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 The £20 top-up that was provided to every single claimant of universal credit last year has now been withdrawn, leaving many to fall back on food banks, loan sharks and if living in private rented accommodation at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords who are waiting to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.

Triple Blow to UK Citizens by Tory Government Policies

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 higher energy bills, the end of furlough and removal of the £20 top-up to Universal Credit, a triple whammy, as millions of families will struggle financially this winter having to choose between feeding themselves or keeping warm!

From 1st October over 15 million people could be waking up to a massive increase in their energy bills with the announcement that the energy cap on some deals will be increasing by £139 per year. This is happening due to a combination of factors including Brexit and a rise in wholesale gas prices by more than 50% since the beginning of the year. Cheap energy deals are disappearing and becoming a rarity in the open market putting huge financial strains on low-income families and pensioners. The good news is that we can still reduce our bills as the price cap applies to certain energy deals like standard, default and out-of-contract tariff. Basically, they all mean the same thing i.e., if you have haven’t switched your energy supplier in a while or took no action when your last fixed deal ended, then you will be one of those that will be impacted by the price rise. Global prices of fossil fuels are rising, especially gas due to Covid-19 and a longer winter last year also meant that refiling of gas stores was delayed. Since some of our electricity is generated from gas, this means electricity prices are affected too. Energy companies are not obliged to increase their prices to match the new cap but big energy firms will do so in order to keep shareholders happy.

Add the removal of the £20 per week top-up to Universal Credit and the end of furlough and we are heading into a perfect storm brought about by polices of the Westminster (Tory) government which the Scottish government (SNP & Greens) have no control over. The worst hit will be those on prepayment meters. These are like pay as you go i.e., top up as you go along and are mostly used by low-income groups. Prepayment customers are charged more for each unit of energy than people on standard credit meters. In fact, the cheapest prepaid tariffs (£1,052, according to Ofgem) was found to be over £200 more expensive than the cheapest direct debit tariff (£846) in August 2019. Prepayment meter tariffs are also covered by the price cap. These are set to rise by even more. If you’ve chosen a fixed deal (one that has a set contract length) then you won’t be affected by the price cap changes. Housing charity Shelter estimates that nearly half a million private tenants are in arrears and this figure has doubled since the pandemic. Private renters spend more of their income on housing than any other housing tenure. Social housing is scarce and not readily available to fill the gap. The outdated Local Housing Allowance Rates needs a major overhaul as is not fit for purpose e.g., Scottish Borders is allocated a maximum of £74.79 per week rent (£324.09 per month). This is fine if you live in some remote parts of the Borders and in social housing but not in Peebles or the surrounding areas including Innerleithen. A private one-bedroom flat for rent in Peebles is around £450+. Which planet do these politicians live on, definitely not the same as us mere mortals?

We are going to witness a winter of discontent across the country if the Westminster Tory government does not get its act together and remove policy’s that impact the majority of the citizens of this country. Here is hoping that the four nations can keep themselves warm and well fed this coming winter.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 20th August 2021.

COP26 Glasgow 2021 – Scotland’s Time to Shine on the World Stage

 

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on global warming and the opportunity we have right here in Scotland as the host nation of the upcoming COP26 global climate event in Glasgow.

 It’s been over a year now since the pandemic struck all humanity no matter where you lived in the world, rich or poor. We are now facing a double whammy from mother nature vis-à-vis Covid and climate catastrophes all across the planet. Scotland is to hold the next United Nations Climate Change Conference later this year. For nearly three decades the UN has been bringing together almost every country on earth for global climate summits – called COPs – which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. During this time climate change has gone from being a fringe issue to a global priority. This year will be the 26th annual summit – giving it the name COP26. So, what can we look forward to with COP26? Leaders of more than 190 countries will be attending the Scottish event and we are hoping that our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will seize the opportunity to highlight Scotland’s pioneering role and contribution in renewable energy across these four nations.

Before COP26, many countries from around the world were signatories to what came to be known as the Paris agreement. This was COP21 and took place in Paris in 2015. The Paris Agreement’s central aim was to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to bring forward national plans setting out how much they would reduce their emissions – known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or ‘NDCs’. They agreed that every five years they would come back with an updated plan that would reflect their highest possible ambition at that time.

What have we done collectively since this historic signing of the Paris Agreement? Rich and powerful countries like the US, had left the treaty in 2020 under the Trump administration but have formally re-joined this year under current President Biden. Iran, Iraq and Libya – all among the 14-member Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) – as well as Yemen and Eritrea have not ratified the agreement. Some of the pros of the Paris agreement are that it has global support as 197 countries have signed the document and will have the ability to bring all parties together to address the real issue of keeping the earth’s temperature to a rise of 2 degrees Celsius maximum wile aiming for 1.5 Celsius by the end of this century. The temperature increase would decrease water supplies and crop levels. In addition, melting ice would raise sea levels, flooding coastal communities and destroying thousands, if not millions of homes. By committing to reduce greenhouse gases, the Paris agreement is aimed at preventing these ecosystem disruptions.

The cons of the Paris agreement are that its difficult to enforce on a global level and has a massive impact on energy related jobs e.g. Fossil fuels. On top of this you have complex rules that varies from country to country and actually may not go far enough to slow global warming. Thirdly the rich countries are manipulating the process and figures to protect a backlash from their own citizens.

Finally, where does that leave us as citizens of Scotland and what can we do to influence politicians of all ideologies and the big corporations that are driving this profit-making madness to human extinction? Please check out my next column in September for the real reasons behind the apathy from pursuing urgent policies both locally and nationally, the current status-quo’s main benefactors along with possible ideas and solutions to empower citizens of the world to help save our only home!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 6th August 2021.

UK Government to phase out £20 per week extra support to Universal Credit Claimants!

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 announcement to phase out the £20 a week increase to Universal Credit introduced last year during lockdown to help individuals and families struggling financially due to the pandemic.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told MPs last week that the £20 boost – introduced in April last year to Universal Credit to help deal with the economic effects of Covid – would be phased out by end of September. Devastating news for people on low income who rely on the state to top-up their meagre wages. We are now at the mercy of the Tories who have an overwhelming majority at Westminster thanks to English voters. Six former work and pensions secretaries have urged ministers to keep the £20 top up until the economy stabilises and claimants don’t suffer financially in the short term. Ms Coffey said the change had been a “collective decision” by ministers. The prime minister said the government is focusing on a “jobs-led” recovery from the pandemic, and was keen to “get people into work”. What planet do these Tories live on? Tory MP and their family, friends and donors have hugely benefitted financially from the pandemic. In my previous columns I have named and shamed these individuals and their companies and the billions lost due to tax payer funded schemes like furlough, contracts, etc. Tens of thousands of people did not claim universal credit during the early part of the pandemic because they felt too ashamed to sign on benefits, often despite struggling to pay rent and bills, a study has found.

Universal credit is claimed by almost 6 million households in the UK and was introduced by Tory Ian Duncan Smith in the early years of the Tories winning the election in 2010 but with Liberal Democrats as their coalition partners to replace six benefits and merge them into one benefit payment for working-age people. Many sane and educated people voted for the Tories in order to get rid of the so called “benefit scroungers”. Little did voters realise that the Tories in fact were taking apart a generous, fair and equitable welfare state to line their pockets instead. Karma is a universal concept well known in the east as a way of reminding people that what goes around come around. Strange that the very people who fell for the demonisation of the working class and people claiming benefits found themselves in dire straits financially last year during the pandemic as the state did not provide them with the safety net that this country built for its citizens exactly for such a scenario. This country is part of the G7 club, i.e., the seven richest countries on this planet! The question we citizens need to ask is where is all this money? And who is reaping the financial benefits? Tory MP’s and their families and friends have been directly or indirectly linked to companies that have financially gained from this arrangement from the Corporation that have contracts to deliver the various benefit systems, NHS contracts in England and Wales and major public service contracts like the BBC’s licensing fees!

Poverty campaigners have spoken out against removing this £20 per week top-up and have asked the government to make this permanent keeping in mind inflation and also the steep rise in food and other essentials since Brexit this year. This top-up amounts to a measly £1000 a year per household, but this has made the difference for some families between getting by and falling further into poverty. Overall, about 500,000 people in the UK chose not to claim universal credit, even though they most likely would have been entitled to it, the study found.  The perceived stigma around benefits – with some people feeling, they were for “dole scroungers” and “freeloaders” – meant many refused state help, or put off making a claim until they ran into serious difficulty.

We are no longer living in a humane society, and we treat animals better than our fellow human beings. Something has gone terribly wrong in Great Britain! It’s no longer great.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 16 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.

Democracy Must Win in the Republic of Scotland

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 undemocratic act of allegiance to her majesty the queen and her heirs and successors by elected MSP’s at the Scottish Parliament last week.

For anyone who understands the true meaning of democracy, many may have been confused to see the newly elected MSP’s swear an oath of allegiance to her majesty the queen and her successors! Why are we still doing this in 21st century Britain? Ultimately the royal family are above the law and not accountable like the rest of us peasants. They are protected by an ancient feudal system that not only looks after their financial needs but also cunningly incorporated their hold into the constitution over centuries. Not having a written constitution gives the monarchy, absolute authority over her subjects, even those that are elected democratically by its people. Unionists and traditionalists will argue that this is their culture, heritage and right, since it has been going on for centuries. That is exactly my point. Like most customs and traditions on these islands that have been done away with and some were adapted to suit modern sensibilities, this oath has to go, along with all the trappings of the monarchy’s interference in the democratic system. Not having a written constitution has benefitted only one family and that is the monarchy as you need so called experts to interpret the constitution who are in the payroll of the queen, as any support towards the monarchy guarantees you special privileges that we mere mortals can only dream of in this day and age.

An elected MSP cannot take his or her seat in the Scottish parliament until they take the oath or affirmation according to statute, which by the way are the same things. Any elected member who refuses is not allowed to take part in any parliamentary duties and lose their salaries and allowances until they do so. They are given two months to take the oath after being elected, after which they cease to be an MSP. If you still think we are living in a democracy then I have nothing else to add other than stop preaching to other countries as you are effectively supporting a glorified dictator in a different form, that still preys on the weak and poor of this country. Previously elected MSP’s have found innovative ways to get around this dilemma, for instance John Swinney in 2003 took the oath but said first: “On behalf of my colleagues can I confirm the prime loyalty of the Scottish National Party is to the people of Scotland, in the constitutional tradition of the sovereignty of the people.” Fellow socialist MSP Rosie Kane, had written “My oath is to the people” on the palm of her hand, which she held up as she took the affirmation. This year Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said he would like to reassert his party’s “allegiance lies with the people of Scotland who elected this parliament and who are sovereign, and we look forward to the day when they can choose their own elected head of state”.

Finally, Nicola Sturgeon made the following statement before swearing her affirmation to the queen: “The SNP pledges loyalty to the people of Scotland in line with the Scottish constitutional tradition in line with sovereignty of the people.” Well done! It’s time to take back our country and give Scotland’s people the parliament it truly deserves.

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

 

Scottish Democracy Prevails in 2021

SNP win 4th term at Holyrood

What a milestone for the SNP to be elected for a fourth consecutive term despite the negative and scare mongering tactics used by the Unionist parties and media. Scotland is truly ready to go it alone with its own written constitution, that is not ambiguous and vague and will stand up for the most vulnerable and weak in society. Boris Johnson has no reason or excuse anymore to deny the rights of the Scottish electorate. Democratic voting is not once in a lifetime exercise and England has this opportunity to switch back to being part of Europe if it wishes too and nobody can stop or stand in its way if it changes its mind tomorrow. The Scots will stand and support the English in exercising their democratic right to change their mind. For those you are spinning the results to suit their agenda and undermine democracy, here are some basic facts;

1-  If Scotland had a first past the post system like Westminster, then the SNP would have won between 108 and 110 seats in a 129-seat parliament. But instead, they won 62 out of 73 constituencies and only picked up 2 seats on the regional lists even though they had the highest number of votes.

2 – David Cameron fought the 2015 general elections on holding a referendum on Brexit and won by a 37% vote share, while the SNP has won 48% of the votes share. No argument here for a second Independence Referendum as the above stats don’t lie. The democratic will of the people has to be respected.

3 – The third most important point to make is that the voting system imposed by Westminster on the Scottish electorate is proportional representation i.e. The D’Hondt system. This is designed specifically not to give any single party an outright majority, which is why its technically wrong to say that the SNP have not won a majority!

This system is definitely much fairer than the one used at Westminster elections and should be replaced too as that will make English voters not lose their votes in the current first past the post system.

And finally, to sum up the negative campaign run by the Unionists parties who only focused on stopping IndyRef 2! You had plenty of time to make the case for an equal Union but instead you tried to ram your elitist ideology down people’s throats and introduced degrading policies and economic decisions that hurt the common people the most. The canny Scots once again saw through this hollow Unionism and here is hoping that in an independent Scotland, Unionists will focus on real needs of real people and not just the financial needs of their family and friends.

Please remember you can stop voting for the SNP in an Independent Scotland as other parties will be formed to keep the SNP on track in delivering a better Scotland for all.

Letter to the Editor published in the Peeblesshire News on 14th 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.