What possesses people like Pen to choose pets over people? Oh, that.

Afghans aren’t much taken with dogs. Many of them consider them haraam, or forbidden, although the only stipulation in the Koran is that they shouldn’t be kept in the house. Although the Hadiths are much more forbidding. So, generally they won’t touch dogs, believing it makes them unclean.

Little wonder, then, that the former marine Pen Farthing got short shrift when he tried to take 140 dogs and 60 cats through the dense mayhem at the perimeter of Kabul airport to put them on a plane to the UK.

At the time of writing he’s still trying, but if he succeeds it will be at the cost of places for scared and vulnerable humans attempting to flee the carnage. Even if he hires a private plane.

Farthing’s rescue charity had an income of nearly £1 million last year. What possesses people to choose pets over people?

Healthy democracy?

In 2007, the SNP made an election pledge to democratise Scotland’s health boards, to introduce elections for members of them. There were trial elections in 2010 for Fife and Dumfries and Galloway boards but the turnout was low the Government abolished the people and decided just to appoint the non-executive members. It’s called patronage.

These elections weren’t held alongside the General Election or local council elections – and were badly publicised. In a report afterwards a Government-commissioned survey revealed that in Fife, where the turnout was just 23 per cent, more than 80% interviewed said they either didn’t know about the elections or were not well-informed. In Dumfries and Galloway, it was 66%.

So, democracy was scrapped and in came these appointed members, paid £8,842 a year for one day’s work a week on a four-year deal. There are 14 Scottish health boards. Lothian has 17 non-executive, appointed members, and Greater Glasgow and Clyde board has 32 members, at least 18 of whom are non-executive.

Across all of the boards more than 100 members have been appointed rather than by ballot. Talk about being over-governed.

My health board is NHS Ayrshire and Arran and one of the non-executive members is Margaret Anderson. “The more you do,” she said at a board meeting last week, “the more you get to do for people. They don’t bother standing up for themselves, feel they can have a pint, and go down to the foodbank tomorrow.”

She added: “Daddy, whether he is working or not, can get the latest football top at £40, £50, £60 a time, never misses a match home or away.”

She is exactly the kind of person who should not be allowed near public service and I’d like to vote her out. But, of course, I can’t.

Small is beautiful

MIXED fortunes for our football teams in Europe during the week. The Old Firm both scraped through in the Europa League, while Aberdeen and St Johnstone didn’t in the Diddy Europa League, aka the Conference.

We always clasp the small-country syndrome as an excuse, that we only have a population of five million, and there’s not enough TV money, unlike in England, for our clubs. Well then, SPFL and SFA: what about Sheriff Tiraspol? You probably haven’t heard of them. They’re the first Moldovan side to qualify for the group stage of the Champions’ League.

That isn’t quite accurate. While Sheriff Tiraspol are Moldovan champions, and for the last six seasons too, with 19 titles overall, they aren’t actually from Moldova. They’re from Transnistria. Which you probably haven’t heard of either.

Transnistria, officially the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, is a breakaway state in the narrow strip of land between the river Dniester and the Ukrainian border. It has a population of less than 500,000 and it’s recognised as a state only by three other unrecognised breakaway ones – Abkhazia, Artsakh and South Ossetia. It’s probably the only country, or statelet, still to have the hammer and sickle on its flag, a post-Soviet relic.

Transnistrians have Moldovan passports which is why Sheriff play in the national league and qualify as champions.

Transnistria, way back, was part of Romania and while Russian is the main language, Romanian, or Moldovan as they call it there, is also spoken widely. They seem a fearsome bunch, your Transnistrians.

One of the members of the Popular Front in his election campaign literature put it this way: “Let my hands be covered in blood up to my elbows, but I will throw out the invaders, aliens and mankurt over the Dniester, I will throw them out of Transnistria, and you, the Romanians, are the real owners of this long-suffering land, you will get their houses, their apartments, along with their furniture … We we will make them speak Romanian, respect our language, our culture!”

Sheriff is owned by Russian oligarch Viktor Gushan, a former KGB officer, and to say he’s a controversial businessman is like saying that Hitler did a fine coat of emulsion. He owns about all the businesses in the tiny state – wholesale and retail food, fuels, medicines and other products, car dealerships, construction and real estate – through his company Sheriff, which owes its start-up success to the illegal trade in cigarettes, alcohol, and food, through the porous border with Ukraine. In 1997, Gushan and his business partner at Sheriff, Ilya Kazmaly, did what any self-respecting oligarchs would do with their billions.

They formed a football club and built a £200 million stadium – called Sheriff, naturally – to house them. There is only one Moldovan in the team, and he was born Brazilian. They beat Dinamo Zagreb to qualify and now the riches of the Champions’ League will cascade onto them, or Gushan more like.

Would you credit it?

ON consumer TV shows pieces about people scamming insurance companies are commonplace. There isn’t much the other way, about how these conglomerates in their many pages of dense script about policy conditions successfully ramp up premiums.

During the week I looked at my credit card bill, which I don’t usually do, to see I had been charged a £496 renewal premium by Admiral, which seemed a preposterous amount for home insurance. I phoned up and a very helpful woman told me that the jump in premium, by £286, was because of an “incident” when I notified them of a leak in the kitchen, but didn’t pursue it, because it turned out that the cost of replacing the section of ruined flooring was less than the policy excess.

I said that I had never claimed a thin dime from Admiral in the years I had been with them and wanted to make a complaint. An hour or so later I got a call back from a man which is when it turned ugly. The “incident” occurred last August when people were dying in their thousands from Covid and most people were working from home. It was impossible to speak to anyone at Admiral so I filled in an online claims form, but when I realised it was cheaper to sort it myself I didn’t go ahead with it and it lapsed.

None of this is in dispute. But still Admiral more than doubled the premium. I told the man that I didn’t accept I had made a claim because I didn’t pursue it to the conclusion. I said that this was legal brigandry and it was then he mentioned, not once but several times, “intent”. What? According to him, their statistics show that people who have done what I had done were likely, in future, to makes false claims.

Had he ever read Nineteen Eighty-Four, I asked? He hadn’t, so I told him he was accusing me of thought crime. Even if I had future intent, which I didn’t have, how could he know that? But, of course, he didn’t need to. The premium was staying the same. I realise this is a first-world problem. It’s just an example of the unscrupulous way insurance companies treat customers. I went elsewhere and paid £156 for the same cover.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992