Universal Basic Income: Sign of our times

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, self-proclaimed ‘stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. In this first of a two-part series, it’s Universal Basic Income!

What is Universal Basic Income! It’s an amount of money given to citizens universally, sufficient to cover basic needs & free of conditions. In other words basic income is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement. Many don’t realise that this is not a new concept and was thought about in the early 80’s to tackle what was then seen by many visionary’s as impending doom for the workers by rampant automation of many jobs from factories to retail and financial services.

We are already in the grip of a worldwide coronavirus pandemic and realisation is dawning on guardians of our current economic systems across the world; that drastic changes need to be made to support citizens in times of crisis like the one we are currently experiencing. The UK like many countries in Europe and some parts of the world, put in place a welfare net to catch people falling behind in life either of their own making or due to circumstances beyond their control. Since 2010 the Tories with support from the Lib-Dems took a wrecking ball to our welfare state which has impacted the most vulnerable amongst us, the working class, disabled, single parents, students, young people and the unemployed.

The current crisis shows us why a complete rethink is required if we have to survive this crisis and any future pandemics. The majority of the UK workforce is living under a gig economy i.e. zero hour and temporary contracts with no sick pay or any other entitlements when compared to permanent employees. Self-employed individuals like myself are always facing the full force of any economic disaster or policy changes by newly elected governments.

The recent budget announcement did not have any good news for the self-employed, low income earners and people claiming in work benefits. The  current rate of Statutory Sick Pay is £94.25 a week, way below what is currently offered in other European nations; e.g. in Germany its £287 and Sweden £230. Currently if you are self-employed or earn below the £118 threshold per week, you are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay! This also means that many workers who are on zero hour contracts or whose status is self-employed will be hit the hardest by the self-isolate policy. It’s also a wakeup call for many that were cheering the Tories for cutting the benefits of many citizens that were mostly in low wage jobs and who relied on tax credits to top up their earnings.

Latest predictions by many economic think-tanks have warned the government to brace themselves for massive lay-offs. redundancies and job losses which will be in the millions. I hope people will realise the importance of the welfare state now and will not rush to judgement on those that access these benefits as they seldom are living a life of luxury but making ends meet on a measly income provided by the state.

By the time this goes to print the UK may have initiated lockdown procedures and as per governments own advice those citizens that show symptoms of the virus should self-isolate for 14 days thereby reducing the risk of transmission to others. Next month I will look at the benefits to society if Universal Basic Income is introduced and the huge savings by doing away with the current system. Until then take care folks and self-isolate if necessary.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on 20th March 2020.

The second part will be published on Friday 17th April edition of the Peeblesshire News.

Long term impact of using self-checkout tills!

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on humans battling with the onslaught of machines in our day to day lives; this week its self-checkout tills.

It’s been a couple of decades since self-checkout machines really took off on these islands. Our two big supermarkets in Peebles have installed them to ease queues and provide a quick and efficient way to shop. I have seen people refusing to use them and some actually bewildered by them and some of course yelling at these machines! Well! It’s the voice activation that drives people nuts; “unexpected item in the bagging area” the dreaded trigger that I have seen provoking normal people into a rage. Staff politely come to the rescue of these stranded shoppers and help ease the frustration by diffusing the volatile situation just like bomb disposal experts.

So! What’s the big fuss you may ask about technology that is supposedly helping us in our shopping experience? Well! Apart from many people who swear by these check-out tills there are many who would prefer to see them gone for good and below are a number of reasons why.

The big benefit to retailers is substantial reduced labour costs. Retailers are all for hiring us as unpaid staff with no legal responsibility to pay taxes, employer national insurance and pension contributions, by doing the job of staff. One member of staff can often run six checkout tills with the work of the cashier now done by us the customer! One of the arguments for self-checkout tills is the efficiency and speed with which shopping can be done but anyone who has used a till will know that it’s not all easy and simple to use. Of course there are some who prefer these counters as they have maybe a single item or a few and in these scenarios it’s well worth using them if staff are busy. Plus a study done in 2002 showed people with disabilities where adversely impacted by the self-checkout tills as most of them are not designed keeping accessibility in mind.

Customers have complained about the repeated sounds of a robot coming out of these tills and this promoted Tesco to replace the robotic voice with more human sounding voices. Being more complex, self-check-out tills are prone to failure on a regular basis. For example, they use scales to weigh goods in the bagging area, and, if the scale fails, the machine does not work. Also, in a manned checkout lane, any simple problems like lack of receipt paper would be immediately fixed by the operator, while self-checkouts may not be fixed for quite some time. This lack of reliability can be compensated for by having excess lanes available or enough staff on hand to perform immediate maintenance.

Retailers are getting massive tax breaks and subsidies from the government in many cases for providing jobs locally but unfortunately jobs are being lost to machines instead. All profits are diverted to shareholders who along with the retailers often avoid tax legally by investing in tax havens. This has been investigated over the years by journalists covering tax avoidance schemes.

Please remember, the more we use checkout tills, the more justification for job losses and less taxes collected to pay for vital public services. Ultimately we end up working for corporations without realising we are doing a great disservice to staff who as part of their role provide a much needed community service.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on 6th March 2020.

Potholes in the Scottish Borders

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, self-proclaimed ‘stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s potholes!

I recently visited my country of birth and was amazed to see some of the infrastructure projects that have been completed and some in progress. Many roads in the cities and towns are now being done using concrete instead of asphalt. Rural areas are still using asphalt as its cheaper for the local councils but the environmental costs are huge compared to concrete. Potholes are a major problem every rainy season as big holes suddenly appear and damage to people’s physical health and property runs into millions every year. Coming back to the Borders made me feel that I was still in India! Though I am not sure if the council is going out of its way to make me feel at home!

My work takes me to all parts of Scotland and having visited quite a few places in the Borders since coming back, I was genuinely appalled at the state of the roads with some roads being blocked out completely by traffic cones placed by concerned road users. Many have had damage to their vehicle’s, while some placed traffic cones and road signs directly onto potholes to warn oncoming traffic. Why is this happening on such a regular basis in the Borders? Is this the councils responsibility for making our roads safe to drive or the Scottish governments, or Westminster? At least now we can stop blaming the European Union! I have seen cars breakdown immediately after going over a concealed pothole without any warning and the risk it poses to all concerned cannot be under estimated. Complaints have been pouring through social media, press and the councils own website. Roads are the backbone of any thriving modern society  and any limitations to accessing quality infrastructure will only undermine the flow of goods and services in the area. Somebody put up a post on Facebook asking the question as to vehicle’s have to be fit for roads, so why not the other way around? Why don’t we hold councils and our elected representatives legally liable for the state of the roads or the infrastructure facilities? The current ruling Tory administration seems to be blaming the previous one and the story keeps going on and on. Having looked at last year’s budget of the council it seems to me that monies have been spent on elected councillors pet projects at the expense of the whole of the Borders residents.

What is the solution we have that should cross across party lines. All major road networks in the Borders should be concretised instead of using the current cheap asphalt roads. One of the big benefits of using concrete is the longevity of the materials lasting anywhere from 30-40 years. Plus they tend to be more green. The obvious disadvantage is the cost. So which is better? Concrete or Asphalt? Unfortunately its not easy to answer that question as my research found many pros and cons to both materials in terms of costs and safety to road users. We as a community need to come together to tackle this ongoing problem once and for all.

Are SBC councillors up to this challenge?

Published in The Peeblesshire News on 21st February 2020.

What happens to our food rights post Brexit?

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

This week Bosco Santimano  shares his thoughts on the UK leaving the European Union.

Finally its happened! We have officially left the European Union for “Unity, Peace and stability”. It’s taken three and a half years, three Prime Ministers and two elections to finally get to this stage. The initial process is now complete and the negotiations begin for what may turn out to be an eventful year ahead, especially for Scotland and Northern Ireland. As an organisation we are saddened to see the state of affairs as Westminster politics takes centre stage and holds the rest of the countries in this United Kingdom to ransom. Can we make it alone as an Independent nation or group of nations outside the EU? of course we can. Our concern is mainly about food, environment, climate change and health of Scottish residents post Brexit. Having personally worked closely with the EU and the Scottish government in the past it concerns me that all the safeguards that the EU put in place for our health and other social benefits will be removed or watered down to get trade agreements with the biggest shark in the world! America. Chlorinated chicken is the least of our worries as environmental laws and other climate related initiatives may be watered down to suit the Americans to get a free trade deal. Great Britain may be in the process of becoming Little Britain by the end of this year if we the people become complacent and think all is now lost.

As an organisation working at the grassroots and campaigning for equal health and access to cheap and good food rights for all Scottish residents, we will be specifically looking at costs of fresh foods, post Brexit, until December 2020 and beyond 2021 when supposedly we will have a trade deal with the EU. Prices of essential food and other items have increased by over 40% since 2007-08 recession and then again after the 2016 EU referendum by another 30%. I have taken a conservative figure compared to what the actual figure is; i.e. over 50 to 60%! Wages and benefits have not increased during this period, hence the establishment of the United Kingdom of Food Banks which have been setup all over this G7 country for the poor and working class. We did and in some cases did not support many regulations that were coming out of the EU over the years but many people fail to understand that those laws and regulations that were passed were fully approved by the governments of all the 28 EU nations, a fact conveniently left out by all right wing newspapers and tabloids and politicians. The EU has been proactive in banning harmful pesticides and fertilisers that scientific evidence proved was harming the environment and its people. American Corporations are waiting in glee to ravage this country with their toxic chemicals and products. Will Genetically Modified Seeds (GMO’s) now be allowed to grow in Scotland?

We hope not.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on 7th February 2020.

Britain’s Very Own Darth Vader!

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, self-proclaimed ‘stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s Sir Ian Duncan Smith!

Recently after watching Episode III – Return of the Sith movie, from the Star Wars saga, I could not help compare the current frenzy of Brits in being deceived to take back the Empire from the evil bureaucrats sitting in Brussels. Hitler, Mussolini, Trump, Boris, Modi, etc. these names keep coming up where ever genocide against a minority or group has taken place or about to happen! The queen has decided to bestow upon her most loyal servant Ian Duncan Smith (IDS) a Knighthood in this year’s honours list. Remarkable selection! Considering that this individual is fully responsible for killing more poor and disabled people in peace time Britain in a very short time than anyone before him. Like the emperor character in Star Wars, the queen is rewarding her loyal followers with awards and a thank you for keeping the peasants and subjects in line while culling the so called “benefit scroungers”.

IDS is the architect and mastermind behind the worst  policy in Britain whose sole objective was mass culling of people relying on benefits. The people who support the Tory party and its policies and who have now given them an unprecedented mandate to rule for another term will not be forgiven as this is just the beginning of the end of this cruel empire.

So what is so bad about his Universal Credit policy? Too many reasons to go into but let me focus on a few implications of this benefit change. This new benefit was first rolled out in April 2013 in one local authority area, Ashton instead of four originally planned. This already was a sign of things to come and the massive pain and suffering to millions of people as IDS kept going regardless, despite warnings from many respected and independent organisations like the Resolution Foundation claiming that the experiment to combine six very different benefits into one was a disaster waiting to happen. To make matters worse, the original estimated cost to the tax payers for the complete roll out of this fantasy and ego-maniacal policy was £2.2 billion but by August 2014 alone this estimated cost rose to £12.8 billion and was later increased to £15.8 billion!

Your guess is as good as mine as to what the current costs of this ego trip is? How do they get away with murder? In any other job or profession you would be sacked, thrown in to prison or worst case scenario not be employable ever again! But the Queen is in the habit of rewarding gross incompetence, negligence and in this case murder of many claimants who took their own lives while going through the Universal Credit process. We don’t seem to learn from our mistakes and I can only shudder to think what the state of many working class and poor people in this country will become after Brexit!

God save the people, not the queen!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on 17th January 2020.

Get Back In Shape!

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

It’s the end of the festive season and many are probably feeling physically and mentally exhausted, bloated and depressed. In my December column I wrote about how to avoid eating foods that are detrimental to our health during the festive season as prevention is better than cure. But for most of us it may have been an uphill task sticking to the do’s and don’ts mentioned in my article. So here are a few tips and suggestions to get you back in shape quickly and safely without resorting to a crash diet or hours of exercise in order to lose the extra pounds gained.

We all can be tempted to eat less especially high fat foods like processed meats but it’s very important to keep eating foods like veggies, fruits and plant based proteins in order to feel our bodies are receiving the right amount of nourishment. Our bodies will need to go through a proper cleansing process in order to feel vibrant and energised. Start each day in the new year with a cup of warm water preferably with a few drops of fresh lemon added as this will help detoxify the body. Avoid alcohol and caffeine during this period and switch to Green tea if possible as it is full of antioxidants but bear in mind to keep it a maximum of two cups a day as it still contains caffeine! As mentioned earlier switch to steamed vegetables, soups and smoothies and avoid eating a meal after 7pm. Drinking plenty of water will keep your body hydrated and will reduce your desire to eat/snack often during the day.

Sugar is one of the big culprits and we need to reduce our intake substantially during this detoxifying period. Eating a full breakfast will help you to avoid snacking before lunch and sticking to fruits and nuts after lunch as light snacks will keep you going comfortably until dinner. Make sure to have a light lunch, like a salad or brown bread as a base for your sandwich, keeping in mind to avoid any processed meats.

Get a good night’s sleep and avoid screens at least an hour before bedtime. Resting your mind and eyes during this process will help you feel better and more energised and resort to power napping during the day especially after lunch if you can as this can work wonders if you suffer from sleep deprivation. Please remember there are pros and cons to detoxifying; benefits include increased energy and sleep, while downsides are headaches and nausea. While these are just a few examples its best to consult your Doctor if you have any underlying health condition or just for advice and support. Don’t give up as its usually the first three days that can be extremely difficult and feels almost impossible to continue the detoxification process. These are just  normal withdrawal symptoms and will go away once your body gets adjusted to this new routine.

So here is wishing you all a Healthy and Happy New Year 2020!

Published in the Peeblesshire News on 3rd January 2020.

The Final Nail in the Coffin

Christmas is on everyone’s mind as the season of giving and sharing begins. But for many individuals and families it’s a season of despair, poverty, foodbanks, and so much more worse. The election has proven once and for all the huge cultural divide between Scotland and England on compassionate grounds. As an organisation we have helped hundreds of children and families cope with the financial pressures of this Tory governments ideology since 2010 with no monetary support or help from our local elected member of parliament.  While the people of this constituency  have again voted for David Mundell to continue his parties polices of literally killing of poor and disabled people, myself and like-minded individuals have to seriously think about the next steps we need to take. David is now embolden to keep opening more Foodbanks across the Borders as he now has a mandate from his voters to cull the disadvantaged amongst us. It’s sickening and shameful to even contemplate that we live in an area which wholeheartedly supports the polices of  the current Westminster government towards disadvantaged communities. The sad irony is that Labour is no longer the protector of the working class and the poor as they have been decimated in England and have only one seat in Scotland!

To top it all our elected leader of the council Shona Haslam took a break from governing her region, paid off course by us, the tax payers and spent her time campaigning to win as a MP for Lanark & Hamilton East! She has proven to be a canny, greedy, power hungry politician and will jump ship to further her ambition in the name of Unionism and the Queen! Shona Haslam did not even bother to turn up after the fire at Peebles High school when her constituents needed her the most as she was working hard to become an MP to earn more money and perks and of course a peerage thereafter all for herself. This is an example of a classic career politician! Shona Haslam and her administration are in charge of what is turning out to be a financial boom for big corporations and companies in the name of progress in the Borders.

Thankfully the people of Lanark & Hamilton East saw right through her right wing, sectarian politics and came out in droves to boot her back to where she came from. Anyone else would have resigned after making such a horrendous comment. Unfortunately we are stuck with her as leader of the council, maybe not for long and I hope her voters are not blind like England to vote for her again the next time around. The next term of this parliament will be the beginning of the end of the United Kingdom. I am so glad Scotland voted for a just and fair society.

So here is hoping that 2020 will bring a revolution to Scotland and we get rid of our colonial masters once and for all and the path is now paved for a final reunification of Ireland which is long overdue. Not a bad start to 2020.

Wishing all the readers a Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year!

The Final Countdown

What a mess we have found ourselves in as a nation. Unionist trust in the Tories must surely have woken up the people from their slumber and apathy towards politicians and the political process in general. Since 2010 the Tories have been in power and austerity has decimated the working class and poor while the blame for this was shifted onto so called benefit scroungers and immigrants, especially from Eastern Europe. We will have had 3 elections since then, all of them masterminded by the Tories themselves to grab more power but with disastrous consequences everytime. The national debt is now in the trillions and the people are still being lied to as to who the real perpetrators are of this mishandling of the countries finances.

In Scotland the obvious choice is the SNP, for their record speaks volumes and you may not like them constantly banging on about Independence, but at least you know where they stand and their long term objectives. Of course they are not perfect but give them credit where its due and to all the good work they have been doing since 2007 with one arm twisted behind their backs by the 3 main unionist political parties and their supporters in Scotland along with Westminster and the media.

The Tories are hopefully out as they they have amassed immense wealth and privileges for their political elites and business partners including their own families. Why do Unionist fear a second Scottish Independence referendum? They have nothing to fear as they can still vote “No”. Are they worried their lies won’t work the second time around? The SNP’s main objective and drive is to get independence and they are very clearly following their parties founding constitution and manifesto, unlike the Tories who have lied through their teeth and are still being voted into power by their gullible supporters all in the name of keeping the SNP out! It beggars belief to see educated people vote for the Tory party knowing well the harm their policies are causing families and children all over the country. Being selfish and only thinking about your own child is not how we want to live as a society. We have been given an opportunity once again to right a wrong and re-establish respect and love among the countries citizenry. It’s time to cast your vote for what is morally the right thing to do. By next Friday we will have woken up to a future that is hopefully bright and turned our backs on hate and austerity.

On the plus side the people of the Borders may have lost their incompetent leader of the council to Lanark & Hamilton East, as she has proven to be a canny, greedy career politician and will jump ship to further her ambition in the name of Unionism and the Queen! Shona Haslam did not bother to turn up after the fire at Peebles High school when her constituents needed her the most. There has been a deafening silence from her. Hope the people of Lanark & Hamilton East  are not as daft and blind to what damage she has done to the Borders and her own constituents.

What would you vote for? The kiss of death or ……..

Sacred Rowan Trees Vandalised by Trustees

Our elected  councillors who are also the trustees of the Chambers Institute have committed an act of environmental vandalism on this hallowed institution.  When they were first appointed this was what was expected of them; “Local people want the Chambers Institution to maintain and enhance its role as the cultural heart of the community and for it to be attractive, welcoming, well-cared for, accessible and affordable. The key uses of the building were identified as: library, museum, art gallery and meeting spaces, and a quiet contemplative courtyard setting for the War Memorial.” Since the Peeblesshire news highlighted the loss of two mature Rowan trees, I did write to three of the trustees who come under Tweeddale West asking for more details about the decision and processes that were followed before this decision was taken. Only one replied saying that the Chair would respond to me directly, and I am still waiting! Elected politicians and bureaucrats seem to be exempt from legal procedures. Below is evidence of this farcical misadventure.

The minutes of the Peebles Community Council meeting of 13th June 2019 clearly state the following; The Chambers Institute Trust have had a request from the British Legion to remove trees that ‘flank’ the memorial and “re plant” them. Cllr Chapman was seeking some consultation from the Community Council about where we would like them to go. The trees are impacting the memorial, hence why this work will be carried out. Peebles Community Council put up a post on 4thAugust 2019 stating that the Trustees were seeking to inform through the Community Council, and get any feedback that people may have on their plan to remove the trees. At the 12th September meeting of the community council Cllr Chapman mentioned that this was a community notice rather than an opportunity to comment. The trees will be removed and replaced with smaller trees!

We cannot trust our elected representatives anymore and nothing is safe in their hands any longer. We the people now have to take action against the trustees for this wanton act of vandalism. Anyone who has read the statement issued by the trustees in last week’s Peeblesshire News must be scratching their heads and wondering if they are being governed under Trump laws! Its lies, lies and more lies. There was No Consultation! Majority comments and feedback on the Facebook post were from people against cutting these trees. The trees were felled during the week schools were on a break and they came early in the morning so as not to arouse suspicion. I am surprised that all the trustees put their names to this statement. I have taken photos of the site where the trees once stood proud and tall and enhancing the memorial not degrading it as stated. This was a cost cutting exercise and when the global agenda is to grow more trees it beggars belief that all the trustees have supported this venture. As one of your readers mentioned in a letter the Rowan is a sacred tree, and they should watch out what is  going to be in store for them very soon.

This column was published in the Peeblesshire News on 15th November 2019.

The Queen Still Rules Great Britannia!

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, self-proclaimed ‘stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s sovereignty.

Irrespective of the outcome of the EU negotiations, the clocks are spinning towards the breakup of the Union. Many people want to go back to the glory days of this country, where rivers were flowing with milk and honey and the “we are the good guys” image which is so conditioned and brainwashed into the minds of British psyche from early childhood.

Accurate history is not taught in this country but a very sanitised, pleasant version of it, mainly focusing on the grandeur of the monarchy for diversions and World War II.

The recent spectacle of the Queen’s speech beggars belief as the pomp and pageantry of the true rulers of this island was on display for all to see.

This nation removed the kings and queens of the lands it conquered through deceit in the name of bringing democracy to the world but is still hanging on to its outdated traditions! A beacon of democracy which conveniently does not have a written constitution. Such hypocrisy!

But why are we still so gullible and can’t see the obvious truth of where the power lies in this nation? Many people I personally know support this outdated practice and institution and the cost to us the tax payers.

These very same individuals slam people on benefits, migrants and foodbanks, but are happy to give millions away to the queen and the extended royal family all in the name of tradition or a tourist attraction!

This always proved my point that education does not necessarily mean you are aware or informed but conditioned to believe in an obvious lie. People want to go back to the glory days of empire without fully understanding the true meaning of this statement.

This country is responsible for all the major flashpoints around the world today. That’s the legacy of the empire and the monarchy, having committed mass genocide, looting of resources and cultural decimation from which these countries are yet to recover.

If you closely listen to the words spoken during the ceremony of the Queen’s speech, it’s very clear who is in charge. The mace, which is a symbol of the Queen’s authority, is placed in the House of Commons and Black Rod knocks on the door to command the House of Commons, remember the clue is in the name ‘Commons’ because that is what we are commoners. Politicians who then get elected see themselves as servants to the Queen not the electorate who voted them in the first place.

They then go about maintaining the status quo at the expense of people dying because of benefits cuts, foodbanks or parents having to starve in order to feed their children.

What a sorry state of affairs and Brexit is just going to push many citizens over the cliff in order to satisfy the egos of the rich political class of this country. The people of this country got to see first-hand what their ancestors did to over 70 per cent of the world.

It’s time for action.

This column was published in the Peeblesshire news on Friday 18th October 2019