Priti Patel’s Evil Legislation Passes House of Commons Vote

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 Nationality and Borders Bill.

The Nationality and Borders Bill – which is a series of regulations spearheaded by Home Secretary Priti Patel has cleared the House of Commons in December 2021. MPs gave the immigration legislation a third reading by 298 votes to 231, meaning it passed to the House of Lords with a majority of 67. At a local level, our own Tory MP David Mundell voted with the government for this bill. The Bill forms part of the UK Government’s plans for a new immigration system.

The government has assured its supporters that this bill will fix the UK’s broken asylum system! According to analysis by the New Statesman, clause nine of the bill could impact up to six million people in Britain – with the majority being ethnic minorities such as those from Black, Asian or Eastern European backgrounds. Clause 9 in the new bill exempts the government from giving notice if it is not “reasonably practicable” to do so, or in the interests of national security, diplomatic relations or is otherwise in the public interest. Under Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill, the government no longer has to give notice of decision to deprive a person of citizenship if is not “reasonably practicable”. Under international law, everyone has the right to a nationality so people cannot be left stateless. An amendment was tabled by 20 MPs, who sought to scrap the plans in the bill to send people to another country while their asylum claims are processed. The Home Office floated proposals to place asylum seekers offshore in Gibraltar, the Scottish islands and Albania – but all these countries responded with anger and stated that they have no plans to agree to such an arrangement.

A report titled “An inspection of asylum casework” submitted last year by Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Neal tore into Home Secretary Priti Patel’s arguments that appeals to asylum decisions are “a complete merry-go-round and it has been exploited” by immigration lawyers. Alasdair Mackenzie, a barrister who specialises in asylum appeals added that the report “entirely undermines the secretary’s position that the way to deal with the problems in the system is more legislation. What is needed is actually better administration of the system that you’ve got.”
So, what really is all the fuss about? After all its just another major piece of legislation being pushed through parliament by the majority Tory government at Westminster. Covid-19, high unemployment, inflation, health and other issues are being used as a distraction to push thru this bill that will have long-term impact on non-white British citizens.

Terrorism, the refugee and asylum crisis will be used to target individuals that speak out against the government or British state or may be involved overseas in fighting against any injustice that may be construed by the home secretary as being anti British. In this case damaging economic interests of British companies overseas and in conflict hotspots around the world. Four barristers led by the human rights QC Raza Husain claim that the nationality and borders bill, will lead to challenges under international human rights and refugee treaties. Following 95 pages of legal opinion commissioned by the human rights group Freedom From Torture, they conclude: “This bill represents the biggest legal assault on international refugee law ever seen in the UK.

In conclusion this bill if passed will provide any future government/home secretary to decide who is a threat to the UK with no appeals process and the loss of their citizenship. Having acquired my citizenship through all the proper channels, I may now face deportation and the revoking of my citizenship if my columns and social activism upsets local Tories and Unionists. Until that day comes let’s enjoy what little freedoms we all have.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 21st January 2022

Covid-19: The Saga continues…

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 once again it’s Covid.

It seems we are in a time warp and no matter what we do, can’t seem to get out of the vicious cycle humanity has found itself trapped in due to Covid-19. By the time this goes to print, Scotland and the rest of the UK will be bringing in new restrictions to stop and prevent the spread of the new covid variant, “Omicron”. I have been closely following the journey of the virus since it was first discovered in Wuhan, China in 2019. Below are some of my thoughts on why we are still struggling to bring the virus under control and what has gone wrong so far and why does it seem governments across the globe have not learnt from their mistakes.

We now know the facts and origins of the virus and how China kept things under wraps for a few months until a whistle-blower from a hospital in Wuhan revealed online the scale of the infections and death in the city in late 2019. China’s political system and the world turning a bind eye to the happenings in a communist state, all contributed to the spread of this deadly virus around the globe in a matter of weeks, thus causing utter misery, chaos and death to millions of citizens. Many have lost loved ones and all this death could have been avoided if strict measures were put in place by governments across the world; instead, they ran scared of offending China; the worlds biggest manufacturer of goods and the second largest economy after the US.

Once again, we are back to square one with possible lockdown and restrictions coming back with a vengeance. It took Boris Johnson until 23rd March 2020 to impose lockdown in all four nations of the UK. Unfortunately, as we now know, it was too late for many who lost their lives due to the pandemic and the careless attitude of Westminster covid rules and regulations that applied to the general public. Vaccine politics is being used as a weapon of choice by the rich western countries to charge exorbitant prices for life saving vaccines that the majority of the developing and third world countries cannot afford. Intellectual property rights have yet to be rescinded by western pharmaceutical companies in order that poorer countries can start production of these vital vaccines for their population. Global trade and travel were back to normal only a few months ago with no plan or exit strategy in place to avoid the spread of new variants like Omicron. The use of vaccines as a strategy to combat these new variants are falling way short of actually being effective to stop the spread of this virus. As of April 13, 2021, the United Kingdom government had ordered 457 million doses of various COVID-19 vaccines.

What should we do now? For vaccine’s to be effective, at least 70% of the population have to be vaccinated with all the 3 recommended doses. Secondly, the UK, especially England was allowed to remove restrictions like face coverings in public places including transport and indoors, while Scotland and Wales stuck with the measures to reduce infection rates. This was not going to work as the biggest population country (England) would have a negative impact on the UK. Unnecessary foreign travel, including holidays should have been restricted to stop the export or import of new variants of Covid-19.

Finally, the rich have to provide vaccines to the poor, if not, we will be constantly going around in circles as we also live in a very globalised world. Here is hoping it’s not too late again and that we don’t lose more loved ones to the virus.

Keep safe and have a good Christmas and a happy new year 2022!

 

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 17th December 2021

COP26 Glasgow – A summary of the event

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on what happened at the COP26 in Glasgow and the repercussions for humanity going forward.

COP26 is now over and analysts are shifting through the small print of the documents that world leaders signed to help tackle climate change. The devil is in the details as they say. Apart from the big economies like Russia, China and Brazil, Turkey’s leader did not attend too due to a protocol issue involving his delegation in Glasgow. The presence of heads of state and government at the talks is not just symbolic. Real work gets done among leaders that cannot happen among lower-level diplomats. So, was COP26 worth it? Below are some of my observations on the outcome of the event.

It was decided unanimously to keep the global temperature to 1.5 degrees of global heating. Plus, it was also decided to get the biggest polluters to the table next year to agree to commit to cut their carbon emissions. This may seem to be delaying tactics by the biggest polluters but in actual practice it makes a lot of sense as there is no magic on/off switch to reduce carbon emissions overnight. A lot of planning will be required to have a smooth transition for a move to renewable energy as only a few countries are equipped for this change to their economy while the majority who are categorised as developing or third world will have to wait and see if the rich countries help support them via making funds available to move to a greener economy. Another big achievement was to phase out coal and replace petrol and diesel vehicles to electric. This alone will take developed countries like the UK a minimum of 10 years to put in place all the equipment and resources across the length and breadth of the country in order to meet its own targets.

Another big winner was a decision to phase out coal completely as an energy source. This was always going to be an issue as many poorer and developing countries like India still rely on coal as a source of heating and cooking. PM Modi of India has categorically said that coal would be phased out and emissions cut to net zero by 2070! By doing so he will be missing out on a key goal set at COP26 for countries to reach the target by 2050. The US, EU and China have all pledged plans to be carbon neutral by 2050. India is the world’s fourth biggest polluter of carbon dioxide after the above three. The UK is included in the EU figures and the data is from 2019.

One of the main groups missing at COP26 were indigenous communities from South America, Africa, Asia and smaller island nations from across the world. According to some sources indigenous people have preserved more than 80% of the remaining biodiversity left on this fragile planet. Reducing methane and deforestation by 2030 are the other two main goals that were signed off by all the attendees at the COP26. Unfortunately, the caveat being all this is voluntary for countries to make their own decisions. Over a decade ago the rich nations promised poorer countries over $100 billion by 2020! No money has been allocated so far and this was a major issue at the summit as many felt that no serious effort has been made apart from promising money every time at events like these by the rich nations, including the UK.

What happens next and what can we do as citizens of the world. Keep applying pressure on your local and national elected representatives and make sure to expose the nexus between politicians, corporations and donors who are the main financial beneficiaries every time a green proposal or project is rejected.

Finally! Wishing all readers, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2022!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 3rd December 2021

Conservative & Unionist Sleaze and Corruption Continues

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 once again it’s Tory sleaze and corruption.

What a roller coaster of a few weeks with sleaze and corruption back on the agenda thanks to the current ruling administration at Westminster. Our very own Tory MP David Mundell voted in the house of commons to protect his corrupt fellow MP Owen Paterson from being suspended. What the Tory party tried to do was not only defend the indefensible but use their majority to bring forward legislation that would allow Owen Paterson to go scot-free and avoid the 30-day suspension handed to him by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and Independent body setup to regulate MP’s conduct and behaviour along with overseeing the Register of Members Financial Interests.
Ex-Environment Secretary Owen Paterson had been facing a 30-day suspension from the Commons after the Standards Committee found he repeatedly used his position as an MP to promote two companies that paid him a combined £112,000 a year. MPs voted on November 3rd on an amendment tabled by Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom. The amendment blocked Owen Paterson’s recommended 30-day suspension from the House of Commons for ‘egregious’ rule breaches. It agreed to instead set up a committee reviewing the Commons standards procedure after Mr Paterson – who denied wrongdoing – branded the process flawed. This was a lie as Owen was given the opportunity to defend himself throughout the process. Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg then decided to undermine our democracy by trying to hijack our parliament once again! Even the right-wing press were appalled and finally took a stand.

What this incident has done is highlighted the ‘second job’ scam run by Tory MP’s that have been using parliamentary access, resources and privileges to make millions for themselves and their family, donors and friends. I have systematically highlighted this in my previous columns. MP Geoffrey Cox was working from a tax haven while working for the government of the British Virgin Islands! Sir Geoffrey has earned more than £5m in his second job since becoming an MP while working part-time for his constituency! The same applies to another Tory MP Natalie Elphicke who once suggested that Marcus Rashford the footballer should stick to his day job while it was revealed that she earns £36,000 as chair of the New Homes Quality Board, an independent watchdog for new-build houses.

It seems nobody really cares, at least here in our own constituency. Like Thatcher in the 80’s, Boris has slammed the final nail in the coffin of the Conservative & Unionist party in the UK. It’s time to get rid of them locally too and make Scotland an Independent nation where we can finally have our own written constitution and laws that will help our new country be equal, prosperous and fair to all.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 26th November 2021

Universal Credit – A Conservative & Unionist Policy to Eradicate the Working Poor!

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 toxic Universal Credit system which is disproportionately affecting the disabled, working poor and low-income families.

A very long time ago I had written about the shambles that would be Universal Credit, a policy introduced by Tory MP Ian Duncan Smith to make poverty disappear and work pay. All very good, since he had this epiphany while touring Easterhouse a council estate in Glasgow in 2002. This tour was carried out for his Think Tank Centre for Social Justice which was set up to find solutions to poverty in modern Britain.

Public memory is short-lived and our MPs know this, as even though they are responsible for the worst atrocities (benefit cuts) committed during peacetime on the British public, the Tories have managed to consolidate their power and even influence the working class to vote for them in the last general elections by blaming the ‘other’, in this case European citizens living and working in the UK. Brexit and Covid have decimated the livelihoods of millions of citizens and their families with many losing their jobs overnight and many having to resort to food banks to make ends meet and provide food for their children. The £20 top-up that was provided to every single claimant of universal credit last year has now been withdrawn, leaving many to fall back on food banks, loan sharks and if living in private rented accommodation at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords who are waiting to evict tenants who cannot pay their rent. I have said this before, in principle I do agree with the concept of Universal Credit as it was designed to incorporate six benefits into one. But in practice it was a disaster as the founders of this system; The Centre for Social Justice, were clueless about the complexities of the previous benefit system. There is still no evidence that Universal Credit is getting people into work compared to the previous system by the Labour government in 1999, while the costs of implementing it has risen to over £1.4 billion.

The National Audit Office said that the controversial five week wait for a first universal credit payment continued to exacerbate many claimants’ debt problems and push them into hardship. Vulnerable claimants – including those with physical, mental or learning disabilities, people with few digital skills, or with chaotic lives – were more likely to struggle with their claim, the NAO said, with the complicated process of moving onto the benefit causing payment delays and financial problems for these claimants.

On a final note, the £20 top-up was actually what amount claimants would have been receiving today if taking inflation into account and had the Tories not cut the benefit amount and thresholds of Housing, Working Tax and Child Tax Credits. The rich have got richer and the poor are made to fight among themselves. Divide and rule, the classic British policy is now being used on its own citizens for keeping the status quo.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 8th October 2021

 

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.

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.

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.

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.