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

Energy Price Rise Pushes Many Into Abject Poverty

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 cost-of-living crisis due to a steep hike in energy prices.

What a rollercoaster ride British citizens have been on since Brexit, covid-19 and now the fatal energy blow being delivered to hardworking families in this country. From April this year electricity and gas tariffs will go up by over 50% on average, thanks in part to the price cap being removed by Ofgem and a free for all in a capitalist energy market. The working poor, pensioners, benefit claimants and ordinary folks will have to make a serious choice of whether to feed themselves and their families or heat their homes to keep everyone warm and comfortable. A disgrace for the United Kingdom as it belongs to the G7 club of rich nations.

While rising energy prices will affect most households across the country, they are more likely to disproportionately affect those on the lowest incomes. In the financial year ending in 2020, the poorest 10% of households spent more than half (54%) of their average weekly expenditure (£298.90) on essentials such as housing (including electricity and gas), food and transport. Those in the richest 10%, in comparison, spend 42% of their average weekly spend of £1,073.20 on the same essentials. As usual, during any economic crisis, it’s the working class that suffers the most and are often blamed, even though it’s the fault of our elected politicians and their lobbyist friends and donors.

Locally the Tory run council introduced iPads for all high school pupils and primary 6 & 7’s a few years ago as part of their levelling up agenda. I had pointed out in my columns that many pupils from low-income backgrounds may struggle to even charge their free iPads due to their household’s using prepayment metres! None of the elected councillors were aware of this major financial barrier and were absolutely clueless when asked by me.

A perfect storm is brewing for many households in Scotland as a decrease in wages, increase in high food prices and from April a massive energy price hike. Rishi Sunak has not extended the £20 Universal Credit last year as that would have help cushioned the impact a little. The current rate of pay and benefits don’t fit well with a rich nation like the UK. Prepayment meters will see the highest price rise and they are mostly used by the poor and most vulnerable in our society. It beggars’ belief that the citizenry can be so easily mislead and benefit claimants scapegoated again and again for the deals made by politicians to rob the tax payers via their friends and families companies which are setup simply to steal money officially through various tax havens.

Overall, considering predicted energy price increases alongside a reduction in real wages and the planned increase in national insurance contributions, the Resolution Foundation feared a “living standards catastrophe” in 2022. It estimated that taxes and energy bills would rise by an average of £1,200 per household in April 2022 under current government plans.

It’s time to act and take back our country (Scotland) from the rich, powerful and corrupt institutions of the United Kingdom!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 18th February 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

Covid-19: The Saga continues…

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 once again it’s Covid.

It seems we are in a time warp and no matter what we do, can’t seem to get out of the vicious cycle humanity has found itself trapped in due to Covid-19. By the time this goes to print, Scotland and the rest of the UK will be bringing in new restrictions to stop and prevent the spread of the new covid variant, “Omicron”. I have been closely following the journey of the virus since it was first discovered in Wuhan, China in 2019. Below are some of my thoughts on why we are still struggling to bring the virus under control and what has gone wrong so far and why does it seem governments across the globe have not learnt from their mistakes.

We now know the facts and origins of the virus and how China kept things under wraps for a few months until a whistle-blower from a hospital in Wuhan revealed online the scale of the infections and death in the city in late 2019. China’s political system and the world turning a bind eye to the happenings in a communist state, all contributed to the spread of this deadly virus around the globe in a matter of weeks, thus causing utter misery, chaos and death to millions of citizens. Many have lost loved ones and all this death could have been avoided if strict measures were put in place by governments across the world; instead, they ran scared of offending China; the worlds biggest manufacturer of goods and the second largest economy after the US.

Once again, we are back to square one with possible lockdown and restrictions coming back with a vengeance. It took Boris Johnson until 23rd March 2020 to impose lockdown in all four nations of the UK. Unfortunately, as we now know, it was too late for many who lost their lives due to the pandemic and the careless attitude of Westminster covid rules and regulations that applied to the general public. Vaccine politics is being used as a weapon of choice by the rich western countries to charge exorbitant prices for life saving vaccines that the majority of the developing and third world countries cannot afford. Intellectual property rights have yet to be rescinded by western pharmaceutical companies in order that poorer countries can start production of these vital vaccines for their population. Global trade and travel were back to normal only a few months ago with no plan or exit strategy in place to avoid the spread of new variants like Omicron. The use of vaccines as a strategy to combat these new variants are falling way short of actually being effective to stop the spread of this virus. As of April 13, 2021, the United Kingdom government had ordered 457 million doses of various COVID-19 vaccines.

What should we do now? For vaccine’s to be effective, at least 70% of the population have to be vaccinated with all the 3 recommended doses. Secondly, the UK, especially England was allowed to remove restrictions like face coverings in public places including transport and indoors, while Scotland and Wales stuck with the measures to reduce infection rates. This was not going to work as the biggest population country (England) would have a negative impact on the UK. Unnecessary foreign travel, including holidays should have been restricted to stop the export or import of new variants of Covid-19.

Finally, the rich have to provide vaccines to the poor, if not, we will be constantly going around in circles as we also live in a very globalised world. Here is hoping it’s not too late again and that we don’t lose more loved ones to the virus.

Keep safe and have a good Christmas and a happy new year 2022!

 

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 17th December 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

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.

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.

Will Scotland vote for a greener and better future?

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on political parties who have campaigned on green issues for the recent Scottish elections.

By tomorrow we will know what path Scotland has chosen. It’s been a very subdued campaigning for the just concluded Scottish parliament elections. Due to Covid restrictions; debates, hustings and door to door campaigning was limited. A blessing in disguise for many of us who had to put up with cold calling on our door steps. This one year has been difficult for all of us in terms of our physical, mental and financial health. Job losses in millions and the benefit system that was supposed to be a safety net, proven to be wholly inadequate and demeaning for those that wanted to apply for financial support. Food prices going through the roof with many staple foods rising by more than 30 percent, and nearly 3 million food parcels handed out to British citizens in March-April 2021 alone!

This on top of the Brexit related chaos and incompetence by the Westminster government and you can see why the majority of people in Scotland are struggling to put food on the table while accumulating debts to pay their bills. In this backdrop we have a global climate catastrophe enfolding before our eyes and the impact of our inaction since the industrial revolution playing havoc with our children’s and future generations dreams.

Having spent the last few weeks scrutinising the green policies of all political parties, we as an organisation are still waiting for bold economic policies that will not only save the environment but also provide financial security in terms of jobs, skills and a humane benefit system for all, especially young people who are facing a dire and bleak future. This lack of manifesto vision may be due to the 5-year election cycle where the political parties focus on short term policies that give immediate results within the term of the parliament, undermining long term goals and objectives and well-being as a society. All the major parties are offering some form of policy to fight climate change but none going far enough.

We have to be thankful in Scotland that since the SNP came to power in 2007, they have been kept in check by the Greens who have supported a minority SNP government in two out of three election victories by supporting them in exchange for a push towards a greener Scotland. Having been involved at various policy level meetings and committees as a grass-root organisation within the framework of the Scottish parliament we have seen significant changes that are now beginning to bear influence and traction among the electorate and the wider economy.

Clean air, good nutritious food, healthy work-life balance and overall good mental health should be the focus going forward as a nation. Here is hoping that whoever wins this election will work towards attaining our climate and environmental goals and keep Scotland green.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 7th May 2021.