Why Governments Must Act Now!

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

Recent climate protests proves a point our organisation has been making since it was founded in 2007! Climate change is real and is causing havoc around the planet and will have a massive impact on whether we survive as a species in the coming decades. The greed of Politicians and Corporations have done everything in their power to bring us to where we are today i.e. on the brink of extinction. We fully support all the children who skipped school to make their voices heard as this is the generation that will bear the brunt of the chaos and devastation that previous generations allowed to happen on their watch. The organisers of this march had four key demands;

  • The national curriculum should be reformed to include “the ecological crisis”
  • The government should declare a “climate emergency”
  • It should also inform the public about the seriousness of the situation
  • The age of voting should be lowered to 16 so younger people can be involved in decision-making around environmental issues.

This day of action was inspired by the Swedish 16 year old Greta Thunberg who started her climate change protest outside the Swedish parliament last year and encouraged students to walk out of schools to highlight the issue. Last year in May another group was founded and supported by Academics called Extinction Rebellion. This organisation is a socio-political movement which uses non-violent resistance to protest against climate breakdown, biodiversity loss, and the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse. During their latest protests in London which kick started on 15th April, Greta was one of the high profile protesters along with actress Emma Thompson and author Philip Pullman. Extinction Rebellion is urging the UK government to “tell the truth” and declare a climate and ecological emergency and wants the UK to reduce its greenhouse gases to net zero by 2025 and the creation of a Citizens Assembly to formulate and approve legislations and processes initiated in conjunction with government.

The UK government has said that greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 42% since the 90’s, a gross inaccurate figure as international aviation, shipping and imports are some of the categories not accounted for in the final calculation! A very creative carbon accounting methodology as Greta Thunberg commented. Every year countries that signed up to the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement, submit their overall emissions figures to the United Nations. That reporting is all done on a territorial basis, so they unfortunately exclude the above mentioned categories.

China is the major emitter of carbon gases in the world, but is it really? The West has literally transferred most of its manufacturing to China in the last 3 decades, hence brining down emissions in their own countries. Is it fair to then accuse China of being the Worlds largest polluter just because its communist style governance allows the West access to millions of slave labour and cheap goods with no rights whatsoever?

It’s time to change now.

View from Storriefit Mountain

This Easter, few families in Peebles and the Scottish Borders will be celebrating the festive spirit with plenty of food. But what about the many other families that are going hungry not only on Easter but every other day thanks to an ideology from a party that is known to despise the poor and working class citizens of this country? To make matters worse, the Tories are the ruling administration currently in power at Scottish Borders Council with support from Independent Councillors, whose only objective is to favour the rich at the expense of the poor. The Tories have set upon the poorest and the most vulnerable in our society, by massive cuts coming into force from April this year that will tip many families into abject poverty and debt.

So! Why am I upset and angry? iPad’s for all high school pupils in the Borders including P6 & P7’s in the coming years, followed by a ratio of one iPad for every five pupils to P1 – P5 pupils. This vanity project will cost taxpayers £15.7 million over a ten year period and the main beneficiaries are CGI, a corporation that has spread its tentacles across the world with branches in many countries and cities around the globe. A truly corporate beast in every sense of the word. My first question is why was Apple and CGI chosen and not Android systems as these are lot cheaper and more efficient and you are not tied to an Apple ecosystem. What happens when iPad’s are damaged, stolen or lost!

Secondly, many children are living in poverty with no access to good nutritious meals due to the impact of  benefit cuts and low wages in the Borders, so how can pupils learn on a hungry stomach? Pupils are also expected to charge their iPad’s at home before bringing them to school. This also shows the complete lack of knowledge and understanding by Councillors, that many pupils live in homes that have prepaid meters that are very expensive to run and disproportionately targets the most vulnerable in our society. So now along with having to choose between heating their homes and eating meals, parents will also have to decide whether they can afford to charge their child’s iPads!

An OECD report in 2015 concluded that investment in computers and iPads in schools does not improve numeracy and literacy skills. Is the current leader of the council Shona Haslam trying to emulate Marie Antoinette, the queen of France who famously said,  “Let them eat cake” upon learning that the peasants had no bread,” by distributing iPads to starving and hungry school children?

Food Poverty – The Tories Toxic Legacy of the 21st Century

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

 

Food poverty has reached crisis point in this country since the Conservatives won the elections in 2010. They abolished previous Labour policies that helped bring millions of children and families out of poverty. The Tories used the financial crash of 2008 to put the blame and target people claiming unemployment benefits and in-work benefits. Their ideology has decimated and created an environment that has pitted this group against the financially struggling working and middle classes of this country, while the real perpetrators of these economic crimes have been basking in wealth and glory. The gap between rich and poor has widened since the Tories took power.

Food poverty is a significant threat to health and well-being and is completely preventable in the fifth largest economy of the world! Due to the direct consequences of this policy, foodbanks have become the next big institution in this country, the first being the monarchy and the second – religion. While the Queen’s benefits and entitlements have increased according to inflation along with our mafia of elected members of Parliament, these very people have voted down any increases to benefits on the pretext that we have to live within our means!

What will it take for citizens of this great country to stand-up for the weak and vulnerable and spark a revolution to remove these archaic institutions that have no place in a modern democracy?

The Trussell Trust’s most recent figures on Scottish foodbank use, taken from April to September 2018, found a 15 per cent year-on-year increase which it linked directly to the rollout of Universal Credit. These figures are only the tip of the iceberg and they do not reflect the use of other types of emergency food aid provision or the scale of people going hungry without accessing any help at all. Scottish government figures last year which measured food insecurity for the first time revealed one in five of single parents in Scotland had gone hungry. We have been working with disadvantaged families in the Borders and Lothians for over five years and have seen first-hand the impact of benefit cuts and sanctions on low income groups. It was disheartening to see young children coming to school hungry and fainting due to lack of food in their homes. It’s upsetting to see this happening in this country in this day and age. Most people were quick to judge and condemn so-called benefit scroungers without understanding the implications on the innocent children who were the real victims in this Tory government class-motivated destruction.

I have to use strong words as the reality is what it is, and no amount of spin from our elected masters will change the devastation that has been caused, all because of an ideology!

The Brexit fiasco has made things worse for the common folk who have no means or access to financial support. Ultimately, foodbanks will be the Tories’ toxic legacy to Great Britain in the 21st Century just as Thatcher’s poll tax.

https://www.peeblesshirenews.com/opinion/17546829.opinion/

View from Storriefit Mountain

What is the definition of affordable homes? Or rather how much do they cost and what factors determine the price or rent of a home?

Politicians keep harping about building more affordable homes but during the last Scottish Borders local elections, I asked this question to wanna be councillors at the hustings in Peebles, none had an answer. When I spoke to government and council officials about how much a two-bedroom place would cost under ‘affordable homes’ in Peebles, the answers you got depended on where and who you were talking to i.e. their pay grade and socio-economic status.

Policies, whether local or national, favour the rich and the powerful and local communities are left to pick up the pieces of what remains of their lives. It now takes two to four weeks to get a GP’s appointment or the other alternative is to phone on the day and try to get an emergency appointment with any GP!

Banks and other lenders currently offer anything from 2.5 times to four times your gross salary for a mortgage with anywhere from 60 per cent to 100 per cent loan to value on a property.

It’s not rocket science once you make some very basic calculations. An individual on £75,000pa will define £250,000 as affordable but an individual on the minimum wage (over 25s) earning only £17,076.80pa would class £68,000 as affordable taking the four times lending criteria.

A couple on a combined salary of £34,153.60 would be able to access to £137,000, way short of what is actually the price of a home in Peebles. The figures just don’t add up. The Scottish Borders is the lowest wage area in Scotland and jobs opportunities are minimal especially for young people and families. I have done these calculations for the benefit of our elected representatives, so they know their figures and stop lying to the public.

We need more council and housing association homes in the area not more of Lego land at extortionate prices that only individuals on high salaries can afford, ultimately pricing out locals from the area. Plus no selling of properties as second homes.

The local rent set out by the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is £312 per month for one bedroom flat in Peebles. If you are renting through a housing association then the costs are very reasonable, but not with a private landlord. The current rents are anywhere from £450 upwards in an area like Peebles! Not so affordable after all.

Some of our own elected representatives think they are above us all and we are to be blamed for this sad state of affairs as we hand our trust to individuals who have their own agendas; be it party politics or own self-interest.

As anybody with a bit of common sense will tell you, more houses = more people = more cars = more strain on limited resources. It seems to me that our elected members don’t quite understand these issues.

https://www.peeblesshirenews.com/opinion/17497413.view-from-stooriefit-mountain/?ref=mr&lp=2

 

Vending Machines

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

This week Bosco Santimano, founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on vending machines.

Why are most fitness and leisure centres equipped with vending machines that give access to unhealthy foods and drinks to its users? What message are we sending out to the wider public? That it’s ok to keep fit while at the same time consume junk food and sugary drinks when you are finished with your exercise regime?

LIVE Borders runs the leisure centres in the Scottish Borders. The swimming pool and the Gytes leisure centre currently have three types of vending machines on site: Hot drinks i.e. tea/coffees; soft drinks/energy drinks and crisp/chocolate bars. On one hand the Scottish government is trying to bring in policies and legislation to combat the rise of obesity in Scotland while on the other hand it’s business as usual.

These machines are also found in our schools and hospitals! Over £550,000 was raised through sale of snacks and fizzy drinks alone in Scottish hospitals. There has been calls from health experts to ban these items and switch to healthier options.

The NHS is meant to cure you and make you feel better not turn you into a fast food junkie!

In 2005 the British Medical Association (BMA) called for urgent action to tackle the UK’s child obesity epidemic. Doctors urged the UK government to ban school vending machines that sell unhealthy fizzy drinks and snacks and introduce mandatory nutrition guidelines for all school meals. The cost of obesity-related illness and poor diet to the NHS is about £2bn a year and rising! These are figures from 2005! They have almost tripled now with no government regulation in place to stop manufactures from adding excess sugar and salt in all our foods and drinks and promoting and marketing their products on impressionable minds. Children and young people that use these facilities are constantly exposed to these vending machines that are playing a major part in developing a life-long addiction to sugar and salt.

Discipline and organising your meals go a long way in helping stop the cravings and the urges for fast foods. These items contain a lot of chemicals (E numbers) to give you a boost after a workout or swim but in the long term have a detrimental effect on your mind and body. When you consume fast foods and fizzy drinks on a regular basis, your brain does not function effectively as studies have proved time and again. Some studies showed that people do badly on cognitive tests compared to those eating healthy foods. You gain more weight and are prone to developing diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure eg. eating fast food for five days disrupts your muscles from oxidising glucose.

On a final note, there are healthy vending machines available that can be installed after the current vending machine contracts with private companies expire.

One easy solution that is free and we all need it is sleep. Whatever you do, don’t under-estimate the power of a good night’s sleep to stay healthy and keep your waistline slim.

https://www.peeblesshirenews.com/opinion/17466751.opinion-bosco-santimano/

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.

https://www.peeblesshirenews.com/opinion/17438762.view-from-stooriefit-mountain/

 

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.

https://www.peeblesshirenews.com/opinion/17405637.opinion-bosco-santimano/

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 Universal Credit.

So what have the Tories given us since being in government from 2010? A lot really! This column will not be able to focus on all the “good things” they have done since, but I will focus on one flagship policy that has brought the citizens of this country on its knees – Universal Credit!

Below is a brief history about this policy bought to us by Lucifer himself in the guise of a Tory.

In 2002 Ian Duncan Smith claimed he had an epiphany while visiting Easterhouse, a council estate in Glasgow, for his think tank the Centre for Social Justice which was set up to find solutions to poverty in Britain.

He established a working group called the Economic Dependency Working Group which went on to produce the document called Dynamic Benefits in 2009.

This was the start of a war on the poor, disadvantaged, disabled and working classes of this country. IDS as he is known to his supporters, believed that places like Easterhouse were deprived and poor because of social problems and poverty and also mainly due to making bad choices!

He failed to understand the crux of poverty and the vicious cycle that people can suddenly find themselves in due to circumstances always beyond their control. The group then went on to prove that people on benefits were getting trapped perpetually with no escape into work or to improve their life choices.

IDS and his supporters went on the claim that people on benefits were scroungers, lazy and feeding off tax payers. I have claimed benefits myself and I am grateful for a system that allows citizens not to fall in poverty or become homeless and provides a safety net as envisioned by its founders.

Of course some people take the mickey out of the system but so do politicians, corporations, bureaucrats, accountants, lawyers, etc.. We lose £billions due to tax avoidance schemes by wealthy individuals and companies not paying their fair share – plus elected politicians get to vote on their pay rises even though they vote for cuts in the welfare budgets!

That brings us to foodbanks! An abomination, where elected representatives have wilfully decided to commit genocide on the most vulnerable members of society. Yes! I am using the word ‘genocide’ as that is what it has become with suicide rates increasing year on year since 2010 while our very own MP David Mundell is sitting on a budget of millions to protect the Union and the establishment and of course his very lucrative salary and perks. The UK is one of the G7 countries, really! The rich have got richer and the poor are made to fight among themselves for scraps just like the hunger games. Divide and rule, the classic British policy is now being used on its own citizens for keeping the status quo.

2019 will be the year when hopefully the people will rise against this corrupt system.

Remember! We are many while they are a few.

https://www.peeblesshirenews.com/opinion/17371701.view-from-stooriefit-mountain/

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, once again, it’s Brexit.

The Brexit saga continues. I have received lots of comments about my previous column on Brexit and people wanting to know more. So here I go again, hopefully clarifying some points on Brexit and the legal position.

I don’t support a People’s Vote, as this will not resolve the underlying issues with our type of democracy. Let me explain: politicians from the Leave side, lied through their teeth during the campaign eg. £350 million a week for the NHS! Like many of us in work or directors of companies and charities, if we lie, we can lose our jobs and in many cases be committing a criminal offence and be sent to prison.

But this is not the case with our parliamentary system, as politicians can lie repeatedly and are not held liable for the damage and chaos their actions and words cost their constituents and the country.

For starters, nobody knew about the massive problems that the issue with Northern Ireland and Ireland would cause as this was not discussed and debated during the referendum campaign. This shows the blatant disrespect and arrogance of British politicians from the Leave side including the Conservatives and Unionist party. They will lie to keep the union together just like they did in the Scottish referendum.

Once we pass legislation making lying a criminal offence before, during and after serving office, then only I am open to having second referendums, otherwise it’s a waste of time and tax payers’ money.

Take our very own MP David Mundell, he has gone back on his promises so many times that you just lose the will to live. How can you get people involved in politics when all they see is politicians squabbling and lying to score political points over their opponents?

What’s happened so far in the Brexit process is that Theresa May’s EU deal was going to keep us in the EU for all eternity through the Irish backstop but without any say in Europe! Her colleagues claimed on television that the vote would go ahead and it did not! Plus she survived a no confidence motion by her backbenchers and is shamelessly hanging on to power with all her might.

What are the prospects next year for Brexit and where does it leave us the people? One, we have a people’s vote to give the electorate, including groups like the European nationals and under 18s the vote this time around, or parliament rejects her EU deal and Labour calls for a no confidence motion against the government and Theresa May loses the vote. A general election is called or allow the unification of Ireland, so that the backstop/border issue will cease to exist!

The sensible option is to revoke article 50 as per ruling of the European Court of Justice two weeks ago and cancel the whole Brexit process since it was based on a lie!

Is this our final Christmas with our European friends and family?

https://www.peeblesshirenews.com/opinion/17316176.view-from-stooriefit-mountain/

Can Scotland become a 100% Organic Country?

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

This week Bosco Santimano, founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on organic farming.

Most of us are already conditioned into believing the so called ‘magic’ of science. That science has or will find solutions to all our manmade problems. The issue with this approach has always been that, experiments carried out in controlled environments like laboratories and then replicated in nature have always been unexpected and sometimes catastrophic.

These scientific methods involved limited assessments and tests and mainly conducted for profit by ‘Big Pharma’!

Having covered Making Scotland GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) Free in my previous column; I will focus on our next vision, which is to make Scotland a 100 per cent organic country.

The green revolution introduced in the 1960s, sprayed fertilisers and pesticides on farm land all over the planet to increase crop yields. This in turn led to many forests being cut down to grow what was then called ‘cash crops’ and small-scale farming was replaced by industrial farming on a massive scale supported by government subsidies.

Big corporations acquired land across the globe, food was added as a commodity to be traded for profits on the stock market and this in turn has led to inequalities in health and access to food especially in developing and third world countries.

The unforeseen impact of chemicals for growing over the last few decades, has led to the fall of nutrients in the soil, as this was being depleted by over use and irregular crop rotation. Profits were maximised and are even today. For example, soya beans are now grown in many countries as cattle feed for the West! This then leaves no arable land for the local population to grow food leading to widespread hunger and impoverished conditions.

We need to go back to our roots and grow food at local levels on a small scale and bring back farming as a lucrative job for people to invest their time and energies. This will be a sustainable long-term approach and remove the need for farming subsidies that are the biggest scandal of our times as most go to big landowners in this country. Can you imagine governments are currently paying farmers in some cases not to grow?

Organic farming will not only bring back the health of the soil but also stop corporations making money through selling chemicals and hybrid seeds. This will have a positive impact on the lives of all people as ‘organic produce’ will no longer be the domain of the rich and middle class who can afford to feed themselves and their children with good food. This choice should be available to all.

So! What’s happening globally where organic farming is concerned? Denmark is on its way to becoming the world’s first 100 per cent organic country, followed by Bhutan and Estonia. India has the North-eastern state of Sikkim designated as the first fully organic state anywhere in the world and was awarded the UN ‘Oscar for the Best Policy’ that is inclusive and comprehensive of all socioeconomic aspects.

Can Scotland be 100 per cent organic? Yes! It can.