Universal Basic Income: Sign of our times – Part Two

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. In this final column of a two-part series, it’s Universal Basic Income!

In my previous column I explained that Universal Basic Income is an amount of money given to citizens universally, sufficient to cover basic needs & free of conditions. In other words basic income is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement. I also compared the economic devastation that the virus has inflicted on the poor and working class around the world who are mainly daily wage earners, freelancers, working on zero hour contracts and self-employed.

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced policies to help support businesses and employees including the self-employed, albeit with many restrictions, rules and thresholds which ultimately will not support the very people I have described above. The Tories since 2010 have been instrumental in decimating our public services in the name of balancing the books and targeting the welfare state for sins of the corporation and banks. They started the policy of social cleansing and now are promoting social distancing!

So! What are the benefits of universal basic income to society? For starters it could help support unpaid care workers, ending abuse where normally it’s the women who are trapped in a violent relationship and don’t have the means to leave the relationship, ending poverty, helping blue collar workers who are being made redundant due to technology and automation, discouraging low wages, and most important it will eliminate the social security system once and for all. There are many positives to doing away with the current system in place which only perpetuates stigma and stereotyping about anyone claiming benefits.

Right-wing parties (Tories/UKIP/BNP/Brexit Party) and the tabloid press, target vulnerable and hardworking communities. The system is not user friendly and very complicated due to different levels of thresholds (pre Universal Credit) but the current Universal Credit being introduced is far worse than the previous one because it tries and fails miserably to combine six very different benefits. A lot of stress and anxiety is caused to navigate the system and is prone to errors from the beginning. We need a complete rethink of the way all citizens are helped and supported from a financial standpoint. This is where universal basic income comes in to alleviate all the problems and issues of the current system which relies on means testing if you are eligible for these benefits and many are not because of the savings limit. The government will also save huge amounts of money spent just trying to administer these benefits as all individuals will be given a lump sum amount to pay for all basic necessities and expenses which include; rent/mortgage, food, utilities, clothing, travel etc.

With all the basics covered everyone will be free to be creative and entrepreneurial in their thinking and attitudes towards work. This will allow many to start a business or take up a new career without having to think about the financial fallout of their decision. We will have a better society with communities across the country taking pride in their new found financial freedom. We have been brainwashed into believing that the trickle down economic policies work but what it has managed to do was to create a big divide between the rich (1%) and poor (99%). If money is handed out to each and every adult in the country they will be spend it on local businesses and keep the money circulating in the country rather than through  shareholders and CEO’s siphoning all the profits to tax-free overseas accounts!

Finally what should we pay out to each individual per month? Reform Scotland a Think-tank recently published the following figures; £5200 a year (£433 per month) for every resident in Scotland and £2600 (£217 per month) for all under-16’s. They reckon it will cost the Scottish government  around £20.4 billion a year and monies could be raised by increasing income tax and scrapping personal allowances and some benefits. Though I agree with the general theme of this policy, it’s too little to make a difference to the very people we are trying to help. The cost of living has skyrocketed since the 2008 financial crash and matters have only got worse since this pandemic with prices of many food items increasing by 30%.

If the UK government and all devolved administrations don’t come up with a viable solution soon, I am afraid we are quickly moving into unknown territory. Food shortages and lack of safety equipment is causing riots around the globe and it is not far before we may see a similar situation enfolding on these islands. I hope common sense and empathy from our politicians prevail and they guide us through this crisis in a compassionate manner.

Please stay at home and be safe.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 17th April 2020.

The first part was published on Friday 20th March edition of the Peeblesshire News.

Radical changes to our food policies

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

It’s been a week now since we are in semi-lockdown and what a emotional roller coaster it has been for all of us here in the UK and around the globe. Since news went viral on social media that 3 cases of coronavirus have been identified in the Borders, locals in the region went berserk with shoppers driving to all the main supermarkets and panic buying food and toilet paper! I am yet to understand the logic behind toilet paper, but never mind. Pasta, tin foods, bread, fish, chicken, cheap fresh foods, hand sanitisers, alcohol were flying off the shelves within hours. By next day the supermarkets were looking like a warzone or as if it were attacked by zombies! The apocalypse was truly here. Many elderly and vulnerable adults were left with no access to their normal shopping items as these maniacs went on a wild rush to hoard as many items as possible. I saw cars and people carriers being stuffed with toilet paper and all other fresh food items that would in my opinion either be frozen or wasted in a couple of days.

Unfortunately I was right as news reports from all over the country saw a huge spike in food waste! What a disgrace and a typical human response in times of crisis. Many people become selfish, greedy and paranoid and in these difficult times its always the rich that can buy and hoard goods in their big houses and garages while the majority of us have to pray and hope that we don’t have to resort to cannibalism to survive. Just kidding by the way! Food and other essentials are slowly making their way onto the shelves and thankfully people are realising that we are all in this together and sanity seems to be coming back into our lives as we don’t want the scenario of a Mad Max movie, where instead of oil we are fighting and killing for food.

You Can Cook was setup in 2007 after doing my research and finding out a few key issues with food and the supply chain. First, many people did not know how to cook from scratch, second over 70% of our food came from abroad, a disaster waiting to happen as the current crisis clearly shows us the fallacy of this policy, and third we don’t grow enough food on these islands to feed the whole population, while government and European Union policies dictated paying farmers grants and subsidies not to grow food! This economic policy is what has led to a big divide between the rich and poor countries, whereby we in the developed West are using developing and third world countries to grow food on our behalf while the citizens of those countries are forced to grow foods for the western markets eg. soya, at the expense of not growing their own staple foods.

On these islands growing food has never been so important and we as part of a holistic approach to tackling these problems work to alleviate and empower communities across Scotland through cooking and growing. Please visit our website www.youcancook.org for more health related information and loads of recipes to try while you and your family are self-isolating.

Take care.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on 3rd April 2020.