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.

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.

Scotland Votes SNP in EU Elections

I received a lot of positive feedback about my previous column as many were not aware of the statistical anomaly of the population vis-à-vis the UK as a whole and how the three kingdoms of Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland would always be outgunned and outmanoeuvred by English MP’s in any UK elections. The SNP won 28.4% of the share of the vote in the Scottish Borders, up by 7.7% since the last European elections while the Conservatives came third behind the Brexit Party winning 18.9% of the votes, down by 11.6%. Overall the SNP got 37.84% share of the vote, up by 8.85%, while the Conservatives managed to get 11.61% share of the votes, down by 5.61% and coming fourth overall in Scotland behind the Brexit Party 14.83% and Lib-Dems 13.89%.

Finally, Borderers are waking up to the lies and chaos perpetuated by the Conservatives whereby they fought the last council elections under the “No 2nd Independence Referendum Banner” and the European elections too! These two elections had nothing to do with the Independence vote and I am so glad that local people in the Borders are seeing through the mis-information and lies peddled by the current ruling administration at Scottish Borders Council, Ruth Davidson at Holyrood and MP David Mundell. The Lib-Dems did fairly well in the UK wide elections getting 20.3% of the votes, up by 13.4% and behind the Brexit Party that got 31.6% overall coming on top. People are fickle and seem to forget the past record about the Lib-Dems. This is the party which jumped into bed with the Conservatives in 2010 at the first opportunity of grabbing power to form a coalition that went on to ruin the lives of millions of families, working class, disadvantaged and disabled citizens of this country. Young university going students in England were betrayed too by the false manifesto promise of abolishing tuition fees, which they renegade on once they got the power!

Last week’s Peeblesshire News had a letter from  John Ferry, Chair- Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale Liberal Democrats who is worried that the ill-informed voters of the Scottish Borders will vote SNP in any future Westminister elections and in order to not be dismayed by the ‘rise of populism and nationalism’ should back the Lib-Dems! Of course some may vote Lib-Dem again if they want the next elected government to be a coalition of the Brexit Party and Liberal Democrats! A distinct possibility if there is no majority and The Brexit Party makes huge gains in seats in the Westminister elections. Remember, the Lib-Dems could have formed a coalition in 2010 with Labour but chose the Tories, the exact opposite of their beliefs, so don’t be surprised if they do the same again.  This time around the Lib-Dems will finish the job they started in 2010 by selling off the NHS to America, renewing Trident missile systems in Scotland, reducing the Scottish governments budget to pay for these weapons of mass destruction and most probably completely remove the benefit systems that this country fought so hard to set up to provide its citizens with a safety net in times of ill-health, unemployment and economic hardships.

Never forget the liars and con-men/women  who are playing with our lives to benefit themselves, their cronies and the rich corporations.

Published in the Peeblesshire News on 15th June 2019.

European Elections 2019 – The Plot thickens in the UK

 

The European elections are this week, but thanks to the utter incompetence of the ruling party at Westminster, we seem to be caught in a never ending time loop.

The political  stalemate since the referendum in 2016 seems to be coming to a gory end soon, Game Of Thrones style! England will finally get its Independence from the rest of the United Kingdom, who apparently have been sponging of the Mothership and keeping it back from the glory days of Empire! Wales and Scotland will  get to stand on their own wee two feet without any  subsidies from Westminster and Northern Ireland will complete the reunification of Ireland after decades of strife and conflict.

The much loved “Great Britain” name tag will go, along with the Monarchy and the establishment who have ruled and maximised their wealth for centuries at the expense of the poor and working  classes on this island and around the world during colonisation. Even during the Empire days people on these islands were living in squalor and abject poverty. World War III has been avoided thanks in part to the success of the European Union institution, which allowed nation states to come together and resolve their differences otherwise we would probably be still fighting everlasting wars. The EU is not perfect, far from it, but at least it’s a start to something big that we all can build upon to make this world a better place.

Scotland population (5.5 Million), Wales (3.1 million) and Northern Ireland(1.8 million) will always be at a disadvantage because of their numbers with respect to England(55.6 million). These 2017 figures are estimates from the Office for National statistics and show an increase since the 2011 official census. So no matter what Scotland votes for or how progressive we wish to be in terms of social justice and looking after the most weak and vulnerable of our society we will always be outnumbered and outvoted by a Capitalist driven England.

Finally, opportunists and career politicians are jumping on the bandwagon of standing as an MEP for their parties. Change of legislation is required for anyone standing to be an elected representative in this country. If a candidate has already been elected, no matter if they are a local councillor, MSP or MP, the morally right thing to do is resign from their current positions and stand for the elections of their choice. Greedy and career politicians are standing for the European elections to maximise their power and wealth. This country has many good individuals who unfortunately don’t stand for elections because of the corrupt system designed by the establishment. The Brexit party leaflet that came through my letterbox is full of lies and misinformation and it beggars belief that the inept and toothless electoral commission is another establishment scam which refuse to call out these political parties for spreading fake news! Democracy may finally arrive on these islands with a written constitution and the House of Lords abolished.

View from Storriefit Mountain

This Easter, few families in Peebles and the Scottish Borders will be celebrating the festive spirit with plenty of food. But what about the many other families that are going hungry not only on Easter but every other day thanks to an ideology from a party that is known to despise the poor and working class citizens of this country? To make matters worse, the Tories are the ruling administration currently in power at Scottish Borders Council with support from Independent Councillors, whose only objective is to favour the rich at the expense of the poor. The Tories have set upon the poorest and the most vulnerable in our society, by massive cuts coming into force from April this year that will tip many families into abject poverty and debt.

So! Why am I upset and angry? iPad’s for all high school pupils in the Borders including P6 & P7’s in the coming years, followed by a ratio of one iPad for every five pupils to P1 – P5 pupils. This vanity project will cost taxpayers £15.7 million over a ten year period and the main beneficiaries are CGI, a corporation that has spread its tentacles across the world with branches in many countries and cities around the globe. A truly corporate beast in every sense of the word. My first question is why was Apple and CGI chosen and not Android systems as these are lot cheaper and more efficient and you are not tied to an Apple ecosystem. What happens when iPad’s are damaged, stolen or lost!

Secondly, many children are living in poverty with no access to good nutritious meals due to the impact of  benefit cuts and low wages in the Borders, so how can pupils learn on a hungry stomach? Pupils are also expected to charge their iPad’s at home before bringing them to school. This also shows the complete lack of knowledge and understanding by Councillors, that many pupils live in homes that have prepaid meters that are very expensive to run and disproportionately targets the most vulnerable in our society. So now along with having to choose between heating their homes and eating meals, parents will also have to decide whether they can afford to charge their child’s iPads!

An OECD report in 2015 concluded that investment in computers and iPads in schools does not improve numeracy and literacy skills. Is the current leader of the council Shona Haslam trying to emulate Marie Antoinette, the queen of France who famously said,  “Let them eat cake” upon learning that the peasants had no bread,” by distributing iPads to starving and hungry school children?

Food Poverty – The Tories Toxic Legacy of the 21st Century

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

 

Food poverty has reached crisis point in this country since the Conservatives won the elections in 2010. They abolished previous Labour policies that helped bring millions of children and families out of poverty. The Tories used the financial crash of 2008 to put the blame and target people claiming unemployment benefits and in-work benefits. Their ideology has decimated and created an environment that has pitted this group against the financially struggling working and middle classes of this country, while the real perpetrators of these economic crimes have been basking in wealth and glory. The gap between rich and poor has widened since the Tories took power.

Food poverty is a significant threat to health and well-being and is completely preventable in the fifth largest economy of the world! Due to the direct consequences of this policy, foodbanks have become the next big institution in this country, the first being the monarchy and the second – religion. While the Queen’s benefits and entitlements have increased according to inflation along with our mafia of elected members of Parliament, these very people have voted down any increases to benefits on the pretext that we have to live within our means!

What will it take for citizens of this great country to stand-up for the weak and vulnerable and spark a revolution to remove these archaic institutions that have no place in a modern democracy?

The Trussell Trust’s most recent figures on Scottish foodbank use, taken from April to September 2018, found a 15 per cent year-on-year increase which it linked directly to the rollout of Universal Credit. These figures are only the tip of the iceberg and they do not reflect the use of other types of emergency food aid provision or the scale of people going hungry without accessing any help at all. Scottish government figures last year which measured food insecurity for the first time revealed one in five of single parents in Scotland had gone hungry. We have been working with disadvantaged families in the Borders and Lothians for over five years and have seen first-hand the impact of benefit cuts and sanctions on low income groups. It was disheartening to see young children coming to school hungry and fainting due to lack of food in their homes. It’s upsetting to see this happening in this country in this day and age. Most people were quick to judge and condemn so-called benefit scroungers without understanding the implications on the innocent children who were the real victims in this Tory government class-motivated destruction.

I have to use strong words as the reality is what it is, and no amount of spin from our elected masters will change the devastation that has been caused, all because of an ideology!

The Brexit fiasco has made things worse for the common folk who have no means or access to financial support. Ultimately, foodbanks will be the Tories’ toxic legacy to Great Britain in the 21st Century just as Thatcher’s poll tax.

https://www.peeblesshirenews.com/opinion/17546829.opinion/

View from Storriefit Mountain

What is the definition of affordable homes? Or rather how much do they cost and what factors determine the price or rent of a home?

Politicians keep harping about building more affordable homes but during the last Scottish Borders local elections, I asked this question to wanna be councillors at the hustings in Peebles, none had an answer. When I spoke to government and council officials about how much a two-bedroom place would cost under ‘affordable homes’ in Peebles, the answers you got depended on where and who you were talking to i.e. their pay grade and socio-economic status.

Policies, whether local or national, favour the rich and the powerful and local communities are left to pick up the pieces of what remains of their lives. It now takes two to four weeks to get a GP’s appointment or the other alternative is to phone on the day and try to get an emergency appointment with any GP!

Banks and other lenders currently offer anything from 2.5 times to four times your gross salary for a mortgage with anywhere from 60 per cent to 100 per cent loan to value on a property.

It’s not rocket science once you make some very basic calculations. An individual on £75,000pa will define £250,000 as affordable but an individual on the minimum wage (over 25s) earning only £17,076.80pa would class £68,000 as affordable taking the four times lending criteria.

A couple on a combined salary of £34,153.60 would be able to access to £137,000, way short of what is actually the price of a home in Peebles. The figures just don’t add up. The Scottish Borders is the lowest wage area in Scotland and jobs opportunities are minimal especially for young people and families. I have done these calculations for the benefit of our elected representatives, so they know their figures and stop lying to the public.

We need more council and housing association homes in the area not more of Lego land at extortionate prices that only individuals on high salaries can afford, ultimately pricing out locals from the area. Plus no selling of properties as second homes.

The local rent set out by the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is £312 per month for one bedroom flat in Peebles. If you are renting through a housing association then the costs are very reasonable, but not with a private landlord. The current rents are anywhere from £450 upwards in an area like Peebles! Not so affordable after all.

Some of our own elected representatives think they are above us all and we are to be blamed for this sad state of affairs as we hand our trust to individuals who have their own agendas; be it party politics or own self-interest.

As anybody with a bit of common sense will tell you, more houses = more people = more cars = more strain on limited resources. It seems to me that our elected members don’t quite understand these issues.

https://www.peeblesshirenews.com/opinion/17497413.view-from-stooriefit-mountain/?ref=mr&lp=2

 

Vending Machines

Bosco Santimano – Founder/Executive Director

This week Bosco Santimano, founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on vending machines.

Why are most fitness and leisure centres equipped with vending machines that give access to unhealthy foods and drinks to its users? What message are we sending out to the wider public? That it’s ok to keep fit while at the same time consume junk food and sugary drinks when you are finished with your exercise regime?

LIVE Borders runs the leisure centres in the Scottish Borders. The swimming pool and the Gytes leisure centre currently have three types of vending machines on site: Hot drinks i.e. tea/coffees; soft drinks/energy drinks and crisp/chocolate bars. On one hand the Scottish government is trying to bring in policies and legislation to combat the rise of obesity in Scotland while on the other hand it’s business as usual.

These machines are also found in our schools and hospitals! Over £550,000 was raised through sale of snacks and fizzy drinks alone in Scottish hospitals. There has been calls from health experts to ban these items and switch to healthier options.

The NHS is meant to cure you and make you feel better not turn you into a fast food junkie!

In 2005 the British Medical Association (BMA) called for urgent action to tackle the UK’s child obesity epidemic. Doctors urged the UK government to ban school vending machines that sell unhealthy fizzy drinks and snacks and introduce mandatory nutrition guidelines for all school meals. The cost of obesity-related illness and poor diet to the NHS is about £2bn a year and rising! These are figures from 2005! They have almost tripled now with no government regulation in place to stop manufactures from adding excess sugar and salt in all our foods and drinks and promoting and marketing their products on impressionable minds. Children and young people that use these facilities are constantly exposed to these vending machines that are playing a major part in developing a life-long addiction to sugar and salt.

Discipline and organising your meals go a long way in helping stop the cravings and the urges for fast foods. These items contain a lot of chemicals (E numbers) to give you a boost after a workout or swim but in the long term have a detrimental effect on your mind and body. When you consume fast foods and fizzy drinks on a regular basis, your brain does not function effectively as studies have proved time and again. Some studies showed that people do badly on cognitive tests compared to those eating healthy foods. You gain more weight and are prone to developing diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure eg. eating fast food for five days disrupts your muscles from oxidising glucose.

On a final note, there are healthy vending machines available that can be installed after the current vending machine contracts with private companies expire.

One easy solution that is free and we all need it is sleep. Whatever you do, don’t under-estimate the power of a good night’s sleep to stay healthy and keep your waistline slim.

https://www.peeblesshirenews.com/opinion/17466751.opinion-bosco-santimano/

View from Stooriefit Mountain

 

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 plastic

Plastics: The bane of modern society that is killing marine life and damaging the environment. Many of you are probably aware that plastics is a derivative of oil, that black gold, which seems to have driven human progress towards extinction!

Scotland introduced the 5p single use plastic bag surcharge in October 2014, after Wales in 2011 and Northern Ireland in 2013. England followed suit in 2015. Legislation proves the point that these measures work, as over 80 per cent of these single use plastic bags were no longer handed free to the general public – the equivalent of 650 million carriers – in the first year of Scotland’s 5p charge! The charge for single-use carriers also raised about £6.7 million for good causes in the first year alone.

Scottish government research concluded a net saving of more than 4,000 tonnes of plastic and other materials each year. The net carbon saving is more than 2,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually. The charge applies to all single-use bags, including those made of: paper, plastic and some plant-based materials. Plans are under way to increase the 5p charge to 10p. Will this help in reducing our use of these items? Or is there a better way to deal with this crisis head-on and take radical steps now?

On my recent visit to India I was surprised to be informed that single use carrier bags have been banned by the state government in Mumbai! Local governments in more than half of India’s 29 states and seven territories are drafting legislation to ban single-use plastic bags. Government officials are also working to reduce the manufacturing of plastic by shutting down factories and preventing the import of plastic products. At the United Nations’ World Environment Day last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced its intention to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022.

So what can we learn from other countries that are doing much more than us in Scotland? We need cross party support which includes the Conservatives and Labour to join the Greens and SNP in passing legislation in rolling out a complete ban of these items. What also needs to be looked at is the packaging industry that is responsible for five times that amount. We need to push supermarkets and big retailers to stop packaging food and other items in plastics that are often not recyclable and end up in land fill or worse shipped abroad to countries that have lax environmental laws. Local organisations in Peebles that claim to work for the environment should be more rigorous in lobbying their elected councillors and local authority in introducing similar laws in the Borders and reaching out to all of the community rather than preaching to the converted few every time. A joint collaboration is the only way for things to work and be effective in the long term, anything else is just tinkering on the edges with no real impact.

Hope we can take radical steps to solve this problem before it’s too late.

https://www.peeblesshirenews.com/opinion/17438762.view-from-stooriefit-mountain/