This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the use of Roundup, the glyphosate-based cancer-causing pesticide in the Scottish Borders.
It was refreshing to read the article on glyphosate by your reporter Hilary Scott in last week’s edition of the paper. When our social enterprise started building Scotland’s first organic training garden on school grounds, little did we know about the complexities of working with the local council. It was quite an eye opener and we realised how much control and no flexibility the councils hold over their local authority areas. But we found innovative ways to circumnavigate the bureaucratic rules that would have stifled our project and would have exposed primary school pupils to harmful chemicals and pesticides. Notice boards of various sizes were put up all across the project in order that council staff that came on their regular rounds avoided spraying anywhere close to the garden. I must acknowledge that frontline staff of the council were more receptive to the idea of keeping our organic garden safe for locals and pupils alike. The legacy of this project continues and more pupils and the community every year are benefitting from this amazing resource on their door step in Innerleithen.
So why did we insist on a no chemical rule to grow food. The reasons are many but to point out a few, one of the myths is that everything needs to be sprayed to enhance and make sure things grow, especially in Scotland where the weather is unpredictable. Scots have been growing multiple crops over hundreds of years with no oil-based fertilisers and pesticides and were actually quite healthy and strong. This also applies across the world. Secondly and this is the most important reason, corporations like Monsanto have been lobbying hard since the 50’s as part of the green revolution to use their products extensively for growing as it had major benefits and would also help farmers eradicate weeds and other pests in their fields. All very well you may say, but the widespread use of these pesticides over decades have not only resulted in the soil losing its nutrients due to over use of these very harmful chemicals but also did whole-scale damage to the ecosystem that crops relied on namely other wildlife that tackled pests in a natural way and helped the overall process of growing crops.
Using Permaculture principles in our organic garden, we worked with nature and not against it as most farming done today. The council argues that Roundup (glyphosate) is perfectly legal! So was DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and Asbestos for crying out loud.
The manufacturer of Roundup, Monsanto, which was acquired by the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer in 2018, is currently facing over 9,000 lawsuits across the US alone from plaintiffs who believe that their exposure to Roundup caused their cancer. Here is hoping the council and our elected councillors act quickly to move towards environmentally sustainable practices. The survival of our planet, environment and life is at stake and we need to act quickly to protect not only our country side but also the health and wellbeing of our children.
Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 21st May 2021.
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.
What a milestone for the SNP to be elected for a fourth consecutive term despite the negative and scare mongering tactics used by the Unionist parties and media. Scotland is truly ready to go it alone with its own written constitution, that is not ambiguous and vague and will stand up for the most vulnerable and weak in society. Boris Johnson has no reason or excuse anymore to deny the rights of the Scottish electorate. Democratic voting is not once in a lifetime exercise and England has this opportunity to switch back to being part of Europe if it wishes too and nobody can stop or stand in its way if it changes its mind tomorrow. The Scots will stand and support the English in exercising their democratic right to change their mind. For those you are spinning the results to suit their agenda and undermine democracy, here are some basic facts;
1- If Scotland had a first past the post system like Westminster, then the SNP would have won between 108 and 110 seats in a 129-seat parliament. But instead, they won 62 out of 73 constituencies and only picked up 2 seats on the regional lists even though they had the highest number of votes.
2 – David Cameron fought the 2015 general elections on holding a referendum on Brexit and won by a 37% vote share, while the SNP has won 48% of the votes share. No argument here for a second Independence Referendum as the above stats don’t lie. The democratic will of the people has to be respected.
3 – The third most important point to make is that the voting system imposed by Westminster on the Scottish electorate is proportional representation i.e. The D’Hondt system. This is designed specifically not to give any single party an outright majority, which is why its technically wrong to say that the SNP have not won a majority!
This system is definitely much fairer than the one used at Westminster elections and should be replaced too as that will make English voters not lose their votes in the current first past the post system.
And finally, to sum up the negative campaign run by the Unionists parties who only focused on stopping IndyRef 2! You had plenty of time to make the case for an equal Union but instead you tried to ram your elitist ideology down people’s throats and introduced degrading policies and economic decisions that hurt the common people the most. The canny Scots once again saw through this hollow Unionism and here is hoping that in an independent Scotland, Unionists will focus on real needs of real people and not just the financial needs of their family and friends.
Please remember you can stop voting for the SNP in an Independent Scotland as other parties will be formed to keep the SNP on track in delivering a better Scotland for all.
Letter to the Editor published in the Peeblesshire News on 14th 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.
Last week’s Peeblesshire News had two letters one of which from someone wishing to be anonymous, questioning what the SNP have done since coming to power in 2007 for the people of Scotland and the second from a Unionist retired Liberal Democrat ex-councillor of SBC. Both these letters were having a go at Independence supporters. What both these readers fail to understand or comprehend is that the SNP have been elected by the Scottish people consecutively through a democratic process.
In fairness, the first reader got half of his questions right i.e., the SNP have failed to deliver on some of the issues now facing Scotland but conveniently forgets all the good policies and benefits that the people of Scotland currently enjoy which to name a few are;
- Free prescriptions
- Free Tuition for students even though the Lib-Dems voted against for English students
- Over 70,000 low-income families protected from the dreaded bedroom tax of the Tory government
- Introduced Minimum Alcohol Pricing
- No Fracking
- First country to make period products available free to all students
- Free Bus Pass for Over 60’s
- Created 7 new benefits to support the most vulnerable in society
Now coming back to the second readers letter, a former Unionists ex-councillor of SBC, in his first sentence he says the SNP has an appalling record in delivering public services since they were elected in 2007! I am not sure which planet Graham has been on, because if that was the case then the Scottish electorate would not have elected SNP and Greens to form a majority in parliament three times in a row. He also makes the case that he believes i.e., Lib -Dems, that there is no case for a second Independence referendum as everything is hunky dory and milk and honey is flowing plentiful in his beloved Union. His party along with Labour and the Tories who formed the famous rock band “Better Together” lied to the Scottish public that they would be safe as part of the European Union if they voted NO! The UK still holds the main levers of the economy which includes printing money, borrowing, vat, just to name a few. So, it is ingenious and inaccurate to blame the Scottish government for everything that does not go to plan according to these arrogant and condescending Unionists.
Letter to the Editor published in the Peeblesshire News on 16th April 2021
This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on why we should change our eating habits post Covid and concentrate our efforts more on prevention in the future.
The current pandemic has highlighted one very important factor whereby the majority of deaths caused where due to individuals having an underlying health problem like diabetes and other health related chronic conditions. Up to this point humanity was heading to a very unhealthy lifestyle where ready meals, takeaways and processed foods and drinks became the norm. Growing up in India during the 70’s and 80’s we were fortunate not to be exposed to these harmful processed fast foods laced with chemicals and taste enhancers which have proven to be addictive and many carcinogenic; the legal definition being something that causes cancer. For any food or drinks to be called carcinogenic there must be evidence linking consumption of these types of foods to an increase of specific cancers in our body. Alcohol, red and processed meats, burned and over barbecued foods are just a few examples.
So, what do we need to do going forward post pandemic to mitigate the effects of fast foods in our diets? The first step would be to make these chemically induced foods very expensive via taxation. I am aware it’s not a popular option but essential for the overall positive impact on our children’s health in the long term. Last year the UK government announced its new obesity strategy linking it to eliminating coronavirus, by banning TV and online advertising and promotion of foods and drinks that contain high salt, sugar and fat. To blame people who are obese is not a sensible solution as it will cause more harm than good as we will develop a blaming culture. Covid-19 is an infectious disease and the risk of getting it is by transmission from another individual. Obesity on the other hand is more a deep-rooted problem of our society and is determined by people’s surroundings, awareness or lack of it and economic status. If you are poor its much harder to make these choices as you are literally living on a hand to mouth existence. One thing this virus has shed light on is the disproportionate way minorities, low-income earners and disadvantaged communities have borne the brunt of this pandemic. Analysis by the Food Foundation found that over a quarter of UK households would need to spend more than a quarter of their disposable income after housing costs to meet the government’s healthy eating guide.
What is the solution? Researchers at Tufts University in America made the case that subsidised fruits and vegetables could prevent millions of cases of chronic diseases. They recommended that instead of Doctors prescribing expensive medications, they should instead prescribe more fruits and vegetables! The study argues that this change could saves £billions in healthcare costs. The power of food as medicine which we at You Can Cook have advocated since the beginning is now slowly finding acceptance in the scientific world and about time it did. Prescribed medicines in most instances have minor or major side effects which then have to be treated with more drugs and this keeps the patients on a never-ending conveyor belt that ultimately only benefits Big Pharma!
Many years ago, while researching about how much NHS Scotland spends on preventative initiatives and treatments, I came across the actual figures which was shocking. Less than 1% of the budget was spent as prevention. It’s time for a major overhaul in Scotland of how we wish to proceed as a society; healthy and strong or weak and dependent on pills for the rest of our lives. You choose.
Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 9th April 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 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.
This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on how we can live on a less meat diet that does not have a devastating impact on our planet.
When we talk about climate change, it mostly refers to reducing our air or food miles and moving from oil/coal to an environmentally friendly renewable option. One big factor is most often missed out in discussions and legislations at government or international levels; meat and dairy farming. Western meat and dairy diet are a big contributory factor to carbon emissions since the 80’s and has gotten worse with many poor and developing nations like China increasing meat in their diets from occasionally to every day! It’s not rocket science to understand the damage this will do to reduce our carbon footprint globally even if we make massive changes to other aspects of our lifestyle. Current data shows that meat and dairy farming is responsible for around 14% of greenhouse gasses.
Research shows that vegetarian and vegan diets are much more sustainable and climate friendly than meat consumption. So how do we go about achieving a reduction in meat and dairy in our diets? Simple solution is to reduce and ultimately stop importing these foods from other countries were its cheaper to produce them but as a consequence have a detrimental impact on the local ecosystems and people. For example, cattle raised on UK lands get access to greener pastures than those reared in South America where deforestation is creating a huge problem to local indigenous populations, their livelihoods and contributes to soil erosion due to pesticides and fertilisers used to generate single type of crops for Western consumption.
Unfortunately, subsequent studies have also shown that even if all Western countries shift to home produced meat solely fed on grass, then that too is not the solution as the already high consumption by countries and individuals will not make a dent in the carbon emissions. The only way forward is producing meat and dairy sustainably, locally and using organic farming methods.
Supermarkets sell milk and some meat products at cost or even at a loss in order to keep their customers coming through the doors. This practice alone not only distorts prices and the perception that meat is affordable but also creates huge amounts of food wastes that goes to landfill and money down the drain from the point of view of the customer. In the UK 4.5 million tons of edible food is thrown away by households and this also contributes to our carbon footprint.
A few years ago, food policy experts concluded that Western countries like the UK should adopt a radical method of eating, whereby they ate meat once a week and reduce milk to a maximum of one glass a day. If you convert to being a vegan and vegetarian than the impact improves dramatically. Growing up in India my family could only afford to buy meat once a week or on special occasions like birthdays. We had a very varied diet with fish, vegetables and pulses and food was cooked from fresh produce and ingredients bought on the day from the market. Only a radical change will stop the planet from tipping over. Tinkering at the edges and shifting the blame on countries like China where the local population want the lifestyle of the West will not help solve the issue. It’s time to act globally but we as citizens of Scotland need to act locally too as any small changes we make will collectively have an impact on polices that will help reduce our carbon footprint.
Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 5th 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.