Donald MacInnes: Even though I'm Scottish, free stuff can't be good for you


I have dealt with the erroneous perception of a skinflint Scotland before, so forgive me if I make mention again. I do so only because of an incident last Sunday, while I was at work. It happened at the moment of the straight-sets win by Andy Murray in the Olympic tennis (over a man clearly masquerading as Roger Federer). As the newsroom cheered, someone near me shouted: "You would think, as a Scot, he wouldn't be interested in the Olympics, as there's no prize money! Hur hur hur!" Comedy gold.

As an example of how the value of something is not as crucial to us as might be imagined, I offer my lack of attraction to "free stuff". In fact, it was only but 10 minutes ago that I again rejected a freebie from a stranger.

He and his cohorts had set up a stall across from the paper's offices and were handing out free bottles of some sort of fruit-flavoured water. I strode past, ignoring the proffered beverage, and entered our building, muttering.

As you would imagine, given our ant-like numerousness, commuters in London are often targeted by this kind of marketing, but I'm sure that the whole kingdom is being offered handouts, be they oaty breakfast bars, sachets of shampoo or swigs of booze.

And it is this last one which really crystallised my hatred of freebies. I was walking through London's Victoria station a few years ago and noticed a multitude (from the Latin word "multito" meaning "we genuinely have no life") clustered around a stall branded by Ireland's most famous drink.

The stall had been set up to resemble a pub and minuscule tumblers of stout were being handed to the panting mob. We're not talking smallish glasses here, but the kind of micro vessel you get with bottles of cough syrup. I watched in unchecked amazement as people QUEUED UP to receive one of these little soupçons of Guinness, which they imbibed while leaning laconically on the stall as if in an actual pub.

These were mostly businessmen on their way to work, but were happy to line up to be handed less than a mouthful of stout. Why? I'll tell you why: because it was free. This really seems to be the only criterion required to make someone line up, mute and expectant in their docility; like sheep awaiting a dose of anti-worm medicine.

No thought was evidently given to what this behaviour might do to their sense of individuality. If such a thing existed at all. Depressed, I strode past, muttering.

But then, being a miserable sod, I'm probably not their target demographic. Then again, I'd guess, neither is Andy Murray. Thank goodness.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

    Guru Careers: Management Accountant

    £27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

    Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

    £40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'