Tom Peterkin: Archie MacPherson’s No camp boost

Archie MacPherson is not known as a towering intellectual figure (apologies to any football fans, who may think otherwise).

Archie McPherson spoke from the heart while addressing a Better Together audience in Dundee. Picture: Alan Harvey
Archie McPherson spoke from the heart while addressing a Better Together audience in Dundee. Picture: Alan Harvey

Nevertheless it was “Woooof!” Archie who yesterday made one of the most rousing and effective speeches arguing for a No vote yet heard in this referendum campaign.

On a platform with Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown in Dundee, MacPherson spoke from the heart.

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In doing so he invoked British patriotism and togetherness in a way that few politicians have managed to do. MacPherson introduced himself simply as a “pensioner” before letting rip in that distinctive voice, which has served as a soundtrack for so many Scottish sporting moments.

“I don’t need to go back to 1320 for a declaration, I can go back to 1945,” said MacPherson, in a pointed reference to First Minister Alex Salmond’s recent visit to Arbroath.

His preference for recent rather than medieval history became clear when he recalled that as a “kid in arms” his father held him up a to see the joyous celebrations that took place in Shettleston at the end of the war.

It was, said MacPherson, a “victory in 1945 which changed and transformed society – something we must never forget”.

MacPherson spoke with pride of the establishment of the welfare state and the National Health Service – UK-wide institutions that were created by “our forebears”.

At times sounding as if he would be happier in the pulpit than behind the microphone, he talked of “compassion” for our neighbours in the rest of the UK and “not walking by on the other side”.

Remaining in the United Kingdom, he argued, was the “right and moral road, because I am as concerned about food banks in Liverpool as I am in Glasgow or Dundee”.

The real fire and brimstone stuff, however, was reserved for the Yes campaign and particularly its claims that a No vote would threaten the NHS – an institution that he had particular reason to be grateful for following successful treatment for cancer.

“It turns my stomach to see the SNP trying to make political capital out of this extraordinary piece of work,” MacPherson said.

In days gone by MacPherson was known for exclaiming “woooof!” when a shot went screaming past goal.

Yesterday, however, none could be heard.

As far as the Better Together audience was concerned, Archie MacPherson hit the back of the net with the sort of shot that No campaigners have been crying out for.