View from Stooriefit Mountain


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 plastic

Plastics: The bane of modern society that is killing marine life and damaging the environment. Many of you are probably aware that plastics is a derivative of oil, that black gold, which seems to have driven human progress towards extinction!

Scotland introduced the 5p single use plastic bag surcharge in October 2014, after Wales in 2011 and Northern Ireland in 2013. England followed suit in 2015. Legislation proves the point that these measures work, as over 80 per cent of these single use plastic bags were no longer handed free to the general public – the equivalent of 650 million carriers – in the first year of Scotland’s 5p charge! The charge for single-use carriers also raised about £6.7 million for good causes in the first year alone.

Scottish government research concluded a net saving of more than 4,000 tonnes of plastic and other materials each year. The net carbon saving is more than 2,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually. The charge applies to all single-use bags, including those made of: paper, plastic and some plant-based materials. Plans are under way to increase the 5p charge to 10p. Will this help in reducing our use of these items? Or is there a better way to deal with this crisis head-on and take radical steps now?

On my recent visit to India I was surprised to be informed that single use carrier bags have been banned by the state government in Mumbai! Local governments in more than half of India’s 29 states and seven territories are drafting legislation to ban single-use plastic bags. Government officials are also working to reduce the manufacturing of plastic by shutting down factories and preventing the import of plastic products. At the United Nations’ World Environment Day last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced its intention to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022.

So what can we learn from other countries that are doing much more than us in Scotland? We need cross party support which includes the Conservatives and Labour to join the Greens and SNP in passing legislation in rolling out a complete ban of these items. What also needs to be looked at is the packaging industry that is responsible for five times that amount. We need to push supermarkets and big retailers to stop packaging food and other items in plastics that are often not recyclable and end up in land fill or worse shipped abroad to countries that have lax environmental laws. Local organisations in Peebles that claim to work for the environment should be more rigorous in lobbying their elected councillors and local authority in introducing similar laws in the Borders and reaching out to all of the community rather than preaching to the converted few every time. A joint collaboration is the only way for things to work and be effective in the long term, anything else is just tinkering on the edges with no real impact.

Hope we can take radical steps to solve this problem before it’s too late.


Will Brexit cause food chaos?

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

This week Bosco Santimano, founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the threat of food shortages.

If you have been following the Brexit saga, you may have noticed a lot of fear mongering and scare stories about the supply and availability of fresh food after the March 29 deadline, following a no deal option.

How true are these statements? Will EU flights be cancelled? Will cross border computer systems stop working? Is the government secretly stockpiling essentials including medicines? Remember the millennium bug that was supposed to happen in the year 2000 and IT consultants and companies made a fortune by creating this scare in public and ignorant government ministers fell for it while pumping millions of taxpayers’ money to increase the profits of these companies! Nobody to date has been held accountable for what was basically a world-wide scam.

So! Coming back to food and Brexit. What’s the real situation on the ground and how likely it is for this scenario to happen? Let’s look at some basic figures and facts before we jump to any conclusions. More than half of this island’s food and feed for cattle comes from abroad, a fact that is disastrous for any country to depend on imports for feeding its population. In the first half of 2018 the UK imported £23bn worth of food! This data was collected from HM Revenue & Customs and broken down into countries and categories. £5bn of meat on British shelves comes from overseas including chicken, with Netherlands 43 per cent, Poland 17 per cent, and Ireland exporting 10 per cent to the UK. Britain also imported £425m worth of beef from Ireland and £171m worth of pork from Denmark.

During this period the UK imported over £5.4bn worth of fruits and vegetables with Spain being the largest exporter to the UK. This report has exposed the lies perpetuated by the Leave campaign that this tiny island can go back to its glory days of Queen and Empire! I do not wish to bore readers anymore with statistics but would rather focus on the human costs of this elitist misadventure.

At You Can Cook we focused our energies and expertise on empowering communities across Scotland to be self-reliant in producing its own food locally by providing support to set up cooking and growing projects that would impart skills and knowledge on what to grow and cook in Scotland. One way of cutting our dependency on exotic vegetables and fruits is by only buying local and eating seasonal fresh produce. This is not only cheaper and easily available but also healthy in the long run. The economics of scale is heavily pitted against small scale farming as governments look to always favour big corporations to supply the population with its food requirements.

Will there be an acute food shortage? There is one simple answer: No! There is too much at stake for the establishment to allow chaos to follow our exit from the EU without a deal. So relax and enjoy some fresh Scottish produce as we learn to grow and eat what’s available on this island.