When I got back to the centre, a report was waiting for me. It was worse than I thought. When I double-checked, I discovered the HMRC document was indeed in my wife’s name and did have the correct address but was rejected by the Stasi ‘because it isn’t a utility bill.’


In all my years of working behind enemy lines from China to Afghanistan to Russia, I had never come across a political system so backward that it preferred a domestic gas bill to a letter from a state agency responsible for collecting the most detailed data on every citizen.

What happened if, as in this case, only the male was named as account holder? It discriminated against women who may not be account holders and who are entitled to use both maiden and married names to suit circumstance – only not in the hard-faced Stalinist world of the Greater Glasgow Gulag.


I was putting the paper in the typewriter for my report to London when she walked in. She was the agent who had become my wife and yet our marriage was seen as a sham by the Stasi who seemed to think we were undercover international agents posing as a couple. And our mission? Nothing less than acquiring by stealth a year-long residents parking permit worth £50 in the top secret Western Section – codename Kelvinbridge.


She placed the heavy Walther on the desk, shook out her hair and perched on the table edge. ‘I’ve never known anything like it’, she breathed. ‘I offered them my brand new driving licence complete with name, address and photograph as proof of identity and they turned it down. I even offered them the old licence with the maiden name to compare the two. They said No. It must be a utility bill or nothing. Is it a Trotskyite plot to cause terror?’

We had offered them an electricity bill, an HMRC letter, a property management account covering our building, a driving licence and our council tax details with both married and maiden names at the same address. Yet still they obstructed us.

We sat in silence until I asked: ‘Anyway how many people actually get a paper utility bill nowadays? Isn’t it normal to use internet?’

‘Not in the Gulag. Remember, General Matheson and the politburo wage a desperate war against the forces of democracy and call them Nazis and a virus and will do anything to stop the cybernats from winning the city. Allowing citizens full use of the internet to access services would undermine his campaign.’

I adjusted my specs. She smoothed her skirt and said: ‘There is one thing.’


‘They said I could change my name on the council tax from my maiden name to my married name as it appears on the parking application form.’

I leapt from the seat, grabbed the gun and made for the door. She grabbed hold of me.

‘Stop! It isn’t worth it’.

‘But we must fight a sexist and primitive system so undemocratic that it demands a woman changes her name to get a…a parking permit!’

‘Look. It took 40 years for the Wall to fall and glasnost still hasn’t arrived in Labour-run Glasgow. It may take a generation but change and democracy will surely come. If we take a stand on the parking issue, the people will follow.’

She opened her purse. ‘Have you got £1 for the meter?’





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15 thoughts on “IPCRESS FILE

  1. Ah Derek. Its the way you tell ’em!

  2. Epic stuff – Sir Michael will be frothing at the bit for the script for this one

  3. Where is Callan when you need him?

  4. The old New York expression ‘you can’t fight City Hall’, springs to mind 🙂

  5. Antoine Bisset

    I sent a parcel by Special Delivery by Royal Mail – we meet the target or your money back.
    They failed.
    I filled in the form and handed it in to my local agent of the Royal Mail (Post Office). A week later my form was returned to me at my home address with a note saying that I could not be paid because my address was wrong in the system. I’ve lived here for 12 years and received most of my post, I suppose. I noted that they had sent the letter to my address and it had arrived. Of course, it is their System.
    Cute, eh?

    • Alasdair Macdonald

      We had a similar experience. A parcel was lost in the post. We had to wait three weeks before we could claim. With the claim, we had to submit three months bank statements to show we had paid for the parcel’s contents. Why three months rather than a note of the single relevant payment, we were never told. This entailed redacting every entry which contained details of bank account numbers, DWP numbers, etc. All this had to be posted to Portsmouth. It has been lost in the post – or we never received anything which you claim to have sent! Our surname is ‘Macdonald”, but, many automatised systems print this as ‘MacDonald’ or ‘McDonald’, so, if we actually sign it correctly, it is rejected, because it does not match what the automaton wrote. If we sign it as the automaton christened us, we are rejected because it does not match the signature on other documents. So, it is not something restricted to GCC. There are eejits and jobsworths in every employment.

  6. Desk-chewing stuff. You have my commiserations, comrade.

  7. Tell me! Does she play the balalaika?!!

  8. This is why Scandinavians don’t mind having ID cards.

  9. Smart woman your wife!

  10. Hah. But that’s the least of your problems. Try getting a permit when someone has lent you their car for a few weeks?

  11. Good stuff.

    We have similar issues in Fife. They introduced a new permit with a 2 year expiry but no reminder. Who remembers to renew something 2 years away when the reminder is stuck on your car window facing away from you?

    So despite having the same car and living at the same address and have committed no crime i got a £60 fixed penalty notice which i failed on appeal.

    Now i appreciate the parking permit as it means i can park on my street and understand the need to renew them but this kind of opportunist income generation by councils from exploiting its law abiding citizens/residents is quite appalling.

    sorry rant over

  12. There’s also the stooshie over the new electoral registration system.

    Apparently they have no record of Alex Neill. Big article in the National. They appear to have no record of me either, despite being registered at my address for 25 years. And registered to vote in the indyref last September. And despite me being invited to re-register four times, me responding on-line four times, and them sending me a letter saying they had received my registration request.

    Last month we got a letter confirming my other half was registered at our address, but no mention of me. Phoned, eventually got the reply that, yes, they had me on ‘the old register’, denied there were problens compiling ‘the new register’, wouldn’t confirm that they had a record of me on the new register, but did say those on the old register would be entitled to vote.

    At my insistence they sent a letter confirming that I was on the ‘full register of electors for 2014’ and giving me a poll number.

    But what if I turn up on May 7th armed with all this, and there’s no ballot paper for me? Do I lose my vote? What are my rights?

    The system is a shambles.

  13. I bought a car in Italy, 20 years ago. I had to get a certificate saying that I wasn’t a criminal to buy the car (“Well, otherwise the Mafia would be able to buy cars” I was told …. so that’s the Mafia problem solved). Later I had to sell the car. I had to get a certificate saying I wasn’t married (“Well, otherwise you might sell a car which is joint property with your wife”).

    Italy has improved since then, but it’s still in a different world. I love the place, incidentally.

  14. Tom Parkhill, at least the mafia are “honest ” criminals, they don’t pretend to be anything else. The Glasgow Labour Council, on the other hand, are criminals pretending to be cooncillors.

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