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.
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.
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.
This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on political parties who have campaigned on green issues for the recent Scottish elections.
By tomorrow we will know what path Scotland has chosen. It’s been a very subdued campaigning for the just concluded Scottish parliament elections. Due to Covid restrictions; debates, hustings and door to door campaigning was limited. A blessing in disguise for many of us who had to put up with cold calling on our door steps. This one year has been difficult for all of us in terms of our physical, mental and financial health. Job losses in millions and the benefit system that was supposed to be a safety net, proven to be wholly inadequate and demeaning for those that wanted to apply for financial support. Food prices going through the roof with many staple foods rising by more than 30 percent, and nearly 3 million food parcels handed out to British citizens in March-April 2021 alone!
This on top of the Brexit related chaos and incompetence by the Westminster government and you can see why the majority of people in Scotland are struggling to put food on the table while accumulating debts to pay their bills. In this backdrop we have a global climate catastrophe enfolding before our eyes and the impact of our inaction since the industrial revolution playing havoc with our children’s and future generations dreams.
Having spent the last few weeks scrutinising the green policies of all political parties, we as an organisation are still waiting for bold economic policies that will not only save the environment but also provide financial security in terms of jobs, skills and a humane benefit system for all, especially young people who are facing a dire and bleak future. This lack of manifesto vision may be due to the 5-year election cycle where the political parties focus on short term policies that give immediate results within the term of the parliament, undermining long term goals and objectives and well-being as a society. All the major parties are offering some form of policy to fight climate change but none going far enough.
We have to be thankful in Scotland that since the SNP came to power in 2007, they have been kept in check by the Greens who have supported a minority SNP government in two out of three election victories by supporting them in exchange for a push towards a greener Scotland. Having been involved at various policy level meetings and committees as a grass-root organisation within the framework of the Scottish parliament we have seen significant changes that are now beginning to bear influence and traction among the electorate and the wider economy.
Clean air, good nutritious food, healthy work-life balance and overall good mental health should be the focus going forward as a nation. Here is hoping that whoever wins this election will work towards attaining our climate and environmental goals and keep Scotland green.
Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 7th May 2021.
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 an opportunity for Scotland to take back full control over its borders, currency, parliament and become an Independent republic.
Scottish voters in the coming elections need to take that leap of faith to finally dissolve both Acts of Union: The Union with Scotland Act 1706 passed by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland. To set the record straight from the onset, the last independence referendum in 2014 was held with the approval of both parliaments in Edinburgh and London and was only granted by David Cameron due to the SNP winning an outright majority in 2011, an impossible feat, since proportional representation was the voting system used as a tool by Unionist to make sure no single political party got a majority in any Scottish Parliament elections. How they were proven wrong by the canny Scots who found a way to undermine what many democrats would consider an unfair system since this is not applicable to Westminster elections which uses first past the post. The hypocrisy of the elite who want to keep Scotland in their control forever, or at least till they extract every resource currently available eg. North Sea oil, is getting more desperate. Unionist trolls along with the elitist controlled media have gone in hyperdrive by spreading a false narrative and misinformation about the dangers of Independence. For the record the Scottish Parliament is not sovereign as many citizens think it is, as under Devolution this parliament can be shut down by a simple majority at Westminster.
Our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon did a fantastic job during the Covid-19 crisis even though her government had one hand tied behind their backs. The continuous scandal of sleaze, nepotism, corruption and utter incompetence of the Tory government has once again given hope to Scottish voters to think and use their vote wisely for a better Scotland or allow England to continue stealing its resources while citizens have been worse off since Tory rule from 2010. Let’s not forget Brexit, where the Tories allowed English nationalists to hold a referendum on becoming free from Europe. The SNP and the Greens have been a dynamic force for good in our communities with ground breaking policies and legislations to safeguard Scotland’s environment, people and health. They have got a few things wrong but their track record otherwise in government has been excellent. Labour recently supported not only the renewal of Trident nuclear warheads but also agreed to increase these missiles at a time when the pandemic has destroyed jobs, opportunities for young people and contributed to the biggest mental health crisis this country has ever seen. We cannot trust the Lib-Dems either as we saw what a little bit of power did to their conscience and ended up selling their soul to the Tory party in exchange for perks and membership to the House of Lords.
Locally our greedy, unethical Leader of the Council, Shona Haslam is also standing for elections again, after failing miserably in her last attempt to win a seat as an MP. These individuals are career driven and selfish who do not care about the common man/women on the streets but will bend backwards only to support their voters or donors and to keep the status quo. Time to boot out the corrupt Westminster institutions and the Monarchy once and for all and make Scotland an Independent nation with a constitution that protects the rights and dignity of all its citizens and not just a privileged few.
Do remember that more than a hundred countries took back their freedoms from colonial Great Britain to become independent in the last century with their own currencies, constitution and laws. It’s time for Scotland to get rid of its colonial yoke and move towards creating an equal and fairer society for all.
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 racism in the United Kingdoms sacred institution; The Monarchy!
They say power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely! The Monarchy is the perfect example of the utter control, riches and influence they exercise on daily life in this country. Both political and religious since the Queen is also the Head of the Church of England. This institution is responsible for committing genocide across the globe in its pursuit of wealth and power by colonising so called lesser and primitive humans from around the world. This brainwashing of its citizens through religion (Head of the Church of England) and Queen (Parliament) allows even to this day to hold sway over all matters; even economic and cultural in this part of the world. So why are we surprised about the racism allegations made by an American woman who incidentally happens to be “Black”.
We are often told by our elected MPs at Westminster that we live in a democracy and that Britain has been at the forefront in spreading this ideology around the world. No, it has not! What it effectively did was dismantle societal structures wherever they went and imposed rules and laws that fully supported the Kings or Queens of Great Britain! The Monarchy used racial and religious divides in the former colonies to formant unrest while they slowly built the infrastructures to steal natural resources for the benefit of the Monarchy and its extended family. Recent poll after the interview by Harry and Meghan on the Oprah Show clearly shows the divide between the older generations who have been conditioned to blindly follow and support the Monarchy at any cost and the younger generation that is able to see the huge inequality in wealth, economic opportunity and protection from its elected parliament. It was frankly quite amusing to see well educated people come out in support of the monarchy and the Queen while at the same time using their platforms to humiliate, ridicule and downright abuse Meghan for daring to speak out against the abuses she suffered especially as a black woman. We need a republic just like the one the establishment imposed on other nations they colonised. No more worshiping the Queen as God and all the trappings of the Monarchy should be removed once and for all while at the same times exposing the main beneficiaries of the Monarchy and its archaic structures that stifle democratic values which this country has actually never experienced. Even during the heydays of empire most citizens were living in squalor and abject poverty as the money and wealth looted from former colonies was not distributed to the people living in this country.
We in Scotland have another chance to vote for Independence and hopefully we don’t fall for the fear-mongering tactics that were applied during the last one in 2014. We as Scots need to stand up and take our country back from racist and bigoted institutions and make a society that is equal, fair and opportunities are available for all. Above all we should also have a written constitution free from any entitlement to any one family.
Currently no one can become the Queen or King apart from if you were born within the bloodline of the royal family. That’s not equal rights and opportunities, but of course, you can definitely become the Beltane Queen!
Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 26th March 2021.
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 Trump’s acquittal and the long-term impact it will have on Democracy around the world and on the divisions within the US of A.
After the appalling sight of violence and armed white protestors storming the Capitol building in Washington DC on the 6th of January this year; egged on by outgoing President Donald Trump, many Americans and global citizens assumed, wrongly of course, that this insurrection would be the reason for Trump’s impeachment. Democrats finally decided to act in order to impeach Donald Trump again, since they control both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It was classic American television, a reality show that everyone knew would end in the acquittal of Donald Trump. The West now has lost all moral authority over any claims of fairness, rule of law applied to everyone equally and of course democracy which no longer seems to exist!
Notably two things stood out in this farce of what is called American or Western democracy; the first one is the rich and the powerful always get away scot-free unlike the rest of us. Trumps acquittal will be short lived and very harmful to the US in the long run. Boris Johnson insisted that US democracy remains strong even with the acquittal of Trump, I guess as a privileged former Etonian he knows that he and his mates will always get away no matter the destruction and chaos they cause while in office.
The second fact that stands out is the blindingly obvious “white privilege’ fully on display on our television screens as proof that two sets of laws govern this great country, one for whites and the other for non-whites. Up to this point in American history any black protests was met with violent crackdown by the Police and the judiciary and many innocent black lives were lost or incarcerated. The QAnon white Shaman who became the poster boy of the violent protests was ordered by a Federal Judge to be served organic food for his religious and health beliefs while in a D.C. Correctional facility! After this incident I hope my white brothers and sisters in America and the UK have learned first-hand the meaning of white privilege and why the “Black Lives Matter” movement has gained momentum among young voters irrespective of colour, class or creed. It was so blatant and obvious to see the white controlled machinery allow protestors access to the Capitol building without any reinforcements and backup in place. White mobs were looking to lynch all Democrats and any Republicans that stood in their way of stopping a stolen election! Secularism in the West is losing the battle to right wing groups, social media and politicians. Trump was allowed to get away with murder since he began campaigning for his presidency in 2015, by using racist language and demeaning whole groups of people and countries. This behaviour only accelerated while in office, so why are we pretending to be surprised by the insurrection on 6th January 2021?
Hitler sowed the seeds of hatred against the Jews and minorities long before the Nazis embarked on the mission to exterminate them all by slowly brainwashing the German people. This is exactly what is happening in the US and UK with Brexit! Politicians should be held accountable by law and lies should carry a prison sentence just like the rest of us, it’s that simple. All media outlets should be held to a higher standard and we should bring back the glory days of investigative journalism where the rich and the powerful were held to account.
So where does that leave us as citizens in our fragile democracies? What happens next?
Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 21st February 2021.
This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the scandalous state of affairs of companies linked to Tories providing free school meals to pupils in England.
Brexit has finally happened and citizens of the UK are slowly waking up to the reality of the consequences of being no longer part of the European Union. Last week we learnt that Tory donors resorted to stealing children’s lunch money in England. Chartwells were given the contract to supply emergency food packages to families who would usually rely on free school meals as children were forced to learn from home. The company at the centre of this storm is part of Compass Group Plc whose chairman Paul Walsh stepped down in December last year and was once a member of David Cameron’s business advisory group and is a Conservative Party donor. Once again it raises serious questions over cronyism within the Tory party which has unfortunately blighted their pandemic response. Will the Tories stoop so low that they are now stealing food from hungry children in England to fill their offshore bank accounts? Labour MP Ian Lavery from Wansbeck twitted “Not only are children being denied a proper meal but the taxpayer is being ripped off. This pandemic has exposed the crisis of crony capitalism where the only criteria for govt contracts is how much you give to the Tories. This shameful govt literally ‘takes the biscuit’. This must be the lowest of low that the Tories are stopping to in order to make money so soon after Brexit. The amount allocated and paid for by the government per child was £30 and the kids received what looked like food that cost less than a fiver!
£10.5bn worth of contracts have been outsourced to companies owned by Conservative Party donors and the relatives of MPs, often with little experience in the field of providing these services. Procurement processes have led to loss of tax payer’s money in millions to Serco Test and Trace system (£410m), £108m for undelivered sets of PPE for NHS workers and £7000 a day to Boston Consulting Group to help the government deliver its test and trace system, to name just a few. These are just the tip of the iceberg with more revelations coming to light on a regular basis. It is very upsetting that so called good folk of this country are still not reacting to this level of atrocity committed against children who for no fault of theirs are paying the price of a greedy Conservative government. The myth that people will spend money on alcohol or cigarettes instead of buying food for their children is perpetrated by these evil clowns who want to literally suck the blood of poor working-class families in this country. The irony is that these very people voted for the Conservatives in the last general election, so have no one else to blame for this sorry state of affairs.
The right-wing Tories have to set aside their unfounded fears of the poor misspending taxpayers’ money and concentrate on money that is being funnelled through contracts to their own friends and families. Locally, the Tory led administration have shown to be equally inept and incompetent where council budgets are concerned and are splashing money at corporations and vanity projects like the iPads (£15m) instead of looking after the health and well-being of their constituents. The last ten years have already shown beyond doubt the physical, mental, emotional and financial damage Tory-Lib-Dem policies have caused in the United Kingdom.
God save the people!
Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 22nd January 2021.
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 UK governments voting down of providing free school meals for pupils across England.
The Tories have gone and done it again! These bunch of self-serving crooks voted against a Labour motion to extend the provision of free school meals for children in England until Easter 2021. The most nauseating and disgusting thing about this vote last week was that five out of six Scottish Conservative and Unionist party MP’s voted against allowing fresh hot meals for pupils in England, while the Leader of the Scottish Tories, Douglas Ross conveniently abstained from voting due to his so called commitments in Scotland! Just imagine for a moment the Scottish Conservatives and Unionist party winning a majority in the Scottish parliament in next year’s Scottish election! Yes! It did send shivers down my spine, as these bunch of hypocrites including our very own MP David Mundell, who the public voted for as their MP again last year will have to fully shoulder the blame of poverty and inequality in the UK as a whole. It really beggars belief and I am lost for words and angry at how the Conservatives are getting away with murder, time and time again. David Mundell missed voting for the Internal Market Bill a couple of weeks ago too as he was visiting his constituents, a very calculated decision as he is now beginning to feel the heat generated by his party’s decision to lower food import standards in his beloved Union after Brexit.
Earlier this year, Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford led a successful campaign that allowed hungry children to have access to free meals during the summer holidays, drawing upon the own troubles that his mother went through when he was a child. A motion had been brought back to the Commons to have the same initiative extended for the upcoming October half-term break and the Christmas holidays in order to help families that have been hit hardest by the pandemic and were already struggling in the battle against poverty. However, the motion was defeated by the government’s majority with prime minister Boris Johnson, chancellor Rishi Sunak, health secretary Matt Hancock and former PM Theresa May amongst the 320 Tories who voted it down. Even Nigel Farage, who I have no respect for due to his role in breaking up the Union! Twitted that “If the government can subsidise Eat Out to Help Out, not being seen to give poor kids lunch in the school holidays looks mean and is wrong”. For once I agree with him no matter what his politics or ideology is, we cannot as a G7 nation, starve our children to death. It’s morally irreprehensible and cruel in this day and age.
Only five Conservatives rebelled against the Government to vote for feeding more than 1.4 million children during school breaks until Easter next year in England. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been barred for life from a pub in his constituency over his decision to vote against providing free meals to eligible school children during the half-term holidays.
Can I appeal to compassionate Peebleans to ban MP David Mundell for life from all café’s, restaurants and pubs in the area? Or are we still okay to be part of this shameful act to starve English children because it does not affect our children up here in Scotland? Fingers crossed and really hoping that the Tories have a change of heart!
Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 30th October 2020.
This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on Covid-19’s devastating fallout on the world’s economy, food and people.
What has Covid-19 taught us so far? I have been researching and reading lots of articles and opinions by experts in the field of science, environment, food, health and well-being, poverty and social justice since this pandemic began and the devastating impact on the most vulnerable and poor amongst us. Many governments around the world have been supportive of their citizens in terms of offering financial support to keep people from going hungry and making sure they have a roof over their heads. Overall Western economies have given a lifeline to businesses and employees through financial stimulus packages never before seen on such a massive scale. In the UK austerity had propelled mass economic hardships on millions of families through a Tory ideology that made the poor, disabled and disadvantaged suffer for the chaos caused by the rich bankers and financial institutions since the 2008 recession. People that are paying with their lives are low waged, zero hour contract workers in this gig economy, where people are forced to take up work that benefits big corporations through tax breaks and other subsidies offered by politicians to their donors in exchange for either a peerage or directorships after losing elections or resigning; whichever comes first.
As a community interest company we have always looked at innovative solutions to tackle food poverty and highlight the underlying issues that are often overlooked by governments and local authorities in this country. Since March this year child poverty has increased exponentially across the board with more families falling into economic hardship due to job losses or claiming benefits that are not fit for purpose in this day and age. We as an organisation have never shied away from pointing the finger at the real culprits in this avoidable saga i.e. our elected representatives, whether it’s our local councillors, MSP’s or MP. What can we do now to reverse this trend and abolish food poverty across the country? Councils across Scotland should be making more land available to local communities for converting to allotments and having a healthy supply of local food made available for all seasons. Weekly Farmers markets should be organised and subsidised by local authorities and government to encourage and inspire locals especially young people to look at growing food as a career option. Big landowners should lose their subsides for not growing food which we the tax payers pay for every year.
Growing food organically should be the norm and edible gardens should be made compulsory for all schools where growing methods are taught and pupils trained in this subject as part of the school curriculum. We were instrumental in building the first organic training garden in Scotland on school premises, right here in the Borders at St. Ronan’s Primary school, Innerleithen. This edible garden is still up and running and has a bright future for the school pupils, teachers and community. The legacy will live on for future generations of pupils to enjoy and learn new skills in farming and growing food with no reliance on corporations to supply their expensive fertilisers and pesticides which poison the environment and indirectly has a negative long term impact on the health of communities across Scotland and the world.
This pandemic has already increased food prices by over 40% and also taking into account previous increases of up to 35% since the Brexit vote, you get to see the bigger picture of millions in this country not able to buy good, affordable nutritious food.
Is it too much to ask our council to spend on educating young people in skills that will actually help save themselves and this country from starvation in any future global event? £15 million was made available for iPads and costs will keep mounting as the corporation that needs to feed its shareholders will only get hungry every year for more money and contracts. What is our priority as a society? Food or iPads?
You the people will decide.
Stay safe! Eat well!
Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 7th August 2020.