Will Scotland vote for a greener and better future?

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.

A chance to vote for a better 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 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.

Arrogant and condescending Unionists

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

Prevention is better than cure

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.

Abolish the Monarchy in the United Kingdom

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.

Reduce meat and dairy consumption to reverse the impact of climate change

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.

Western Democracy! Fact or Fiction?

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.

 

Sustainable farming methods is the best way forward after the pandemic.

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on our knowledge of where and how our food is produced and the far-reaching consequences of not changing our current commercial food production to a more local and sustainable form of farming.

 In the last few decades humanities thirst for everything quick and fast has accelerated to the point of no return. Its ironic that humans were stopped right in their tracks by a virus that cannot be seen with the naked eye. If you closely look around you in nature, and we are very lucky over here in Peeblesshire and the Borders in general; plants and animal life is thriving as mother earth is repairing and healing itself. It’s such a wonderful sight to behold and some would call it a miracle! The planet has shown us who is boss and also sends us a message that the earth will not only survive but thrive in the absence of humans as a species. Since the dawn of the industrial age, humankind has plundered and exploited the natural resources made available to us as a gift by mother earth, while she watched in silence hoping that men would change their ways.

Commercial farming on an industrial scale has decimated the soil and people’s livelihood wherever it was implemented. Food and water are the two essential things we need as a species in order to survive on this beautiful planet, only after clean air. As a species we have polluted not only the air but also the water and our food systems across the globe. Since the beginning of the so called ‘Green Revolution’ in the 50’s, soil, water and the immediate environment have been sprayed with Agri-chemicals to boost food production, often to the detriment of local ecosystems. Forests have been cut down to grow what came to be known as cash crops. But all is not lost yet! Individuals and grass-root organisations have come together as a collective to tackle this problem head on last year. Since farming is labour intensive, the West outsourced its food production to developing and third world countries, while at the same time providing huge subsidies to its farmers not to grow, thus artificially controlling prices of essential food commodities.

Corporations in turn have been funding our politicians directly and through other means in order to make sure their profits are not impacted. Corporate greed is held in high standards at the expense of citizens right to water, food and environment. Protest movements have risen throughout this pandemic across continents to oppose our current political and financial model and are looking to replace these with sustainable practices in farming, environment and social justice for the working-class man and women in all countries. Scotland should remove all farm subsidies and encourage small scale farming initiatives across the country with training and expertise provided to high school pupils so that they can make a better choice going forward as a career option. Farmers markets should be encouraged in every town, village and city and not just well-off areas where this is mostly a hobby for the middle classes. We want the Scottish government to provide financial aid to small local groups and businesses that produce food in order that this country reduces its reliance on imported food from Africa and the far East.

Now is the time for governments across the world to change gear and this may probably be our last hope to look out for the collective good of humankind rather than just a few, transcending countries, boundaries and continents.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 12th February 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Depraved Tories steal from poor children

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

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.

Brexit Saga Ends -Breakup of UK Begins

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 beginning of the end of the Tory party because of its decade long austerity, divisions on class, extreme poverty, hungry children and the final nail in the coffin of the breakup of the United Kingdom, a Brexit Deal!

2020 will go down in history as the year the elected majority Conservative party and the political system at Westminster struck the final blow to democracy, decency, equality and social justice in this country. The Brexit saga continues as I write this column even though a deal has been reached by both sides. Boris’s oven baked deal last year had got burnt and was no longer edible, even to himself as he then chose to break International law by trying to push the Internal Market Bill through parliament. Analysts, journalists and economists are pouring over the finer details of the 1246 pages trade agreement. So, chaos will reign in her Majesty’s Kingdoms with England finally getting a deal, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are left feeling frustrated and bewildered by English attitudes towards the European Union and the cost to its young citizens that will be left feeling isolated and insecure with a United Europe.

Covid-19 has mutated into a new strain and Dover was shut due to France opting to protect its citizens and its Borders. 7-mile queues of trucks were common sight for a few days with drivers feeling frustrated and angry and the army had to be put on standby for any eventuality that may arise. Lucky for us France opened its Borders to allow freight and other essential trucks to move thereby reducing the traffic jam and backlog near Kent. We are in Lockdown once again and no end in sight to our situation changing soon in the new year. Unemployment has risen exponentially and the benefit system that the Tories and Lib-Dems coalition put in place since 2010 has been proven to be ineffective and driven many of its claimants to poverty, homelessness, suicides and Foodbanks! Benefit sanctions were imposed on nearly a quarter of a million residents last year from April 2019 until March 2020 according to research by the House of Commons Library. These include people seeking Universal Credit, Job Seekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance. This was temporarily suspended at the beginning of Covid-19 but reinstated in July. Unemployment has reached record levels and we now know that sanctions only push people and families into financial hardship and foodbanks. Yes! The Furlough scheme was great and it kept certain people in their jobs but no pay rises and money for the self-employed, key workers and individuals on zero-hour contracts who are working on poverty wages.

Hoping that 2021 brings in positive change and social justice for all, especially key workers, some of whom who have lost their lives while making sure the economy and food supply chains stay open while we can feed our families and loved ones. We will never forget the ones who are benefiting from the misery of others, its time for change and Scotland finally becoming an Independent nation. Just like England, we need to take control over our borders, immigration and laws and make Scotland a Republic!

Stay safe and Good Luck to all in 2021!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 8th January 2021.