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Oliphant (Adam Robertson) was dumbfounded. He had travelled all the way up to this stinking bog to complete the operation and it transpired that the target, the SNP activist and anti-nuclear campaigner Willie MacRae (Jimmy Chisholm) knew every last detail of his plans. The old goat stood planted in the middle of the remote Highland petrol station, his eyes twinkling with mischief, as he taunted the agent. It must have been Smiley wrecking the operation on purpose, it must have been. He must have had a crisis of conscience, thought it was wrong to kill or something. It was mad after all that preparation, all that work…

With a final jibing reference to the Prometheus myth and the faerie folk of the brae, MacRae plonked his hat on his head and ducked out into the night. And suddenly, with the terrible clarity of a man too long deceived, Oliphant understood the whole ghastly trick.


Oliphant and Kirstag (Helen Mackay), the lassie from the wee Tunnock’s Tea Cakes shop were shooting through the night, with Oliphant at the wheel and bare fields on either side. Kirstag stared through the windscreen down the empty road, confused and lost in a labyrinth of half formed thoughts.

“What is going on?” she murmured. “Nothing is making the blindest bit of sense.”

“All right!” Oliphant shouted suddenly. “I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you what you were never, never to know, neither you nor I. Listen: MacRae is London’s man, their agent; they bought him when he was in India. We are witnessing the lousy end to a filthy, lousy operation to save the Union.”

“But how?” Kirstag blurted out.

“You were all so wrapped up in MacRae’s cosy, granny charms to recognise that everything about him completely discredits Scottish nationalism. The pompous implicit comparisons between his own sacrifice and that of Jesus Christ! The contradiction between making out that he was a democratic populist and wanting to shut down every nuclear power plant in Scotland until only the rich could afford electricity. And the never-ending, insufferable victimhood, his refrain that the big bad boys in London had stolen his defenceless nation. I even caught you reflecting this yourself.”

“Me? How?”

“That moment when you dismiss your English Literature degree with the words “English is fine but it’s not my ane.” This has to be one of the most depressing lines I have ever heard in Fringe theatre. How can you read Shakespeare, or Stevenson, or even good old John le Carré, and think that this doesn’t belong to you?”

“Och, but up here in braw Aberdeen we have community theatre and makaris and tales from the faerie dell. So if MacRae is London’s man, why have they murdered him?”

“They’re paying him off. He’s done his work, advertising the irrelevance of Scottish nationalism, and now we’ll cook up this story about him dying alone by the roadside in Glencoe and he can spend the rest of his life partying in Ibiza. All the intellectual vitality will be sucked out of Scottish nationalism and the Union will be saved.”


George Smiley emerged blinking sheepishly from Gryphon @ West End, where George Gunn’s “3,000 Trees” had just finished playing. It was another successful performance, with virtually a full house, and Smiley was unsurprised to see that this morning’s Scotsman showed support for Yes falling another three points in the polls. They were all paid by the Circus – the writer, director and actors – and Oliver Lacon, Whitehall’s head prefect, had commented that the play could not have brought the separatists into any greater disrepute if he had written it himself. This was, Smiley reflected as he looked about for Ann, the play that the state wanted everyone to see.