I SEE that the TV archaeologist and rent-a-gob Neil Oliver has grown a beard in isolation, if not a few more brain cells.

In an interview in The Herald Magazine yesterday he described lockdown as the “biggest single mistake in world history”. That’s trumping Suez, appeasing the Nazis, marching on Moscow, invading Iraq and Vietnam, or even Decca turning down the Beatles is it, Neil?

He was punting his new show on Andrew Neil’s GB News, the channel which launches at 8pm tonight and which may turn out to be the biggest mistake in recent media history. Well, since the only recorded instance of a rat joining a sinking ship. That was Roland on TV-am.

READ MORE: Neil Oliver: 'I'm in disbelief at the shambles Scotland has become'

The heebie GBs

ONE of the features of Neil’s nightly appearance is to be called Woke Watch. It will be a war on wokery. There’s a game show called Woke Wars on a US TV channel which is hosted by a woman in a mask and plastic bin bags, looking much like our NHS nurses at the start of the pandemic.

It’s too much to hope that Andra will follow suit.

Woke was a black slang expression meaning being aware about social and racial justice, but has been pirated by the right to sneer and disparage it. I bet Meghan and Harry are going to get pelters from Neil.

It’s going to be interesting how this Fox News-alike fares with Ofcom and the regulator’s insistence on balance, whatever that is, across output. From the GB cast so far it looks well inclined to the right.

I worked with Andrew Neil at BBC Scotland many years ago, although he won’t remember, and he was, even then, a smooth operator.

READ MORE: Neil Oliver's 'baffling' lockdown claims criticised as Twitter reacts to GB News presenter

Stature diminished

MORE than 15,000 people in Canada have signed a petition to remove the name Dundas from streets and squares. There’s even a town of 20,000 called Dundas in Ontario which used to be Coote’s Paradise, a much more fetching moniker.

It’s because they commemorate Scotsman Henry Dundas, who helped delay the abolition of slavery.

Dundas, who became the first Viscount Melville, was born in Edinburgh and was, towards the end of the 18th century, the most powerful politician in Scotland as well as being Prime Minister William Pitt’s capo.

There’s a statue of him on a 150ft plinth in St Andrew Square in Edinburgh’s New Town which he helped establish. And, of course, there’s a Glasgow street named after him, as there are after a nefarious crew of slave owners and traders.

Less we forget

CANADIANS seem to find Dundas’s memory much more vexatious than we do. Not just his.

The statue of Canada’s first prime minister, John A Macdonald from Glasgow, which has had to be stored because so many people splattered it with red paint. He introduced the residential school system which attempted to assimilate, arguably eradicate, indigenous children.

There have been various half-hearted attempts to rename Scottish streets connected to slavers, particularly in Glasgow, but they petered out. As have attempts to remove statues.

I’m all for removing iconic statues, particularly of obscure men on prancing horses, unless they have a traffic cone on their heads.

Only silly statues that make you smile – like Lobey Dosser and Rank Bajin on Lobey’s three-legged horse El Fideldo on Glasgow’s Woodlands Road – should be permitted.

Street names, too, should be randomly changed, if only to confuse the wee guy from Google Earth who drives around taking pictures of them. Contemporary heroes should feature. Billy Connolly Boulevard, Robertson Road and so on. And then when they fall from grace we can just replace them.

Boos on the ground

I’VE followed the Scotland team through thin and thinnest. There have been high points – precious few – but one of them was at Wembley in 1967 when, as a lad, I watched Scotland defeat world champions England 3-2 (I got a mild case of sunstroke into the bargain).

It was Jim McCalliog’s debut and he scored the third goal – and he’s now a near neighbour of mine.

I was at France in 1998, the last major tournament before now that we qualified for, and I’ll be following Euros 2020 from my armchair or, more likely, a bar stool as I wasn’t fortunate enough to get tickets.

All of which is just to prove that I’m a signed-up diehard. It will be very emotional tomorrow to watch the side kick off against the Czechs but it will be prefaced by a tinge of shame that the boys have decided against taking the knee – although they will for the England game – as the image of our players gazing down on black Englanders would have travelled the world.

It will also avoid both teams being booed by their own fans. But the compromise is a cop-out.

There’s been a lot of grumbling about football fans being able to gather together, packed in zones to watch big screens, while mums and dads can’t go to nursery graduations. Who knew there were nursery graduations? Do they get honours degrees in finger painting?

Get shot of leaders

ANOTHER blue envelope dropped through my letterbox the other day. It contained the NHS Scotland certificate proving I’ve had both vaccines, which is necessary to travel to amber list countries, which is most of Europe. The cost of doing so, however, is beyond the pocket of most folk, requiring a Covid test abroad, two on return plus 10 days’ isolation, meaning you’re looking at upwards of £200 just to comply.

This is, of course, a first world problem. For people in most of the rest of the world even getting a vaccine is impossible. Oxford University scientists, banding together in a group called Our World In Data, produce a daily guide to the level of inoculations throughout the world and, as you’d expect, it’s the poorest countries which have the lowest numbers.

As of Friday in Burkina Faso, just 200 people have had a vaccine. In the Central African Republic, with a population roughly the size of Scotland’s, it’s 26,541, with just 0.1 per cent of the population fully vaccinated. Sudan, with a population of 43 million, has just 0.1% fully vaccinated. And so it tragically goes on.

The arch-capitalist International Monetary Fund has worked out that it would cost around $50 billion to have 70% of the planet inoculated by April and that the cumulative economic benefits, by 2025, in terms of increased global output, would be $9 trillion, plus the countless lives that would be saved. It’s an economic no-brainer. But it should also be a moral one.

These figures are based on the current prices of vaccines which are patented. If Pfizer and BioNTech, which produced the vaccine circulating in my veins, dropped the patent to allow generic copies to be made throughout the world, then each shot wouldn’t be costing anything like more than $20 as it is now.

This was written before the outcome of the G7 soiree in Cornwall but if there isn’t a real commitment from the richest nations to commit to vaccinating the planet and now, then it will be an abject and self-defeating failure of leadership. But then we’re used to that.