What is the Good Food Nation Bill? Part II

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the good food nation bill introduced in the Scottish Parliament last year in this final part of his two-part column.

In my previous column I wrote about what the “Good Food Nation Bill” is and when and why it was first introduced and its main objectives. This column will now focus on what the Good Food Nation Bill actually does in practice and the importance of linking it with the Right to Food Scotland Bill. Government bureaucracy is the same no matter where you are on this planet, some countries may be more efficient than others but overall, the workings and processes are very similar and tightly controlled. This is the current Scottish governments flagship policy and has come a long way since 2014 when the idea was first introduced to the public. To give credit to the SNP, it’s a very forward and radical way of looking at food in Scotland and for the very first-time food will become an indicator of people’s health and well-being and hopefully a human right!

So, will the bill do what it intends to achieve in the coming years for the people of Scotland? The answer is not very clear as yet, since we are at the very beginning of a very long process. The initial bill tabled is vague and very ambiguous and not very clear as to who will be finally responsible for providing or not providing good nutritious food to the citizens of Scotland. At first glance the bill seems to address all the main factors in determining who, when and how the policy should be implemented, but as they say in any flagship policy, the devil is in the detail. Having read the bill we as an organisation are not fully convinced that this policy will do what its intended to deliver to its targeted audience especially children, low-income families, people on benefits and vulnerable groups. The reason being that all benefits are not in Holyrood’s control eg. Universal Credit. In determining the content of the national good food nation plan, the Scottish Ministers must have regard, among other things, to the scope for food-related issues to affect outcomes in relation to — (a) social and economic wellbeing, (b) the environment, (c) health, and (d) economic development. These factors alone make it impossible from the onset to expect any constructive, positive, long-term outcomes for the very section of society that it aims to benefit and address food related health problems and inequalities. Most aspects of the bill as mentioned before are vague and will not go even close to eradicating the very problem this bill is meant to address.

Local authorities and health boards are required by law to draw up “Good Food Nation Plans” along with a specified public authority! Not sure what and who this refers too. According to this bill “food-related issue” means; (a) a food matter, or
(b) any other matter connected with (i) the availability of food, (ii) the production, processing or distribution of food, (iii) the preparation or service of food for consumers. The onus will be once again on big business and corporations to heavily influence this bill in their favour as profits will start to tumble if more food is grown locally and by small farmers and community groups.

I and many other across the political divide have argued that Scottish Labour MSP Rhoda Grant’s The Right to Food (Scotland) Bill should be included as part of the Good Food Nation Bill to ensure no one goes hungry in Scotland. If the bill became law, the Scottish government would have responsibility for ensuring that food is available, accessible, and adequate for everyone. This ultimately will help support citizens of Scotland in achieving good, cheap and affordable nutritious food for all. In a nutshell, a slow but steady start to what could well become a shining example for the rest of the world to see an effective and robust food policy delivering at grassroots level all across Scotland.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 1st April 2022

What is the Good Food Nation Bill?

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the good food nation bill introduced in the Scottish Parliament last year in a two-part series.

Last Sunday I was invited to be part of the BBC Radio 4 “The Food Programme”. You Can Cook along with Locavore; Edinburgh’s new organic and ethical supermarket. Our organisations were the only two social enterprises that took part in this programme that assess the country’s health and food system, and looked at what opportunities and hurdles lie ahead as the Good Food Nation Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament last year by MSP Mairi Gougeon for Angus North and Mearns and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands.

So, what is the Good Food Nation Bill? The Bill requires the Scottish Ministers and certain public bodies to create Good Food Nation Plans. The relevant bodies identified in the Bill are health boards and local authorities (or councils). Other public bodies may be required to produce plans in the future. The Scottish Ministers and relevant authorities need to have regard to these plans when carrying out certain functions. These functions will be set out by the Scottish Ministers in secondary legislation that will be considered by the Parliament. The Bill was created to support the ambition of the Scottish Government that Scotland becomes a ‘Good Food Nation’. In 2014, the Scottish Government published a discussion document titled ‘Recipe for Success: Scotland’s National Food and Drink Policy – Becoming a Good Food Nation’ which made a commitment that by 2025, Scotland will be “a Good Food Nation, where people from every walk of life take pride and pleasure in, and benefit from, the food they produce, buy, cook, serve, and eat each day”.

The Bill encompasses the following key concepts:

1. the people of Scotland taking a keen interest in their food;
2. the people who serve and sell food ensuring that it is good quality food;
3. everyone in Scotland having easy access to the healthy and nutritious food that they need;
4. dietary related diseases declining;
5. the environmental impact of food consumption decreasing; and
6. Scottish producers ensuring that what they produce is increasingly healthy and environmentally sound.

Children in Scotland have responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Good Food Nation Bill, calling for the right to food to be incorporated into Scots law. Some readers may be aware that the ‘right to food’ Scotland bill covers very different aspects of food and was proposed by Labour MSP Rhona Grant and the intention is to incorporate the bill in Scots law. In the final part of my column, I will look at what the Good Food Nation Bill actually does in practice and the importance of linking it with the Right to Food Scotland Bill in order to have a positive and long-term impact on Scotland’s population and environment.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 4th March 2022

Veganism – Pros & Cons

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the pros and cons in this final part of his two-part column on veganism.

In my previous column I covered what veganism is and its origins as a lifestyle choice for health, ethical and environmental reasons. A vegan diet is a plant-based lifestyle that prohibits the consumption of all animal products, with many people adopting a vegan diet for health, environmental and strong ethical beliefs concerning animal welfare. Strict vegans will also avoid using any products that have been tested on animals or wear leather or wool. So, let’s talk about the pros of veganism.

Turning to a plant-based diet may help slow down climate change. The production of meat implies high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn contribute to global warming. By avoiding meat consumption, we can improve our ecological footprint and help mitigate the issue of global warming. A vegan diet will eliminate meat consumption which is associated with a variety of health problems as it increases the risk for heart conditions and cancer. By refraining from meat consumption and relying on a vegetable and fruit diet instead, you may be able to improve your health level significantly. Becoming a vegan can also help reduce modern society’s obesity problems. Another upside of the vegan diet is that it reduces the need for factory farming. We consume excessive amounts of meat nowadays and those amounts of meat can only be produced with the help of industrial meat production plus the animals are treated very poorly. By refraining from meat, we could significantly reduce the need for factory farming since the overall global demand for meat could be reduced.

Our meat-based diet also implies serious soil pollution since for the production of animal feed, large amounts of chemical fertilizers have to be used. By switching to plant-based foods we will minimise and reduce the negative impact of products used to grow food for animals reared for human consumption.

Soil pollution also often implies the contamination of our groundwater. Sooner or later, harmful substances that are contained in our soil will be washed into the groundwater, which may lead to serious issues for the local population, especially in regions where people are heavily dependent on clean groundwater for cooking and other parts of their daily life. Since soil pollution and the related groundwater pollution are often connected to excessive factory farming, switching to a vegan diet may be a valid tool to improve our groundwater quality.

Let’s now look at some cons of becoming a vegan; Vegan diets can be low in protein and fat and can be harder to maintain sufficient protein intake. A huge risk of vitamin B12, iron, calcium and zinc deficiencies. Greater reliance on supplements for athletes to achieve nutritional requirements. Due to the industrialisation of our food chain since the green revolution in the 50’s and 60’s, where oil-based chemicals and fertilisers were overused to produce cash crops to make billions for big corporations, the soil in most parts of the world is heavily depleted of essential nutrients which in turn lead to poor quality of food produced. A vegan diet can be more expensive and you may need to motivate and discipline yourself a lot more. A vegan diet is not suitable for people with certain health issues and social isolation can also be a major problem. For instance, in regions where veganism is tabooed, you might have a hard time finding friends since people may be quite skeptic regarding your lifestyle.

In conclusion, it’s wise to make an informed decision before turning to a vegan lifestyle and diet and do your research properly and take professional health advice.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 4th February 2022

Is Being Vegan the Future?

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on veganism in a two-part series.

Its 2022 and here is hoping this year gets better than the previous two years! The first part of this two-part column will focus on what is veganism and why it’s becoming a lifestyle choice for many citizens around the planet. Climate change has not only made us aware of the dangers of pollution and life on this planet via extraction and burning of fossil fuels; but also put our food choices right in the mix too. Since the industrialisation of our food began in true earnest in the 60’s, humankind has been pushing life on earth to its extremes.

So, what is veganism? In a nutshell, a vegan is someone who restricts themselves to a plant-based diet and has no animal ingredients directly or indirectly in their diet. A vegan also makes choices that don’t support the exploitation and cruelty to animals for clothing, cosmetic research or any other purpose and by doing so promotes the development and use of animal free alternatives. Veganism as a term came into existence in 1944 when some members of the British Vegetarian Society wanted a space in their regular newsletter specifically for people who avoided all animal products in diet including eggs and all dairy products. When the request was rejected by the Vegetarian Society, a gentleman named Donald Watson coined the term “Vegan” and created a new quarterly publication whose subscribers included the legendary George Bernard Shaw. Veganism took a long time to grow and become popular and from being a fad and celebrity endorsed diet it is now becoming mainstream and very popular among environmentalist and the health-conscious younger generation who are more in tune with the climate challenges facing the planet.

Readers may also know that a vegetarian is different from a vegan; while a vegetarian will consume milk and milk related products, eggs, honey to name a few but a vegan will not. Latest poll figures show that a third of the UK are interested in becoming vegans! Going vegan will also likely increase your education and your awareness regarding your diet and what’s good for you and what’s not. By learning about proper nutrition, you may be able to increase your health level, which may give you all kinds of advantages in your life and will also likely increase your life expectancy. In our current technological state, it is also rather easy to go vegan compared to centuries ago. Through the internet, you can get plenty of delicious recipes and also some tips on how to avoid mistakes related to veganism. We recently launched our YouTube Recipe channel and every Friday new and exciting recipes will be uploaded which include a good selection of vegan dishes.

Veganism and the related vegan diet have become quite popular over the past decade. People become more aware of their health and many of us also want to avoid supporting the factory farming industry. Going vegan has many important advantages, however, it also implies serious downsides. It is on you to decide whether a vegan diet is the right way to go or not. Before making this decision, make sure to check out all the pros and cons of veganism in order to make a profound decision since it could heavily influence your quality of life as well as your health.

Thus, going vegan is a great way to save our animals, to increase our health levels and to slow down global warming at the same time. Veganism involves the openness to change in order to prevent suffering, the willingness to be creative and to cook healthy tasteful meals. Next month we will look at the pros and cons of being a vegan.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 7th January 2022

Universal Credit – A Conservative & Unionist Policy to Eradicate the Working Poor!

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 Tories toxic Universal Credit system which is disproportionately affecting the disabled, working poor and low-income families.

A very long time ago I had written about the shambles that would be Universal Credit, a policy introduced by Tory MP Ian Duncan Smith to make poverty disappear and work pay. All very good, since he had this epiphany while touring Easterhouse a council estate in Glasgow in 2002. This tour was carried out for his Think Tank Centre for Social Justice which was set up to find solutions to poverty in modern Britain.

Public memory is short-lived and our MPs know this, as even though they are responsible for the worst atrocities (benefit cuts) committed during peacetime on the British public, the Tories have managed to consolidate their power and even influence the working class to vote for them in the last general elections by blaming the ‘other’, in this case European citizens living and working in the UK. Brexit and Covid have decimated the livelihoods of millions of citizens and their families with many losing their jobs overnight and many having to resort to food banks to make ends meet and provide food for their children. The £20 top-up that was provided to every single claimant of universal credit last year has now been withdrawn, leaving many to fall back on food banks, loan sharks and if living in private rented accommodation at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords who are waiting to evict tenants who cannot pay their rent. I have said this before, in principle I do agree with the concept of Universal Credit as it was designed to incorporate six benefits into one. But in practice it was a disaster as the founders of this system; The Centre for Social Justice, were clueless about the complexities of the previous benefit system. There is still no evidence that Universal Credit is getting people into work compared to the previous system by the Labour government in 1999, while the costs of implementing it has risen to over £1.4 billion.

The National Audit Office said that the controversial five week wait for a first universal credit payment continued to exacerbate many claimants’ debt problems and push them into hardship. Vulnerable claimants – including those with physical, mental or learning disabilities, people with few digital skills, or with chaotic lives – were more likely to struggle with their claim, the NAO said, with the complicated process of moving onto the benefit causing payment delays and financial problems for these claimants.

On a final note, the £20 top-up was actually what amount claimants would have been receiving today if taking inflation into account and had the Tories not cut the benefit amount and thresholds of Housing, Working Tax and Child Tax Credits. The rich have got richer and the poor are made to fight among themselves. Divide and rule, the classic British policy is now being used on its own citizens for keeping the status quo.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 8th October 2021

 

Eat or Heat – Grim Choices for Families this Winter

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the current food and fuel shortages in the UK and the devastating impact on low-income families with the removal of the £20 per week from Universal Credit.

What a fine mess we find ourselves in due to Covid and post Brexit. The Office for Budget Responsibility estimated this year that the Brexit damage will inflict a heavy financial damage on UK citizens with every person facing a cost of around £1,200. The economy has taken a hit along with a massive drop in exports, high fuel prices and food shortages. The UK governments own department that forecasts how well the economy will do in the short and long-term has predicted the worst is yet to come! Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, with all 32 local authorities choosing to reject Brexit. A recent report by the online news organisation Byline Times said Covid was a ‘’convenient scapegoat’’ and that the empty shelves were the result of Brexit and not the ‘’pingdemic’’. Brexit remains the main factor to blame for food shortages in shops and supermarkets as attempts to make the so-called” pingdemic” a scapegoat is increasingly undermined.

Warnings about empty shelves in shops and supermarkets began when Boris Johnson imposed his woeful Brexit trade deal which kicked in on January 1. Mounting red tape and other problems led to a growing shortage of lorry drivers able and prepared to take food from Europe to the UK. The dairy giant Arla, which has a dairy in Lockerbie and which supplies milk to all major UK supermarkets, said that the lorry driver shortage is hitting milk supplies. Arla was suffering more from the lack of drivers than from Covid alerts, said the managing director. “Self-isolation doesn’t seem to be impacting us as much, because we’re a very mechanised, automated business,” he added. “The food is there in the factories; it’s just about getting it to the shops. So that’s our key problem.” One farmer told Byline Times: ‘[The right-wing media] are trying to scapegoat the blame on to the test and trace ping system because they want to deflect the blame from Brexit.’’

In my previous columns since Brexit, I did warn of the impending crisis, like many sane voices in the country about the knock-on effect it will have on the most vulnerable in our society. Rising prices of food, fuel and other commonly used household goods and services are causing increased levels of stress and anxiety especially to families that have a stark choice to make; do we feed our children or heat our homes. The real problem at the heart of food shortage is Brexit. That’s it. No other country is having these issues and no amount of spin from the government will change this simple fact they had plenty of time to put in place measures that would have not allowed this chaos to play out. Removing the £20 per week from Universal Credit is like kicking someone really hard while they are down and out! While I am writing this column, the UK government has called in the army to deliver fuel and essential food supplies to petrol stations and supermarkets in England for the coming weeks. As a social enterprise, we have in the past picked up the pieces of flawed legislation introduced to penalise the poor for sins committed by the rich, here is hoping the government has a change of heart.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 8th October 2021

Brexit & Covid-19 combo causing havoc with our food and drinks supplies

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 Brexit-Covid-19 combo that is causing havoc with our food and drinks supplies.

I have written in my previous columns what the impact of Brexit would be on the supply chains especially the food and drinks sector and it seems the chickens have come home to roost! The UK is going through a massive shortfall of key workers with vacancies running at a record high level. In early September the Recruitment and Employment Confederation reported that there were over 1.11 million vacancies at the end of August 2021 and this number is set to rise in the coming months. The sectors suffering the most with a shortfall of workers are HGV drivers (100,000+), Nurses (79,123), Carers (49,751), Chefs (29,996), IT Professionals (68,929), Retail Assistants (26,183), Primary and nursery education teaching professionals (30,574), Cleaners & domestics (24,148), Metal working production and maintenance fitters (19,748) and Carpenters and joiners (6,364). Other jobs highlighted with high vacancy rates include veterinary nurses, ambulance drivers and postal workers. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called for the Shortage Occupation List, which allows companies to recruit skilled workers from the EU and the rest of the world, to be extended to all specialist welders, as well as butchers and bricklayers. The Road Haulage Association has consistently argued that HGV drivers should be included in the scheme as vacancies have risen from a pre-COVID level of 60,000 to beyond 100,000 – threatening wider distribution disruption as the key Christmas season approaches.

To top this up last week we learnt that the UK is bracing itself for a severe shortage of CO2 gas impacting supplies of beer, fizzy drink and meat! The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was warned last week of the shortages caused by the closure of two major fertiliser plants. While the general public may not be aware, the drinks industry relies on CO2 to carbonate beverages, while the meat industry uses the gas extensively throughout processing; in slaughterhouses, and for packaging and refrigeration. The British Poultry Council (BPC) warned the industry was heading into a “downward spiral towards supply chains seriously struggling”. The council urged the government to prioritise CO2 supplies for food production to limit the disruption to supermarket supplies and hospitality businesses. Supermarkets shelves and restaurants are expected to be affected from this week onwards given that the gas is instrumental to the production of carbonated drinks and meat processing. All the major fast-food chains have suffered due to supply issues and this will continue in the foreseeable future unless the government gets its act together.

So, who is to blame for this mess and what can we do as ordinary citizens to stop this from getting worse? Winter is upon us and already consumers have seen a huge rise in prices of essential consumer goods. Most food and other household expenses have shot up by over 40 percent in some cases. The rich and the middle class are as always, cushioned by any negative impact on the economy but the majority of us have to rely on a hand to mouth existence not knowing when things will get better. Here is hoping that we don’t face a real winter of financial hardship and discontent as this time the powers that be will not escape the wrath of its people.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 24th September 2021.

Australian Trade Deal will Decimate British Farmers and Lower Food Quality in the UK

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the impact on British farming of the newly signed trade deal with Australia.

 So, a trade deal has been signed with our furthermost neighbour on the other side of the world! Great news for Australia but bad news for British farmers as it seems food standards have been lowered in order to get this trade deal. We have been warned repeatedly by the National Farmers Union that there was a danger to safety standards being compromised in order to get a trade deal no matter what adverse impact it will have on our high standards of farming and consumer food safety laws. What do readers think about this trade deal and will it undermine decades of hard work put in by various legal bodies and farming institutions to raise overall welfare standards of farms, farmers and the consumers? Going by the recent headlines since the deal was announced, it seems we as a nation have compromised our food standards; but by how much? This will be determined in the coming months and years as the small print of the trade deal will be put in practice and by then of course its too late! Our concern as a grass-root organisation is that this new trade deal will be a template for all future deals including with our biggest trading partners, the US of A. If you think Australian welfare standards are low and unacceptable wait until we have a trade deal with the US and other countries around the world that have an appalling record when it comes to animal welfare and food standards.

To give you an example, hormone-fed beef is banned in the UK but legal in Australia along with barren battery cages, sow stalls and hot branding! The UK has signed up to the Paris agreement on climate change, but this trade deal shatters the environmental target and goals that this country has set to reduce carbon emissions. Profit seems to be the sole motive and as usual the big corporations and landowners are likely to benefit from the trade deal while small, local farmers will be out-priced within the UK local market to cheap imported food products coming from far away lands. Trade deals are by nature compromising to the country that stands to benefit the least in terms of real impact on ordinary people. Mark Lynch from Oghma Partners said that nations with larger herds, such as Australia, will still benefit from the economies of scale. “Economics dictates that UK farmers are at a scale disadvantage and already marginal producers, such as upland sheep farmers, will logically inevitably suffer. This begs the question that, after the fishery fiasco will farmers be next in the firing line for losing their livelihood and means to support themselves and their families?

Many citizens of this country are making an informed choice of sourcing their foods locally in the hope of reducing their carbon footprint wherever they can. This trade deal, pandemic, job losses and dire financial circumstances of many individuals and families will leave no choice for consumers as most will be forced to buy cheap food imports produced in many cases with very low food safety standards.

We are going backwards and as a consequence future generations will be subjected to low nutritious food in their diets, thus having a knock-on effect on their health.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 2nd July 2021.

Brexiteers! Your Country Needs You!

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 farmers in the UK are on the brink of losing all their summer fruit crops due to a massive decrease in numbers of fruit pickers as a direct result of Brexit!

So here we go again! It seems we have finally gone back to the good old days when the sun never set under the flag of the British Empire. Britain is now more divided and isolated than ever in its history due to the lies and misinformation sold to English voters by the Tories, UKIP and the loony right-wing fringes of British society. After Scottish fishing having suffered huge losses since Brexit officially began this year, the next sector in the firing line is farming. For roughly six months of the year, farmers rely mostly on seasonal labourers coming to Britain mainly from other Eastern European countries to do the work that the local population don’t want. Some of the reasons being; having to work hard in the fields from 4am during summer months to low pay and zero-hour contracts.

Now that the UK has left the European Union it’s no wonder that many Europeans don’t feel welcomed anymore to come to this great nation! The irony was that the British people were sold misinformation about Europe and English nationalism was unleashed during the referendum in 2016 on voters been given the choice to Leave or Remain with no fact checking and downright lies told on national television and the print media day after day after day. Now that Brexit is done and the mask has come off, these very same politicians are still standing with no legal consequences for their action.

Numbers of seasonal workers from the EU have fallen drastically in the last two years and recruitment figures of one company in Kent show that they have fallen by almost 90% in the last two years alone. The impact of Brexit on the flow of workers has and is only getting worse with every passing month. At this rate many farming businesses will collapse and fold permanently with the knock-on effect being price rises of basic foods. With high unemployment on the cards once the furlough scheme is abolished, this country will face an existential crisis for the first time in its history, all of its own making. Director Stephen Taylor of Winterwood Farms Ltd, said that nearly 95% of all fruit and produce picked and packaged in the UK is done by eastern Europeans and from the end of June people who haven’t got pre-settled status, at least, can’t work! That’s a massive hole in recruitment which will not be filled by the locals, who many in England voted to leave, to get back control! Stephen Taylor referenced the UK’s unemployment rate, which stood at 4.8% of over-16s for the first three months of this year, but said it varies by region, and issues arose where British workers did not live-in reach of farms. The Tory government expanded its seasonal Agricultural Workers visa scheme from 10,000 visas issued in 2020 to 30,000 in 2021, at the same time looking to encourage farms to move to automation for a pioneering and efficient future! So, no local jobs created for local people, a promise to English voters to vote leave. This visa allows any EU migrants to work up to six months on a farm in the UK. Mr. Taylor also criticised the politization of the debate on seasonal workers coming to the UK

All Brexiteers should pull up their socks and go to the farms as your country needs you. Hard work it seems does not pay, a reality that the people of this country are waking up to lately.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 21st May 2021.

Scotland Should Ban Harmful Pesticides and Fertilisers Now!

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the use of Roundup, the glyphosate-based cancer-causing pesticide in the Scottish Borders.

It was refreshing to read the article on glyphosate by your reporter Hilary Scott in last week’s edition of the paper. When our social enterprise started building Scotland’s first organic training garden on school grounds, little did we know about the complexities of working with the local council. It was quite an eye opener and we realised how much control and no flexibility the councils hold over their local authority areas. But we found innovative ways to circumnavigate the bureaucratic rules that would have stifled our project and would have exposed primary school pupils to harmful chemicals and pesticides. Notice boards of various sizes were put up all across the project in order that council staff that came on their regular rounds avoided spraying anywhere close to the garden. I must acknowledge that frontline staff of the council were more receptive to the idea of keeping our organic garden safe for locals and pupils alike. The legacy of this project continues and more pupils and the community every year are benefitting from this amazing resource on their door step in Innerleithen.

So why did we insist on a no chemical rule to grow food. The reasons are many but to point out a few, one of the myths is that everything needs to be sprayed to enhance and make sure things grow, especially in Scotland where the weather is unpredictable. Scots have been growing multiple crops over hundreds of years with no oil-based fertilisers and pesticides and were actually quite healthy and strong. This also applies across the world. Secondly and this is the most important reason, corporations like Monsanto have been lobbying hard since the 50’s as part of the green revolution to use their products extensively for growing as it had major benefits and would also help farmers eradicate weeds and other pests in their fields. All very well you may say, but the widespread use of these pesticides over decades have not only resulted in the soil losing its nutrients due to over use of these very harmful chemicals but also did whole-scale damage to the ecosystem that crops relied on namely other wildlife that tackled pests in a natural way and helped the overall process of growing crops.

Using Permaculture principles in our organic garden, we worked with nature and not against it as most farming done today. The council argues that Roundup (glyphosate) is perfectly legal! So was DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and Asbestos for crying out loud.

The manufacturer of Roundup, Monsanto, which was acquired by the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer in 2018, is currently facing over 9,000 lawsuits across the US alone from plaintiffs who believe that their exposure to Roundup caused their cancer. Here is hoping the council and our elected councillors act quickly to move towards environmentally sustainable practices. The survival of our planet, environment and life is at stake and we need to act quickly to protect not only our country side but also the health and wellbeing of our children.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 21st May 2021.