Eat or Heat – Grim Choices for Families this Winter

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the current food and fuel shortages in the UK and the devastating impact on low-income families with the removal of the £20 per week from Universal Credit.

What a fine mess we find ourselves in due to Covid and post Brexit. The Office for Budget Responsibility estimated this year that the Brexit damage will inflict a heavy financial damage on UK citizens with every person facing a cost of around £1,200. The economy has taken a hit along with a massive drop in exports, high fuel prices and food shortages. The UK governments own department that forecasts how well the economy will do in the short and long-term has predicted the worst is yet to come! Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, with all 32 local authorities choosing to reject Brexit. A recent report by the online news organisation Byline Times said Covid was a ‘’convenient scapegoat’’ and that the empty shelves were the result of Brexit and not the ‘’pingdemic’’. Brexit remains the main factor to blame for food shortages in shops and supermarkets as attempts to make the so-called” pingdemic” a scapegoat is increasingly undermined.

Warnings about empty shelves in shops and supermarkets began when Boris Johnson imposed his woeful Brexit trade deal which kicked in on January 1. Mounting red tape and other problems led to a growing shortage of lorry drivers able and prepared to take food from Europe to the UK. The dairy giant Arla, which has a dairy in Lockerbie and which supplies milk to all major UK supermarkets, said that the lorry driver shortage is hitting milk supplies. Arla was suffering more from the lack of drivers than from Covid alerts, said the managing director. “Self-isolation doesn’t seem to be impacting us as much, because we’re a very mechanised, automated business,” he added. “The food is there in the factories; it’s just about getting it to the shops. So that’s our key problem.” One farmer told Byline Times: ‘[The right-wing media] are trying to scapegoat the blame on to the test and trace ping system because they want to deflect the blame from Brexit.’’

In my previous columns since Brexit, I did warn of the impending crisis, like many sane voices in the country about the knock-on effect it will have on the most vulnerable in our society. Rising prices of food, fuel and other commonly used household goods and services are causing increased levels of stress and anxiety especially to families that have a stark choice to make; do we feed our children or heat our homes. The real problem at the heart of food shortage is Brexit. That’s it. No other country is having these issues and no amount of spin from the government will change this simple fact they had plenty of time to put in place measures that would have not allowed this chaos to play out. Removing the £20 per week from Universal Credit is like kicking someone really hard while they are down and out! While I am writing this column, the UK government has called in the army to deliver fuel and essential food supplies to petrol stations and supermarkets in England for the coming weeks. As a social enterprise, we have in the past picked up the pieces of flawed legislation introduced to penalise the poor for sins committed by the rich, here is hoping the government has a change of heart.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 8th October 2021

Brexit & Covid-19 combo causing havoc with our food and drinks supplies

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s the Brexit-Covid-19 combo that is causing havoc with our food and drinks supplies.

I have written in my previous columns what the impact of Brexit would be on the supply chains especially the food and drinks sector and it seems the chickens have come home to roost! The UK is going through a massive shortfall of key workers with vacancies running at a record high level. In early September the Recruitment and Employment Confederation reported that there were over 1.11 million vacancies at the end of August 2021 and this number is set to rise in the coming months. The sectors suffering the most with a shortfall of workers are HGV drivers (100,000+), Nurses (79,123), Carers (49,751), Chefs (29,996), IT Professionals (68,929), Retail Assistants (26,183), Primary and nursery education teaching professionals (30,574), Cleaners & domestics (24,148), Metal working production and maintenance fitters (19,748) and Carpenters and joiners (6,364). Other jobs highlighted with high vacancy rates include veterinary nurses, ambulance drivers and postal workers. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called for the Shortage Occupation List, which allows companies to recruit skilled workers from the EU and the rest of the world, to be extended to all specialist welders, as well as butchers and bricklayers. The Road Haulage Association has consistently argued that HGV drivers should be included in the scheme as vacancies have risen from a pre-COVID level of 60,000 to beyond 100,000 – threatening wider distribution disruption as the key Christmas season approaches.

To top this up last week we learnt that the UK is bracing itself for a severe shortage of CO2 gas impacting supplies of beer, fizzy drink and meat! The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was warned last week of the shortages caused by the closure of two major fertiliser plants. While the general public may not be aware, the drinks industry relies on CO2 to carbonate beverages, while the meat industry uses the gas extensively throughout processing; in slaughterhouses, and for packaging and refrigeration. The British Poultry Council (BPC) warned the industry was heading into a “downward spiral towards supply chains seriously struggling”. The council urged the government to prioritise CO2 supplies for food production to limit the disruption to supermarket supplies and hospitality businesses. Supermarkets shelves and restaurants are expected to be affected from this week onwards given that the gas is instrumental to the production of carbonated drinks and meat processing. All the major fast-food chains have suffered due to supply issues and this will continue in the foreseeable future unless the government gets its act together.

So, who is to blame for this mess and what can we do as ordinary citizens to stop this from getting worse? Winter is upon us and already consumers have seen a huge rise in prices of essential consumer goods. Most food and other household expenses have shot up by over 40 percent in some cases. The rich and the middle class are as always, cushioned by any negative impact on the economy but the majority of us have to rely on a hand to mouth existence not knowing when things will get better. Here is hoping that we don’t face a real winter of financial hardship and discontent as this time the powers that be will not escape the wrath of its people.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 24th September 2021.

COP26 Glasgow 2021 – Scotland’s Time to Shine on the World Stage – Part II

 

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, continues in this second and final part of his two-part column to share his thoughts on the real reasons behind the apathy from pursuing urgent climate policies, the current status-quo’s main benefactors along with possible ideas and solutions to empower citizens of the world to help save our planet.

Why this apathy from governments and corporations across the globe in rejecting fossil fuels and fully embracing renewables?  The answer is our insatiable thirst for cheap oil and the powerful lobby that controls all aspects of the economy. Since the 1960’s there has been a growing movement by environmentalist in the West to raise awareness and educate its citizens on the devastating impact of oil on the planet since the industrial revolution. The eco-system, indigenous cultures and people have faced the brunt of big corporations and countries like the US and UK bulldozing their way through developing and third world countries in search of oil and other resources to feed their ever-growing consumerism.

China was chosen by Western corporations to become the intensive factory producing country of all its goods to be then transported all across the globe. The narrative globally is that China is one of the main polluters of the world. Of course, it is, what were you expecting when your own country closes most of its manufacturing industries and transfers all production to China because of its lax labour laws, non-existing human rights and the fear of a communist state to force its people to work in sometimes hostile and unsafe conditions. The world has bankrolled the communist state of China and turned a blind eye to all atrocities committed by the Chinese state in exchange for cheap goods and low environmental standards. Scotland like the rest of the UK, Europe, Japan and the US are all poised to meet their carbon emissions target. But this is a lie and misleading. So long as China keeps producing over 70% of the world’s goods, it will also be responsible for high carbon emissions.

The main beneficiaries of this one-sided trade arrangements are the biggest oil corporations like BP, Shell, etc. the list goes on. Shareholders and CEOs are making a killing in profits and will continue to do so if we don’t take action now. I sometimes feel we have already crossed the line of no return and we all are heading towards the cliff.

On a positive note, we had some good news last weekend, were members of the Green Party and the SNP voted to sign a deal making it a coalition government in the Scottish parliament. This gave the Scottish Greens its first attempt at being in government anywhere in the whole of the UK. Members from both political parties voted overwhelmingly in support of the agreement. Since the COP26 climate conference is to be held soon in Glasgow, this will give the ruling coalition plenty of time to formulate a green message to be delivered by Scotland in Scotland to the rest of the world.

Citizens from across the globe should work together in not supporting heavy fossil fuel industries by delinking from any financial gains currently being received in the forms of investments, shares and pensions. By switching to alternate providers that are ethical and support the environment, this will starve these industries of much needed cash to keep drilling for more oil. Politicians and civil servants should have in their contracts a clause forbidding them to be in a position to gain financially from the oil industry. Fossil fuel lobbyists should be banned from meeting any government officials elected or otherwise and all policies relating to fossil fuels should be made available to the general public for scrutiny before passing into law. Heavy fines should be imposed depending on company or individuals’ income as sometimes a few millions worth of fines is a drop in the ocean for oil corporations.

Here is hoping the human race stands together to fight greed and corruption and put mother nature first.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 3rd September 2021.

Triple Blow to UK Citizens by Tory Government Policies

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s higher energy bills, the end of furlough and removal of the £20 top-up to Universal Credit, a triple whammy, as millions of families will struggle financially this winter having to choose between feeding themselves or keeping warm!

From 1st October over 15 million people could be waking up to a massive increase in their energy bills with the announcement that the energy cap on some deals will be increasing by £139 per year. This is happening due to a combination of factors including Brexit and a rise in wholesale gas prices by more than 50% since the beginning of the year. Cheap energy deals are disappearing and becoming a rarity in the open market putting huge financial strains on low-income families and pensioners. The good news is that we can still reduce our bills as the price cap applies to certain energy deals like standard, default and out-of-contract tariff. Basically, they all mean the same thing i.e., if you have haven’t switched your energy supplier in a while or took no action when your last fixed deal ended, then you will be one of those that will be impacted by the price rise. Global prices of fossil fuels are rising, especially gas due to Covid-19 and a longer winter last year also meant that refiling of gas stores was delayed. Since some of our electricity is generated from gas, this means electricity prices are affected too. Energy companies are not obliged to increase their prices to match the new cap but big energy firms will do so in order to keep shareholders happy.

Add the removal of the £20 per week top-up to Universal Credit and the end of furlough and we are heading into a perfect storm brought about by polices of the Westminster (Tory) government which the Scottish government (SNP & Greens) have no control over. The worst hit will be those on prepayment meters. These are like pay as you go i.e., top up as you go along and are mostly used by low-income groups. Prepayment customers are charged more for each unit of energy than people on standard credit meters. In fact, the cheapest prepaid tariffs (£1,052, according to Ofgem) was found to be over £200 more expensive than the cheapest direct debit tariff (£846) in August 2019. Prepayment meter tariffs are also covered by the price cap. These are set to rise by even more. If you’ve chosen a fixed deal (one that has a set contract length) then you won’t be affected by the price cap changes. Housing charity Shelter estimates that nearly half a million private tenants are in arrears and this figure has doubled since the pandemic. Private renters spend more of their income on housing than any other housing tenure. Social housing is scarce and not readily available to fill the gap. The outdated Local Housing Allowance Rates needs a major overhaul as is not fit for purpose e.g., Scottish Borders is allocated a maximum of £74.79 per week rent (£324.09 per month). This is fine if you live in some remote parts of the Borders and in social housing but not in Peebles or the surrounding areas including Innerleithen. A private one-bedroom flat for rent in Peebles is around £450+. Which planet do these politicians live on, definitely not the same as us mere mortals?

We are going to witness a winter of discontent across the country if the Westminster Tory government does not get its act together and remove policy’s that impact the majority of the citizens of this country. Here is hoping that the four nations can keep themselves warm and well fed this coming winter.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 20th August 2021.

COP26 Glasgow 2021 – Scotland’s Time to Shine on the World Stage

 

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on global warming and the opportunity we have right here in Scotland as the host nation of the upcoming COP26 global climate event in Glasgow.

 It’s been over a year now since the pandemic struck all humanity no matter where you lived in the world, rich or poor. We are now facing a double whammy from mother nature vis-à-vis Covid and climate catastrophes all across the planet. Scotland is to hold the next United Nations Climate Change Conference later this year. For nearly three decades the UN has been bringing together almost every country on earth for global climate summits – called COPs – which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. During this time climate change has gone from being a fringe issue to a global priority. This year will be the 26th annual summit – giving it the name COP26. So, what can we look forward to with COP26? Leaders of more than 190 countries will be attending the Scottish event and we are hoping that our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will seize the opportunity to highlight Scotland’s pioneering role and contribution in renewable energy across these four nations.

Before COP26, many countries from around the world were signatories to what came to be known as the Paris agreement. This was COP21 and took place in Paris in 2015. The Paris Agreement’s central aim was to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to bring forward national plans setting out how much they would reduce their emissions – known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or ‘NDCs’. They agreed that every five years they would come back with an updated plan that would reflect their highest possible ambition at that time.

What have we done collectively since this historic signing of the Paris Agreement? Rich and powerful countries like the US, had left the treaty in 2020 under the Trump administration but have formally re-joined this year under current President Biden. Iran, Iraq and Libya – all among the 14-member Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) – as well as Yemen and Eritrea have not ratified the agreement. Some of the pros of the Paris agreement are that it has global support as 197 countries have signed the document and will have the ability to bring all parties together to address the real issue of keeping the earth’s temperature to a rise of 2 degrees Celsius maximum wile aiming for 1.5 Celsius by the end of this century. The temperature increase would decrease water supplies and crop levels. In addition, melting ice would raise sea levels, flooding coastal communities and destroying thousands, if not millions of homes. By committing to reduce greenhouse gases, the Paris agreement is aimed at preventing these ecosystem disruptions.

The cons of the Paris agreement are that its difficult to enforce on a global level and has a massive impact on energy related jobs e.g. Fossil fuels. On top of this you have complex rules that varies from country to country and actually may not go far enough to slow global warming. Thirdly the rich countries are manipulating the process and figures to protect a backlash from their own citizens.

Finally, where does that leave us as citizens of Scotland and what can we do to influence politicians of all ideologies and the big corporations that are driving this profit-making madness to human extinction? Please check out my next column in September for the real reasons behind the apathy from pursuing urgent policies both locally and nationally, the current status-quo’s main benefactors along with possible ideas and solutions to empower citizens of the world to help save our only home!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 6th August 2021.

UK Government to phase out £20 per week extra support to Universal Credit Claimants!

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s the Tories announcement to phase out the £20 a week increase to Universal Credit introduced last year during lockdown to help individuals and families struggling financially due to the pandemic.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told MPs last week that the £20 boost – introduced in April last year to Universal Credit to help deal with the economic effects of Covid – would be phased out by end of September. Devastating news for people on low income who rely on the state to top-up their meagre wages. We are now at the mercy of the Tories who have an overwhelming majority at Westminster thanks to English voters. Six former work and pensions secretaries have urged ministers to keep the £20 top up until the economy stabilises and claimants don’t suffer financially in the short term. Ms Coffey said the change had been a “collective decision” by ministers. The prime minister said the government is focusing on a “jobs-led” recovery from the pandemic, and was keen to “get people into work”. What planet do these Tories live on? Tory MP and their family, friends and donors have hugely benefitted financially from the pandemic. In my previous columns I have named and shamed these individuals and their companies and the billions lost due to tax payer funded schemes like furlough, contracts, etc. Tens of thousands of people did not claim universal credit during the early part of the pandemic because they felt too ashamed to sign on benefits, often despite struggling to pay rent and bills, a study has found.

Universal credit is claimed by almost 6 million households in the UK and was introduced by Tory Ian Duncan Smith in the early years of the Tories winning the election in 2010 but with Liberal Democrats as their coalition partners to replace six benefits and merge them into one benefit payment for working-age people. Many sane and educated people voted for the Tories in order to get rid of the so called “benefit scroungers”. Little did voters realise that the Tories in fact were taking apart a generous, fair and equitable welfare state to line their pockets instead. Karma is a universal concept well known in the east as a way of reminding people that what goes around come around. Strange that the very people who fell for the demonisation of the working class and people claiming benefits found themselves in dire straits financially last year during the pandemic as the state did not provide them with the safety net that this country built for its citizens exactly for such a scenario. This country is part of the G7 club, i.e., the seven richest countries on this planet! The question we citizens need to ask is where is all this money? And who is reaping the financial benefits? Tory MP’s and their families and friends have been directly or indirectly linked to companies that have financially gained from this arrangement from the Corporation that have contracts to deliver the various benefit systems, NHS contracts in England and Wales and major public service contracts like the BBC’s licensing fees!

Poverty campaigners have spoken out against removing this £20 per week top-up and have asked the government to make this permanent keeping in mind inflation and also the steep rise in food and other essentials since Brexit this year. This top-up amounts to a measly £1000 a year per household, but this has made the difference for some families between getting by and falling further into poverty. Overall, about 500,000 people in the UK chose not to claim universal credit, even though they most likely would have been entitled to it, the study found.  The perceived stigma around benefits – with some people feeling, they were for “dole scroungers” and “freeloaders” – meant many refused state help, or put off making a claim until they ran into serious difficulty.

We are no longer living in a humane society, and we treat animals better than our fellow human beings. Something has gone terribly wrong in Great Britain! It’s no longer great.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 16 July 2021.

Australian Trade Deal will Decimate British Farmers and Lower Food Quality in the UK

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the impact on British farming of the newly signed trade deal with Australia.

 So, a trade deal has been signed with our furthermost neighbour on the other side of the world! Great news for Australia but bad news for British farmers as it seems food standards have been lowered in order to get this trade deal. We have been warned repeatedly by the National Farmers Union that there was a danger to safety standards being compromised in order to get a trade deal no matter what adverse impact it will have on our high standards of farming and consumer food safety laws. What do readers think about this trade deal and will it undermine decades of hard work put in by various legal bodies and farming institutions to raise overall welfare standards of farms, farmers and the consumers? Going by the recent headlines since the deal was announced, it seems we as a nation have compromised our food standards; but by how much? This will be determined in the coming months and years as the small print of the trade deal will be put in practice and by then of course its too late! Our concern as a grass-root organisation is that this new trade deal will be a template for all future deals including with our biggest trading partners, the US of A. If you think Australian welfare standards are low and unacceptable wait until we have a trade deal with the US and other countries around the world that have an appalling record when it comes to animal welfare and food standards.

To give you an example, hormone-fed beef is banned in the UK but legal in Australia along with barren battery cages, sow stalls and hot branding! The UK has signed up to the Paris agreement on climate change, but this trade deal shatters the environmental target and goals that this country has set to reduce carbon emissions. Profit seems to be the sole motive and as usual the big corporations and landowners are likely to benefit from the trade deal while small, local farmers will be out-priced within the UK local market to cheap imported food products coming from far away lands. Trade deals are by nature compromising to the country that stands to benefit the least in terms of real impact on ordinary people. Mark Lynch from Oghma Partners said that nations with larger herds, such as Australia, will still benefit from the economies of scale. “Economics dictates that UK farmers are at a scale disadvantage and already marginal producers, such as upland sheep farmers, will logically inevitably suffer. This begs the question that, after the fishery fiasco will farmers be next in the firing line for losing their livelihood and means to support themselves and their families?

Many citizens of this country are making an informed choice of sourcing their foods locally in the hope of reducing their carbon footprint wherever they can. This trade deal, pandemic, job losses and dire financial circumstances of many individuals and families will leave no choice for consumers as most will be forced to buy cheap food imports produced in many cases with very low food safety standards.

We are going backwards and as a consequence future generations will be subjected to low nutritious food in their diets, thus having a knock-on effect on their health.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 2nd July 2021.

Brexiteers! Your Country Needs You!

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week farmers in the UK are on the brink of losing all their summer fruit crops due to a massive decrease in numbers of fruit pickers as a direct result of Brexit!

So here we go again! It seems we have finally gone back to the good old days when the sun never set under the flag of the British Empire. Britain is now more divided and isolated than ever in its history due to the lies and misinformation sold to English voters by the Tories, UKIP and the loony right-wing fringes of British society. After Scottish fishing having suffered huge losses since Brexit officially began this year, the next sector in the firing line is farming. For roughly six months of the year, farmers rely mostly on seasonal labourers coming to Britain mainly from other Eastern European countries to do the work that the local population don’t want. Some of the reasons being; having to work hard in the fields from 4am during summer months to low pay and zero-hour contracts.

Now that the UK has left the European Union it’s no wonder that many Europeans don’t feel welcomed anymore to come to this great nation! The irony was that the British people were sold misinformation about Europe and English nationalism was unleashed during the referendum in 2016 on voters been given the choice to Leave or Remain with no fact checking and downright lies told on national television and the print media day after day after day. Now that Brexit is done and the mask has come off, these very same politicians are still standing with no legal consequences for their action.

Numbers of seasonal workers from the EU have fallen drastically in the last two years and recruitment figures of one company in Kent show that they have fallen by almost 90% in the last two years alone. The impact of Brexit on the flow of workers has and is only getting worse with every passing month. At this rate many farming businesses will collapse and fold permanently with the knock-on effect being price rises of basic foods. With high unemployment on the cards once the furlough scheme is abolished, this country will face an existential crisis for the first time in its history, all of its own making. Director Stephen Taylor of Winterwood Farms Ltd, said that nearly 95% of all fruit and produce picked and packaged in the UK is done by eastern Europeans and from the end of June people who haven’t got pre-settled status, at least, can’t work! That’s a massive hole in recruitment which will not be filled by the locals, who many in England voted to leave, to get back control! Stephen Taylor referenced the UK’s unemployment rate, which stood at 4.8% of over-16s for the first three months of this year, but said it varies by region, and issues arose where British workers did not live-in reach of farms. The Tory government expanded its seasonal Agricultural Workers visa scheme from 10,000 visas issued in 2020 to 30,000 in 2021, at the same time looking to encourage farms to move to automation for a pioneering and efficient future! So, no local jobs created for local people, a promise to English voters to vote leave. This visa allows any EU migrants to work up to six months on a farm in the UK. Mr. Taylor also criticised the politization of the debate on seasonal workers coming to the UK

All Brexiteers should pull up their socks and go to the farms as your country needs you. Hard work it seems does not pay, a reality that the people of this country are waking up to lately.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 21st May 2021.

Scotland Should Ban Harmful Pesticides and Fertilisers Now!

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the use of Roundup, the glyphosate-based cancer-causing pesticide in the Scottish Borders.

It was refreshing to read the article on glyphosate by your reporter Hilary Scott in last week’s edition of the paper. When our social enterprise started building Scotland’s first organic training garden on school grounds, little did we know about the complexities of working with the local council. It was quite an eye opener and we realised how much control and no flexibility the councils hold over their local authority areas. But we found innovative ways to circumnavigate the bureaucratic rules that would have stifled our project and would have exposed primary school pupils to harmful chemicals and pesticides. Notice boards of various sizes were put up all across the project in order that council staff that came on their regular rounds avoided spraying anywhere close to the garden. I must acknowledge that frontline staff of the council were more receptive to the idea of keeping our organic garden safe for locals and pupils alike. The legacy of this project continues and more pupils and the community every year are benefitting from this amazing resource on their door step in Innerleithen.

So why did we insist on a no chemical rule to grow food. The reasons are many but to point out a few, one of the myths is that everything needs to be sprayed to enhance and make sure things grow, especially in Scotland where the weather is unpredictable. Scots have been growing multiple crops over hundreds of years with no oil-based fertilisers and pesticides and were actually quite healthy and strong. This also applies across the world. Secondly and this is the most important reason, corporations like Monsanto have been lobbying hard since the 50’s as part of the green revolution to use their products extensively for growing as it had major benefits and would also help farmers eradicate weeds and other pests in their fields. All very well you may say, but the widespread use of these pesticides over decades have not only resulted in the soil losing its nutrients due to over use of these very harmful chemicals but also did whole-scale damage to the ecosystem that crops relied on namely other wildlife that tackled pests in a natural way and helped the overall process of growing crops.

Using Permaculture principles in our organic garden, we worked with nature and not against it as most farming done today. The council argues that Roundup (glyphosate) is perfectly legal! So was DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and Asbestos for crying out loud.

The manufacturer of Roundup, Monsanto, which was acquired by the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer in 2018, is currently facing over 9,000 lawsuits across the US alone from plaintiffs who believe that their exposure to Roundup caused their cancer. Here is hoping the council and our elected councillors act quickly to move towards environmentally sustainable practices. The survival of our planet, environment and life is at stake and we need to act quickly to protect not only our country side but also the health and wellbeing of our children.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 21st May 2021.

Democracy Must Win in the Republic of Scotland

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s the undemocratic act of allegiance to her majesty the queen and her heirs and successors by elected MSP’s at the Scottish Parliament last week.

For anyone who understands the true meaning of democracy, many may have been confused to see the newly elected MSP’s swear an oath of allegiance to her majesty the queen and her successors! Why are we still doing this in 21st century Britain? Ultimately the royal family are above the law and not accountable like the rest of us peasants. They are protected by an ancient feudal system that not only looks after their financial needs but also cunningly incorporated their hold into the constitution over centuries. Not having a written constitution gives the monarchy, absolute authority over her subjects, even those that are elected democratically by its people. Unionists and traditionalists will argue that this is their culture, heritage and right, since it has been going on for centuries. That is exactly my point. Like most customs and traditions on these islands that have been done away with and some were adapted to suit modern sensibilities, this oath has to go, along with all the trappings of the monarchy’s interference in the democratic system. Not having a written constitution has benefitted only one family and that is the monarchy as you need so called experts to interpret the constitution who are in the payroll of the queen, as any support towards the monarchy guarantees you special privileges that we mere mortals can only dream of in this day and age.

An elected MSP cannot take his or her seat in the Scottish parliament until they take the oath or affirmation according to statute, which by the way are the same things. Any elected member who refuses is not allowed to take part in any parliamentary duties and lose their salaries and allowances until they do so. They are given two months to take the oath after being elected, after which they cease to be an MSP. If you still think we are living in a democracy then I have nothing else to add other than stop preaching to other countries as you are effectively supporting a glorified dictator in a different form, that still preys on the weak and poor of this country. Previously elected MSP’s have found innovative ways to get around this dilemma, for instance John Swinney in 2003 took the oath but said first: “On behalf of my colleagues can I confirm the prime loyalty of the Scottish National Party is to the people of Scotland, in the constitutional tradition of the sovereignty of the people.” Fellow socialist MSP Rosie Kane, had written “My oath is to the people” on the palm of her hand, which she held up as she took the affirmation. This year Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said he would like to reassert his party’s “allegiance lies with the people of Scotland who elected this parliament and who are sovereign, and we look forward to the day when they can choose their own elected head of state”.

Finally, Nicola Sturgeon made the following statement before swearing her affirmation to the queen: “The SNP pledges loyalty to the people of Scotland in line with the Scottish constitutional tradition in line with sovereignty of the people.” Well done! It’s time to take back our country and give Scotland’s people the parliament it truly deserves.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 21st May 2021.