Judges don’t chuck it. They have to be dragged into retirement, babbling and drooling from the mouth, when they are 75. But one of the most senior and younger ones just did, giving up on the near-£200k a year for a job as a law professor at Strathclyde Uni, probably at half the salary.

She is Lady Sarah Wolffe, one of just 25 senators (limited by law) in the Outer House of the Court of Session. So a vacancy exists for a senior judge. As it happens, Sarah’s husband James is out of work just now and might fit neatly into the vacancy.

He was Lord Advocate until May this year and had to attempt to settle the multi-million-pound and still ongoing fiasco (currently £100 million and rising) over the wrongly nicked and charged Rangers administrators.

If he does get the gig he’ll be on wig-nodding terms with the man who set it all off, Frank Mulholland, who, as the previous Lord Advocate, authorised the the whole thing.

Frank was then appointed a judge in the most senior civil court. The two would have interesting chats over coffee.

Greed’s no secret

Choose your own description but vaccine apartheid seems to fit. By the end of this year, rich countries will be sitting on one billion unused Covid vaccine doses, even although some desperate and poorer countries haven’t yet received those they have paid for.

The source for that is the British Medical Journal, but, despite all of the evidence of inequality, those who have been fully vaccinated, like me, will be offered booster jags for the winter.

The figures for the vaccinated in the developing world, and particularly Africa, are horrific. In the Democratic Republic of Congo last week, just 111,100 doses had been administered in a population of 87 million.

Or Ghana, a country of 31 million where just 2.8 per cent have been fully vaccinated, and no doubt the wealthy and the politicians.

No-one has had both jags in Kenya, the Ivory Coast or Guinea with a combined population of about 100 million. And in Egypt, with more than 100 million people, just 3.5% are fully vaccinated.

I’ve written about this before and it hasn’t got any better.

And the reason is because the major drug manufacturers, Big Pharma, refuse to give up on their profit boost from the pandemic – Pfizer alone is expected to have made $33 billion – and relax their patents so that cheap generic equivalents can be made. And our governments are on their side.

On May 20 this year, as Ben Wray points out in a timely article in Bella Caledonia, the European Council (the heads of European states and the president of the European Commission) held their only meeting about relaxing patents and, largely on the prompting of Germany’s Angela Merkel, decided to go with the status quote and support Big Pharma.

The meeting was held in secret. There are no minutes of it.

Strong language

THE Highlands and Islands uni has a new brash and mouthy principal, on £227,000 a year, and he’s no sooner in the door than he’s fallen out with half the academic staff and most of the population, including Gaels.

Aussie Todd Walker’s first public pronouncement was to say there would be no more “vanity courses” at the university and they’d all be tailored to getting a job.

With those two words he seemed to wipe out Gaelic, the arts, history, architecture or whatever else he deemed irrelevant compared to earning a crust.

Some of us who didn’t go to university imagined it was about broadening knowledge, making us better and more informed people, benefiting others – someone described education as turning mirrors into windows – whether the study was about ancient hieroglyphics or 10th-century literature, not just opening a door to wealth, or turning the key on a new Porsche.

Just who appointed this high-paid philistine and how did he get the gig? Less than 48 hours after making his pitch he was forced to grovelingly apologise.

Very dodgy dalliance

I BOUGHT a couple of books a “buy one get one free” deal with one of them sufficiently thick for a couple of long train journeys. The doorstopper was called The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, which was apparently The Times’s “number one bestseller”. There’s even been a mini-series from it.

The DJ Simon Mayo called it the “the book of the year”, which is a bit like a lumberjack trying to craft a Chippendale, and, as you might expect from that plaudit, it is a dismal, syrupy, contrived meander with characters who, if they had a bit more heft, would be cardboard. It’s about a newly-famous young writer who owes his all to his former college professor, a formerly-famous author. He’s still in love with a girl who disappeared 33 years ago and who turns up dead, not under his patio, but his hydrangea plot.

There’s an 18-year age gap between the two lovers but the sick thing, which clearly doesn’t trouble the author, or the million or more who have bought it, is that it normalises paedophilia. Nola is 15 at the time, when the age of consent was 18. Is it just me?

The real Shawshank

IT has all the elements of a far-fetched movie script.

Six high-security prisoners banged up in the same cell dig, over months, a 32-yard escape tunnel with a rusty spoon.

Shades of The Shawshank Redemption. Fortunately – and this is the part where you might suspend disbelief – the plans and blueprints of the prison are available to them online.

Then, when the prisoners crawl along their tunnel they break earth beyond the prison perimeter and it’s directly below a watchtower.

The tension is unbearable. But the guard is asleep. And the security system to prevent smuggled cell phones inside being able to communicate has been turned off so the six have been able to arrange getaway cars and a change of clothes so they spirit away into the night.

This was last Monday at the maximum-security Gilboa prison in Northern Israel from which the Palestinian prisoners made their escape from. The title of the movie? The West Bank Redemption, obviously.

Tracks of my tears

There's a new train service launching next month between London and Edinburgh (and vice versa of course, or you wouldn’t be able to get into Haymarket for rolling stock and stranded rail workers) called Lumo, which will be considerably cheaper than the publicly-owned LNER.

Tickets for the 10 trains a day will have to be booked in advance but the live launch fare is £19.99. That’s about a third of the LNER fare and pretty much the same as the National Express or Megabus road trip, arriving in about half the time.

Lumo is owned by the FirstGroup which runs the London-Glasgow service with the Italian state operator Trenitalia, so you don’t have to be a cynic to conclude that launching the East Coast competitor with its predatory pricing is an attempt to damage LNER, although it’s all bound in green ribbons, that it’s more environmentally friendly and is aimed at attracting air passengers, and to be fair it is just a fraction of a flight..

Just why the government should give a licence to a free market competitor which will damage its own interest is beyond me, as is almost everything it does, but no doubt the clue is in the two words in the sentence before competitor?

I travel between Glasgow and London almost every week and often use the East Coast line as their trains are every half-hour against the hourly service from Glasgow to and from Euston. LNER’s Azuma trains are cleaner, newer and superior to the aged Pendolinos on the West Coast.

The West Coast Pendolino trains are badged Avanti (the opening word of a well-known Italian revolutionary song) and they’re the same 17-year-old trains that Richard Branson’s Virgin Group bought, with a change of colour on the outside and a stick-on balloon to cover Virgin marketing in the toilets, with the same staff and management.

Virgin lost the West Coast service to Avanti and walked away (together with partner Stagecoach) from the East Coast franchise, which was then renationalised as London and North Eastern Railways, LNER. As everyone but the ideological buttheads in Westminster knows, the franchising system has been a total bourach and it all needs to be nationalised, like LNER. Like Italy.