Writing about Scotland yesterday brought something back to me.
It was February 2000, and we were in the Central Belt, driving between Glasgow and Stirling, on our way for a week in Glenlivet. We like the Highlands and Islands, spending a week there most winters and summers.
The football coverage had finished, the kids were half asleep and we had another 200-odd miles to cover. Nearly time for 'Take The Floor' - Scottish country dance music on BBC Scotland. Give the kids a taste of the vanishing culture of Scotland - whether they like it or not. On a long journey I claim 'droit de driveur' over the stereo.
Time for the seven o'clock news - which brought me straight back to present day Scotland.
"A mother has appeared in court charged with throwing her six year old son to his death from the fourteenth floor of a Glasgow tower block"
Apparently she'd woken the kids up in the middle of the night then thrown one off the balcony. She was said to have 'drug and alcohol problems'.
This cheerful item was followed by the story of two 'security guards' who had tortured one of their colleagues to death in a Leith flat over a three day period - apparently for amusement.
Well, I thought - who needs Irvine Welsh when you can just pick up the local paper ? At the time I think I'd just finished reading 'Filth' - the heroic tale of an ordinary copper fighting the neds of Edinburgh in his own idiosyncratic style.
The car was warm, children sleepy, on our way to hills, snow, air, a little house by a church (and a distillery) in a Catholic valley - a different world from the schemes we could see from the M8. The contrast between the Scotland of our destination and the Scotland we were driving through was striking.
I looked up the story this evening. The mother, 26 year old Allison Campbell, got five years. She must have been free for two years now, given that you only serve half your sentence.
FIVE YEARS ? Is it just me that finds the sentence unbelievable ? Jeffrey Archer got four. You can get five years for smacking your child. Or possessing a firearm with no intention to use it. Apparently those offences are on a par with picking up a sleepy little boy and throwing him from the fourteenth floor. Worse than throwing, if possible. There was only a small gap in the security netting. She must have forced the child through. 2 am. Fourteen floors. Six years old.
"Mum, don't do that"
Ms Campbell is doubtless a disturbed person - 'vulnerable' in social-workese. But I think I'll reserve my sorrow and pity for that poor child rather than the person who so cruelly killed him. So she's got problems ? Since when did being a drinker and drug abuser count as mitigating circumstances for someone having charge of children ? Shouldn't they be aggravating ones ?
Walking free around Glasgow, going to the shops, on the buses, maybe out for a drink, is a woman, not yet 30, who chucks little kids off balconies.
We've seen plenty of recent murders by killers or other criminals let out early. I see Anthony Walker's killers were also on early release.
Watch this space for Ms Campbell. The Scots would have known what to do with her once.
UPDATE - what is it with Scottish mothers called Alison ?
A mother has pleaded guilty to beating her young son to death with a golf club on Christmas Day.
Alison Gorrie, 36, bludgeoned her five-year-old son Brendan and then threw herself out of the window of her Edinburgh flat, falling onto the courtyard 30ft below.
Thank God this Alison's got no kids.
No wonder they're worried about a falling population.
Poor Brendan Gorrie and Derek Campbell had something else in common apart from their murderous mums. Neither lived with a father. Good to see that "the Scottish Parliament has backed plans to speed up divorce following a Holyrood chamber debate."
Meanwhile, in the UK…
4 hours ago