This may be a record slow response to a Freedom of Information request in a horizon-stretching gamut of tardy ones. On June 21, I sent a request to NHS Dumfries and Galloway asking how many operations and treatments had been contracted out to other hospitals and health boards in the past year and at what cost. On November 21 – five months later when the response limit is meant to be 30 days – it came back with a sincere apology for the delay, as well as the figures. The health board spend over £20 million sending patients to other hospitals as well as to the Golden Jubilee in Clydebank (£3,226,952m). A portion of that, although not a large one, will have been spent on relatives or friends accompanying patients for the procedures. Obviously we do need specialised centres like the Jubilee, but what we don’t need – NB Jeane Freeman – is 14 separate health boards with their costly administrations and their inability not just to manage budgets but the simplest of tasks.


You heard it here first. Hickenlooper is to run for US President (and you thought he was already in the White House). The Democrat, Christian name John, presently the governor of Colorado, is taking on staff for a bid, expected to be announced in the new year. He’s an extremely liberal candidate, for gun control, the licensing of medical marijuana and against the death penalty (so he probably has no chance), but he may be the only presidential candidate ever to feature in a novel, alongside Kilgore Trout in Kurt Vonnegut’s Timequake. The book is semi-autobiographical, as all Vonnegut’s are, and Hickenlooper pops up as owner of the Wynkoop Brewing Company, which he then was. Vonnegut even passed on a family recipe for a beer, which included coffee. It was bottled by Hickenlooper and christened Kurt’s Mile High Malt, although that probably didn’t have the connotations it does today.


You have to admire Kilmarnock Football Club. Not only did they go to the top of the Premiership midweek on resources that wouldn’t cover Scott Brown’s Armani underwear, they put a lot back into local communities. Two of the players switched on Killie Christmas lights a few days ago but, more importantly, the whole squad turned out to record a track for a Christmas appeal album for Ayrshire Hospice. It’s an old Slade number, Merry Christmas Everybody, with an excellent solo from full back and Scottish international Stephen O’Donnell. SOD has great pipes and if the fitba doesn’t work out then he’s clearly got a future in front of the mic. Other tracks on the CD include Stop The Cavalry from Troon Juniors and O Holy Night from Britain’s Got Talent winner Jai McDowall. The cost is £10 plus £2 postage and packing from or You can catch a clip on the Killie website, including a fleeting appearance by manager Steve Clarke, in characteristic Grinch-like demeanour. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas!


And, so to reliable news sources. That Mecca, or Jerusalem, of sources, Wikipedia. More and more of us rely on it to provide information and background and, while a sort of people’s encyclopaedia is a wonderful idea, the practicality is that there are no real safeguards, it’s open to anyone to add to or alter items. So a biography can be inflated, biased views written in or achievements excised or edited. The only real checks appear to be if the subject of the piece complains.

Editing Wiki has become an obsession, or addiction, to some people. A guy called Philip Cross is the prime example. It’s reckoned he has run up more than 130,000 edits, often targeting left-wing politicians and figures – like former UK Ambassador Craig Murray and Jeremy Corbyn’s strategy and communications director, my old chum Seumas Milne – and allegedly removing creditable comments or facts. The internet was rife with speculation that Cross was a pseudonym – it isn’t – and that he might be The Times leader writer Oliver Kamm – he is not – because his edits seemed to chime with Kamm’s spoutings. This misinformed speculation, according to Kamm in lengthy and forthright correspondence with me, came from “cranks and conspiracy theorists”.

If you check out Kamm’s own Wiki entry you’ll see that it carries a health warning. “A major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection with its subject. It may require clean-up to comply with Wikipedia's content policies, particularly neutral point of view.” Who on earth could this be referring to?