indicate that taking a break is somewhat frowned upon. Sue, my line manager, sips Diet Coke all day while nibbling on an alfalfa crepe. My new office is housed in a Government Building called St Andrew’s House. I’m told it used to be a prison in a happier incarnation.


A NOTE is shoved under my door in my townhouse flat in Leith early that morning. It’s my first contact from “H” and my heart beats a little faster. At last I’m to meet the legendary master-spy operating at the heart of the Scottish Government. I’m to meet him at 9pm that night in the lowest level of the underground car park at New Street beside Waverley Station.

“Stand beside the pillar between the two parking bays at the westernmost corner. Don’t look for me. I’ll find you.”

For the first time I feel that the struggle to save the Union just became real and that I’m about to play a significant part in it.

It’s with a tear in my eye that I salute the little photograph of Her Majesty on my bedside table.

“This is all for you, ma’am,” I tell her.


THE meeting with H is a very rum affair. There I was standing beside the designated pillar when suddenly there was a vestigial presence beside me. I couldn’t make out any of his facial features as he stood in the shadows.

“It’s best you don’t see me,” he said. “That way you won’t be able to divulge my identity if Peter Murrell’s interrogators ever get to work on you.”

He issued me with instructions on how we would proceed. “Get your notebook out. I’ll place a small 5x1 Classified ad on page five of The Scotsman with a fictitious telephone number. When read backwards it will give the time and date of our meeting. Very few people read the Scotsman these days but there’s one newsagent on Leith Walk that still sells it. And one more thing: just follow the money.” And with that he was gone as silently as he’d arrived.

Whatever could he mean?


I’M getting to know my colleagues a little more. All very pleasant and not remotely like the haggis-munching hobbledehoys I’d been led to expect.

Then Peter Murrell suddenly appeared and I swear the ceiling lights momentarily flickered and one of the lilies in the vase by the window wilted a little. He made straight for me and I felt he could see into the very depths of my soul.

“Welcome to our little department,” he said and we touched elbows. As we exchanged pleasantries about the Covid death rates he suddenly said: “I see you did Humanities under Professor Davidson at Oxford. His pet Collie, Algernon, is a splendid little fellow.”

“I’m sure the pooch’s name was Roger,” I say.