The Final Countdown

What a mess we have found ourselves in as a nation. Unionist trust in the Tories must surely have woken up the people from their slumber and apathy towards politicians and the political process in general. Since 2010 the Tories have been in power and austerity has decimated the working class and poor while the blame for this was shifted onto so called benefit scroungers and immigrants, especially from Eastern Europe. We will have had 3 elections since then, all of them masterminded by the Tories themselves to grab more power but with disastrous consequences everytime. The national debt is now in the trillions and the people are still being lied to as to who the real perpetrators are of this mishandling of the countries finances.

In Scotland the obvious choice is the SNP, for their record speaks volumes and you may not like them constantly banging on about Independence, but at least you know where they stand and their long term objectives. Of course they are not perfect but give them credit where its due and to all the good work they have been doing since 2007 with one arm twisted behind their backs by the 3 main unionist political parties and their supporters in Scotland along with Westminster and the media.

The Tories are hopefully out as they they have amassed immense wealth and privileges for their political elites and business partners including their own families. Why do Unionist fear a second Scottish Independence referendum? They have nothing to fear as they can still vote “No”. Are they worried their lies won’t work the second time around? The SNP’s main objective and drive is to get independence and they are very clearly following their parties founding constitution and manifesto, unlike the Tories who have lied through their teeth and are still being voted into power by their gullible supporters all in the name of keeping the SNP out! It beggars belief to see educated people vote for the Tory party knowing well the harm their policies are causing families and children all over the country. Being selfish and only thinking about your own child is not how we want to live as a society. We have been given an opportunity once again to right a wrong and re-establish respect and love among the countries citizenry. It’s time to cast your vote for what is morally the right thing to do. By next Friday we will have woken up to a future that is hopefully bright and turned our backs on hate and austerity.

On the plus side the people of the Borders may have lost their incompetent leader of the council to Lanark & Hamilton East, as she has proven to be a canny, greedy career politician and will jump ship to further her ambition in the name of Unionism and the Queen! Shona Haslam did not bother to turn up after the fire at Peebles High school when her constituents needed her the most. There has been a deafening silence from her. Hope the people of Lanark & Hamilton East  are not as daft and blind to what damage she has done to the Borders and her own constituents.

What would you vote for? The kiss of death or ……..

Sacred Rowan Trees Vandalised by Trustees

Our elected  councillors who are also the trustees of the Chambers Institute have committed an act of environmental vandalism on this hallowed institution.  When they were first appointed this was what was expected of them; “Local people want the Chambers Institution to maintain and enhance its role as the cultural heart of the community and for it to be attractive, welcoming, well-cared for, accessible and affordable. The key uses of the building were identified as: library, museum, art gallery and meeting spaces, and a quiet contemplative courtyard setting for the War Memorial.” Since the Peeblesshire news highlighted the loss of two mature Rowan trees, I did write to three of the trustees who come under Tweeddale West asking for more details about the decision and processes that were followed before this decision was taken. Only one replied saying that the Chair would respond to me directly, and I am still waiting! Elected politicians and bureaucrats seem to be exempt from legal procedures. Below is evidence of this farcical misadventure.

The minutes of the Peebles Community Council meeting of 13th June 2019 clearly state the following; The Chambers Institute Trust have had a request from the British Legion to remove trees that ‘flank’ the memorial and “re plant” them. Cllr Chapman was seeking some consultation from the Community Council about where we would like them to go. The trees are impacting the memorial, hence why this work will be carried out. Peebles Community Council put up a post on 4thAugust 2019 stating that the Trustees were seeking to inform through the Community Council, and get any feedback that people may have on their plan to remove the trees. At the 12th September meeting of the community council Cllr Chapman mentioned that this was a community notice rather than an opportunity to comment. The trees will be removed and replaced with smaller trees!

We cannot trust our elected representatives anymore and nothing is safe in their hands any longer. We the people now have to take action against the trustees for this wanton act of vandalism. Anyone who has read the statement issued by the trustees in last week’s Peeblesshire News must be scratching their heads and wondering if they are being governed under Trump laws! Its lies, lies and more lies. There was No Consultation! Majority comments and feedback on the Facebook post were from people against cutting these trees. The trees were felled during the week schools were on a break and they came early in the morning so as not to arouse suspicion. I am surprised that all the trustees put their names to this statement. I have taken photos of the site where the trees once stood proud and tall and enhancing the memorial not degrading it as stated. This was a cost cutting exercise and when the global agenda is to grow more trees it beggars belief that all the trustees have supported this venture. As one of your readers mentioned in a letter the Rowan is a sacred tree, and they should watch out what is  going to be in store for them very soon.

This column was published in the Peeblesshire News on 15th November 2019.

The Queen Still Rules Great Britannia!

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, self-proclaimed ‘stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s sovereignty.

Irrespective of the outcome of the EU negotiations, the clocks are spinning towards the breakup of the Union. Many people want to go back to the glory days of this country, where rivers were flowing with milk and honey and the “we are the good guys” image which is so conditioned and brainwashed into the minds of British psyche from early childhood.

Accurate history is not taught in this country but a very sanitised, pleasant version of it, mainly focusing on the grandeur of the monarchy for diversions and World War II.

The recent spectacle of the Queen’s speech beggars belief as the pomp and pageantry of the true rulers of this island was on display for all to see.

This nation removed the kings and queens of the lands it conquered through deceit in the name of bringing democracy to the world but is still hanging on to its outdated traditions! A beacon of democracy which conveniently does not have a written constitution. Such hypocrisy!

But why are we still so gullible and can’t see the obvious truth of where the power lies in this nation? Many people I personally know support this outdated practice and institution and the cost to us the tax payers.

These very same individuals slam people on benefits, migrants and foodbanks, but are happy to give millions away to the queen and the extended royal family all in the name of tradition or a tourist attraction!

This always proved my point that education does not necessarily mean you are aware or informed but conditioned to believe in an obvious lie. People want to go back to the glory days of empire without fully understanding the true meaning of this statement.

This country is responsible for all the major flashpoints around the world today. That’s the legacy of the empire and the monarchy, having committed mass genocide, looting of resources and cultural decimation from which these countries are yet to recover.

If you closely listen to the words spoken during the ceremony of the Queen’s speech, it’s very clear who is in charge. The mace, which is a symbol of the Queen’s authority, is placed in the House of Commons and Black Rod knocks on the door to command the House of Commons, remember the clue is in the name ‘Commons’ because that is what we are commoners. Politicians who then get elected see themselves as servants to the Queen not the electorate who voted them in the first place.

They then go about maintaining the status quo at the expense of people dying because of benefits cuts, foodbanks or parents having to starve in order to feed their children.

What a sorry state of affairs and Brexit is just going to push many citizens over the cliff in order to satisfy the egos of the rich political class of this country. The people of this country got to see first-hand what their ancestors did to over 70 per cent of the world.

It’s time for action.

This column was published in the Peeblesshire news on Friday 18th October 2019

Food Labelling – A Legal Requirement

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

Recent headlines in the media demonstrated the need for food labelling on all prepared and cooked foods in restaurants, take-aways and supermarkets selling ready meals/ready to use sauces, etc. No one should die because they ate food, that had an ingredient that was not meant to be, in the food, in the first place! There have been too many cases of individuals losing their lives while eating out and this has to stop.

Owen Carey, a young man died while out celebrating his 18th birthday in 2017 when he ordered a chicken burger at a famous burger chain. Owen informed staff about his allergy but was not told that the dish contained buttermilk, the hidden ingredient that proved fatal, as he was allergic to dairy. Owen suffered a severe anaphylactic shock after eating only half the chicken and feeling his lips tingling and experiencing stomach problems. He collapsed under an hour later never to wake up again.

A similar case happened to Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who died in 2016 after an allergic reaction to a Pret A Manger baguette which contained sesame seeds!

Currently the law states that as a food business you must follow the allergen information rules set in EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation. This means that you must;

  1. provide allergen information to the consumer for both pre-packed and non-prepacked food or drink
  1. handle and manage food allergens adequately

Food establishments also need to make sure that all staff are trained about allergens. By law you also need to tell your customers if any food products you sell or provide contain any of the main 14 allergens as an ingredient. Some of the 14 allergens are: celery; cereals containing gluten; crustaceans – such as prawns, crabs and lobsters; eggs; fish; lupin; milk; molluscs – such as mussels and oysters; mustard; tree nuts – including almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts; peanuts; sesame seeds; soybeans; sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if they are at a concentration of more than ten parts per million). As you can see it’s a complicated process and more needs to be done to reduce the risk to consumers.

One question that no one is asking is why are so many people having allergies and intolerances to food? Experts have various opinions about this but some independent Scientists and researchers have pointed the finger at our over use of chemicals, fertilisers and pesticides since the 1950’s! Plus the use of synthetic, laboratory made products that have been added to food to increase its shelf life along with additives to increase our consumption of processed foods. Plus can the Tories guarantee that they will not dilute or remove existing laws that were set up by the EU to protect consumers all over Europe?

As an organisation, we set out to focus on cooking food from scratch, as this is the only way to know what truly is in your food. Let’s all get back to basics and take back control of our health from the food lobby.

Published in the Peeblesshire News on 4th October 2019.

NHS at risk from American trade deal!

So it’s finally happening. The UK is in meltdown and Boris Johnson and his criminally insane cabinet ministers are out to create havoc and destruction for the common folk of this country. For regular readers of my column I would like to assure you that I will not focus on this anymore but highlight something much worse that is creeping on these islands and no one seems to be paying much attention to it. Our precious NHS will be up for sale to the Americans to be privatised and controlled by the 1% after Brexit. A select group of present and past members of parliament will extensively benefit from this sale and all this started in 2000 by the then Labour health secretary Alan Milburn who in order to tackle the problems of the NHS went for help to a most unlikely individual, Richard Branson!

Prompted by this request, a team from Virgin visited GP surgeries and hospitals over a three month period and in a 31 page report concluded that the NHS needed to adapt and change quickly in order to survive and thrive. Not the words they actually used in the damming report, but you get my point. The virgin boss was a very successful entrepreneur by then running various businesses from music to airlines. A very clever and shrewd businessman who is now reaping the benefits financially through government contracts not only in the UK but globally. He has politicians and bureaucrats in his pocket while charming the world with his down to earth attitude and smile!

Almost two decades later, Virgin is claiming billions of pounds of tax payers money to boost its profits while the NHS is neither improved or better! Virgin Care has won over £2bn of contracts since 2010, the year the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition escalated the agenda to benefit private companies like Virgin Care all in the name of  reducing the cost for tax payers. Since 2013 Virgin Care has spread its tentacles in these areas; children and immunisation, community and sexual health, treatments, prisons and multiple other services across England. At the heart of this empire is Virgin Group Holdings Limited, a holding company based in the British Virgin Isles, a convenient tax haven! It has also managed to sue and win a £2million pay-out from an NHS Trust for loss of contract. So much for the good guy image portrayed by its founder.

It really beggars belief that so many supposedly educated and well-informed people in this country are blinded by headline news from politicians and tabloids and fail to see the obvious truth of what really is happening. In Scotland the NHS is still under public ownership and thankfully its budget is currently ring-fenced by the SNP government. The NHS is already on the road to complete privatisation in England by contracts given out to private firms to supply services and other associated contractual work.

What will happen to the NHS in Scotland if the Tories win at Holyrood next?

Published in the Peeblesshire News on 20th September 2019.

Aspartame! Hidden danger in our drink.

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

In this column I will be tackling one hidden ingredient; Aspartame! What is this ingredient and why is it so valuable to corporations? In a nutshell, aspartame is a substitute for sugar or in other words an artificial sweetener that was accidentally discovered by a scientist researching an anti-ulcer medication in the mid 60’s and is composed of two amino acids; aspartic acid and phenylalanine. If you see any drink that has “Sugar free’ be warned, as for a majority of us, this could be worse than sugar itself.

Aspartame is mainly found in a number of sugar free food products like fizzy drinks, cereals, ice cream, chewing gum, diet cola’s, etc. to name a few. Chances that you are having this in your daily diet is probably very high and unavoidable in many cases. So what is this magic  ingredient? To give you an example aspartame is 200 times sweeter than refined sugar! 1 gram of aspartame has roughly 4 calories while 8 grams of sugar has 32 calories! That’s a huge saving if you only look at the headline grabbing banner. Unfortunately for the general public this sweet con has one big downside, i.e. bulging waistlines and links to obesity.  One way aspartame and other non-nutritive sweeteners may affect body weight is by increasing people’s appetite, which may lead to a higher food consumption. News reports over the last few decades have claimed that aspartame causes or increases the risk of headaches, dizziness, seizures, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, cancer, etc, and the list continues. Currently there is insufficient scientific evidence to confirm or refute these claims of aspartame’s role in the above mentioned associated risks.

In July 2017 a systematic review was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal which should make us stop and think twice before consuming any sugar free products.  The researchers also noted an increase in diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension and cardiovascular events in those who used sugar-free sweeteners like aspartame. Evidence found did not clearly support the intended benefits of non-nutritive sweeteners for weight management, and observational data suggest that routine intake of non-nutritive sweeteners may be associated with increased Body Mass Index (BMI) and cardiometabolic risk.

The primary outcome of the research showed change in BMI while the secondary outcomes included changes in body weight; adiposity; glucose metabolism; and incidence of overweight/obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and other cardiorenal outcomes.

Some of the alternates to sugar free sweeteners are stevia, which is plant based and is 200 times sweeter or monk fruit extract which is calorie-free and up to 250 times more sweeter than sugar. Both these are natural sweeteners but care should be taken to have them in moderation and if you have a sweet tooth like me try eating fruits and alternatively don’t skip or delay any meals as this will also contribute to you losing the battle to keep in check your sweet desires and increase your snacking habit.

I know!

Published in the Peeblesshire News on 6th September 2019.

The Last King Of Scotland!

Finally, the last King of Scotland, MP David Mundell has been dethroned by the newly appointed Emperor of Great Britain, Boris Johnson. Democracy is a farce on these islands and anyone who thinks otherwise should seriously get their heads examined. David Mundell and the future crown prince Oliver Mundell, have access to more power, money and resources than our Scottish parliament. All given to them with one real purpose; to protect the Monarchy and the union at any costs. It does not matter to them if his constituents are using foodbanks or having trouble paying their bills or even feeding their children. Now that he is sacked; conveniently after it being revealed that the Scotland Office was spending far more money than his predecessors; people who voted for him should seriously think again before letting this benefit scrounger be elected again.

Mundell was always seen in the area, just in time before elections ,canvassing for votes. David knew he had a fanatic fan following, no matter what, these voters would turnout in their droves to get him elected just to keep the SNP out! Even Labour and Lib-Dem supporters voted for him. An irrational behaviour by the people, but at the same time a campaigning strategy by Mundell and his Conservative & Unionist party , who constantly stoke fears of Scottish Independence.

Let me make this as clear as possible, the United Kingdom was forced upon by England through the Treaty of Union on the rest of these islands independent countries. Taking advantage of the financial losses suffered by the Scottish ruling class during their misadventure of the Darien scheme(an unsuccessful attempt to establish a colony), England found a way to bribe these individuals by promising financial security and land! This in a nutshell is what happened. Academics and Unionists can scream from the highest roof tops that this is not the case. Anyone who has read and researched the malicious and often devious methods used by the crown all over the world (former colonies) will tell you otherwise. The problem in this country is that some people are not only ignorant but arrogant at the same time, which is why we have this Brexit shambles as some people were longing for Gran Britannia and a whiter Britain! History does not teach the atrocities, genocides, cultural destruction and mass plundering of resources and wealth from these colonies by the British state. If people only knew the truth I doubt they will be proud to be British!

David Mundell in his latest appearance for Fringe by the sea event in North Berwick said that Scotland should be given the power to hold a second referendum if in the next Holyrood elections, pro-independence parties win a majority! The King of flip flop strikes again! Has he changed his mind because he has been sacked by the Union! Or Mundell is positioning himself for the winds of change blowing in Scotland towards independence?

I will leave that to you the readers to decide.

Published in the Peeblesshire News on 16th August 2019.

What is a healthy lifestyle?

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

What do you mean by living a healthy lifestyle? Over the decades I have asked this question to many of my family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and the community we served since 2007. We realised it was not a very straight forward question and depending on who you spoke to, we always received different answers. Most people you speak to associate a healthy lifestyle to eating fresh vegetable and fruits, less red meat and processed foods and overall some sort of physical exercise. But is this true? Or is there more to it than meets the eye?

Having done my research over the years and engaging with a wide variety of people from all socio-economic backgrounds during our work on the ground delivering cookery and growing sessions, I have come to the conclusion that the factors we use to determine a healthy lifestyle are very narrow and restricted to a few buzz words like, calories, trans fats, no smoking, less consumption of alcohol and so on. Healthy lifestyle unfortunately is also hijacked by the middle class and alternative food fanatics like vegans and vegetarians to further confuse the lay person. Our current lifestyle for work in most jobs are very sedentary and laidback. We are constantly glued to our screens, whether it’s our smart phones, iPads, laptops, computers, television you name it and we are glued like zombies from an apocalypse movie. Children from a very young age are addicted to their screens either by default(a cheap babysitter) or their surroundings. Children are getting obese due to less physical activities and also the food they are given by their parents/carers who have lost the art of cooking from scratch.

As I child growing up in Bombay in a working class area, we had practically nothing compared to what young people have today, but we had the time of our lives. We played outdoors, ate fresh meals, very little sweets as they were expensive and did not have a designated babysitter as the neighbourhood kept a watch on your child. I remember having one obese child in our whole school and it was due to a medical condition. Now I see mostly obese kids, glued to their smart phones during school break. A far cry from what used to be life’s simple pleasures.

So where have we gone wrong and why is healthy lifestyle such a massive money making industry? In modern Britain both parents have to work nowadays just to put food on the table, let alone paying for the mortgage or rent. The biggest factor affecting our health today is “stress”. The number one silent killer that’s taking its toll on society and affecting both young and old. What can we do to reduce our stress levels which will than have a positive impact on our health and our relationships with close family/friends and society in general.

The solution is simple! Take stock of your life, stop chasing money and status and eat to live not live to eat!

Published in the Peeblesshire News on 2nd August 2019.

Cuts! Cuts! More Cuts!

The ruling Conservative and Unionist party along with their partners in crime(Independents) at Scottish Borders Council(SBC) are trying to emulate their counterparts at Westminister in bringing hardship and misery to majority of its residents. The Tories are good at cuts and just like a skilled butcher, can cut to the bone! The last few weeks have been a roller-coaster of bad news for residents in the Borders.

Last year around mid-October, I raised an issue online about the loss of  librarians at Peebles High School. Unfortunately this opened a can of worms that put our local elected councillors in a tight spot. What was then revealed online by concerned parents, staff and pupils made me realise that parents in particular were not aware of the situation and that libraries were being automated by SBC. Anyone who wishes to see the full background story should only visit the local Facebook page W4 as it’s all Local library documented in detail. What was appalling about the whole situation was the complete ignorance, and shoddy comeback to try to cover-up the situation. The issue was covered in the national press and highlighted the incompetence of councillors passing the buck and in one case blaming the previous administration. This excuse was immediately shot down by the general public as that’s why they were elected instead!

Speaking to me on anonymity, staff and parents have clearly explained the shambles at Peebles High school library which lacks  professionally trained librarians to guide students in accessing resources to facilitate their learning. First year students were no longer getting introduced to library functions like in previous years. The library is in utter chaos due to high noise levels and mostly being used by older pupils, which unfortunately discourages the younger ones to come and make use of the facilities. The current self-scanning system does not work according to plan on most days, while books have to be scanned either way i.e. in and out, do the books then miraculously go onto the right shelves? Maybe it’s a system that works like the Harry Potter films where books appear and disappear by magic! If that’s the case then I am very impressed and applaud SBC councillors in the ruling administration for a job well done.

The pilot scam that was run without publicity and within a short time scale this year, proves that the powers that be were caught out last year, due to their sheer arrogance when this paper exposed the undemocratic and bullying methods used by its leader and elected councillors to silence the truth. SBC has maintained that the new ‘volunteer-led’ system is working and was introduced in response to ‘what pupils wanted’. Who have they spoken too? And where is the evidence of the pilots and all the consultations that they seemed to have completed? Secondly why do they run consultations at the last minute and with very little notice given to the general public?

Parent volunteers are replacing qualified librarians, so will iPads replace teachers?

Published in the Peeblesshire News on 19th July 2019.

Politicians Must Act Globally Now!

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

Climate change will never be on the agenda until corporations and governments get their act together to introduce radical and far reaching policies that transcend national boundaries. We now know the actual threat to life on this planet and we are still tinkering at the edges. Scotland is leading among the nations of this islands in  terms of harnessing power through renewables and investing in non-fossil fuel technologies. Since the SNP came to power in 2007, they have made considerable progress in this direction. This all happened thanks to the Greens, who supported the SNP in keeping it in power but also having far reaching influence by supporting the government in framing and introducing green policies that would put Scotland ahead in achieving its carbon emission targets. A lot of work is happening behind the scenes and we should be grateful for the Greens as without them, the SNP would just be another political party with no real policies apart from Independence!

In 2008, after the initial euphoria settled of the SNP win at Holyrood, the government launched the Climate Challenge Fund (CCF). This fund was to help communities across Scotland reduce their carbon footprint through developing innovative projects locally. The focus was on energy, food, recycling and travel. So far over £104 million has been awarded to more than 1000 projects all over Scotland. We at You Can Cook were beneficiaries of this fund and in 3 years successfully set up the first edible organic training garden in Scotland. Over 400 people benefitted every year for 3 years in a row since 2015. An achievement unsurpassed till date. As I was writing this column we received news that the ‘edible garden’ got funding through the localities bid fund. Hurray!

We used over 80 per cent of recyclable materials to build the garden from scratch. We expanded the project into Walkerburn Primary School and supported over 150 homes in the area to grow their own food. We also took on allotments at Traquair on a 5 year lease to be handed to 4 families from the area. Through this funded project we worked in partnership with LIVE Borders to supply the libraries with over 400 books on climate change, cooking, growing, environment and the planet. Finally at the tail end of the project we ran a pilot with Scottish Borders Council to save gardening tools from going to landfill. This is now a standalone project still running and going strong and is being replicated throughout the Borders.

So it beggars belief that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who made a statement at her Edinburgh party conference a few months ago to tackle climate change head-on, reduces the budget of CCF by £2.5 million in the current financial year! Only 22 new projects were funded compared to 50-60 new projects in previous years! Also, SNP MSPs voted with other parties against a Scottish Green party motion calling a climate emergency too! So what is really going on?

Politicians have no excuse anymore!

Published in the Peeblesshire News on 5th July 2019.