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

Priti Patel’s Evil Legislation Passes House of Commons Vote

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 Nationality and Borders Bill.

The Nationality and Borders Bill – which is a series of regulations spearheaded by Home Secretary Priti Patel has cleared the House of Commons in December 2021. MPs gave the immigration legislation a third reading by 298 votes to 231, meaning it passed to the House of Lords with a majority of 67. At a local level, our own Tory MP David Mundell voted with the government for this bill. The Bill forms part of the UK Government’s plans for a new immigration system.

The government has assured its supporters that this bill will fix the UK’s broken asylum system! According to analysis by the New Statesman, clause nine of the bill could impact up to six million people in Britain – with the majority being ethnic minorities such as those from Black, Asian or Eastern European backgrounds. Clause 9 in the new bill exempts the government from giving notice if it is not “reasonably practicable” to do so, or in the interests of national security, diplomatic relations or is otherwise in the public interest. Under Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill, the government no longer has to give notice of decision to deprive a person of citizenship if is not “reasonably practicable”. Under international law, everyone has the right to a nationality so people cannot be left stateless. An amendment was tabled by 20 MPs, who sought to scrap the plans in the bill to send people to another country while their asylum claims are processed. The Home Office floated proposals to place asylum seekers offshore in Gibraltar, the Scottish islands and Albania – but all these countries responded with anger and stated that they have no plans to agree to such an arrangement.

A report titled “An inspection of asylum casework” submitted last year by Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Neal tore into Home Secretary Priti Patel’s arguments that appeals to asylum decisions are “a complete merry-go-round and it has been exploited” by immigration lawyers. Alasdair Mackenzie, a barrister who specialises in asylum appeals added that the report “entirely undermines the secretary’s position that the way to deal with the problems in the system is more legislation. What is needed is actually better administration of the system that you’ve got.”
So, what really is all the fuss about? After all its just another major piece of legislation being pushed through parliament by the majority Tory government at Westminster. Covid-19, high unemployment, inflation, health and other issues are being used as a distraction to push thru this bill that will have long-term impact on non-white British citizens.

Terrorism, the refugee and asylum crisis will be used to target individuals that speak out against the government or British state or may be involved overseas in fighting against any injustice that may be construed by the home secretary as being anti British. In this case damaging economic interests of British companies overseas and in conflict hotspots around the world. Four barristers led by the human rights QC Raza Husain claim that the nationality and borders bill, will lead to challenges under international human rights and refugee treaties. Following 95 pages of legal opinion commissioned by the human rights group Freedom From Torture, they conclude: “This bill represents the biggest legal assault on international refugee law ever seen in the UK.

In conclusion this bill if passed will provide any future government/home secretary to decide who is a threat to the UK with no appeals process and the loss of their citizenship. Having acquired my citizenship through all the proper channels, I may now face deportation and the revoking of my citizenship if my columns and social activism upsets local Tories and Unionists. Until that day comes let’s enjoy what little freedoms we all have.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 21st January 2022 and WION.

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

COP26 Glasgow – A summary of the event

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on what happened at the COP26 in Glasgow and the repercussions for humanity going forward.

COP26 is now over and analysts are shifting through the small print of the documents that world leaders signed to help tackle climate change. The devil is in the details as they say. Apart from the big economies like Russia, China and Brazil, Turkey’s leader did not attend too due to a protocol issue involving his delegation in Glasgow. The presence of heads of state and government at the talks is not just symbolic. Real work gets done among leaders that cannot happen among lower-level diplomats. So, was COP26 worth it? Below are some of my observations on the outcome of the event.

It was decided unanimously to keep the global temperature to 1.5 degrees of global heating. Plus, it was also decided to get the biggest polluters to the table next year to agree to commit to cut their carbon emissions. This may seem to be delaying tactics by the biggest polluters but in actual practice it makes a lot of sense as there is no magic on/off switch to reduce carbon emissions overnight. A lot of planning will be required to have a smooth transition for a move to renewable energy as only a few countries are equipped for this change to their economy while the majority who are categorised as developing or third world will have to wait and see if the rich countries help support them via making funds available to move to a greener economy. Another big achievement was to phase out coal and replace petrol and diesel vehicles to electric. This alone will take developed countries like the UK a minimum of 10 years to put in place all the equipment and resources across the length and breadth of the country in order to meet its own targets.

Another big winner was a decision to phase out coal completely as an energy source. This was always going to be an issue as many poorer and developing countries like India still rely on coal as a source of heating and cooking. PM Modi of India has categorically said that coal would be phased out and emissions cut to net zero by 2070! By doing so he will be missing out on a key goal set at COP26 for countries to reach the target by 2050. The US, EU and China have all pledged plans to be carbon neutral by 2050. India is the world’s fourth biggest polluter of carbon dioxide after the above three. The UK is included in the EU figures and the data is from 2019.

One of the main groups missing at COP26 were indigenous communities from South America, Africa, Asia and smaller island nations from across the world. According to some sources indigenous people have preserved more than 80% of the remaining biodiversity left on this fragile planet. Reducing methane and deforestation by 2030 are the other two main goals that were signed off by all the attendees at the COP26. Unfortunately, the caveat being all this is voluntary for countries to make their own decisions. Over a decade ago the rich nations promised poorer countries over $100 billion by 2020! No money has been allocated so far and this was a major issue at the summit as many felt that no serious effort has been made apart from promising money every time at events like these by the rich nations, including the UK.

What happens next and what can we do as citizens of the world. Keep applying pressure on your local and national elected representatives and make sure to expose the nexus between politicians, corporations and donors who are the main financial beneficiaries every time a green proposal or project is rejected.

Finally! Wishing all readers, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2022!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 3rd December 2021

Conservative & Unionist Sleaze and Corruption 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 Tory sleaze and corruption.

What a roller coaster of a few weeks with sleaze and corruption back on the agenda thanks to the current ruling administration at Westminster. Our very own Tory MP David Mundell voted in the house of commons to protect his corrupt fellow MP Owen Paterson from being suspended. What the Tory party tried to do was not only defend the indefensible but use their majority to bring forward legislation that would allow Owen Paterson to go scot-free and avoid the 30-day suspension handed to him by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and Independent body setup to regulate MP’s conduct and behaviour along with overseeing the Register of Members Financial Interests.
Ex-Environment Secretary Owen Paterson had been facing a 30-day suspension from the Commons after the Standards Committee found he repeatedly used his position as an MP to promote two companies that paid him a combined £112,000 a year. MPs voted on November 3rd on an amendment tabled by Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom. The amendment blocked Owen Paterson’s recommended 30-day suspension from the House of Commons for ‘egregious’ rule breaches. It agreed to instead set up a committee reviewing the Commons standards procedure after Mr Paterson – who denied wrongdoing – branded the process flawed. This was a lie as Owen was given the opportunity to defend himself throughout the process. Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg then decided to undermine our democracy by trying to hijack our parliament once again! Even the right-wing press were appalled and finally took a stand.

What this incident has done is highlighted the ‘second job’ scam run by Tory MP’s that have been using parliamentary access, resources and privileges to make millions for themselves and their family, donors and friends. I have systematically highlighted this in my previous columns. MP Geoffrey Cox was working from a tax haven while working for the government of the British Virgin Islands! Sir Geoffrey has earned more than £5m in his second job since becoming an MP while working part-time for his constituency! The same applies to another Tory MP Natalie Elphicke who once suggested that Marcus Rashford the footballer should stick to his day job while it was revealed that she earns £36,000 as chair of the New Homes Quality Board, an independent watchdog for new-build houses.

It seems nobody really cares, at least here in our own constituency. Like Thatcher in the 80’s, Boris has slammed the final nail in the coffin of the Conservative & Unionist party in the UK. It’s time to get rid of them locally too and make Scotland an Independent nation where we can finally have our own written constitution and laws that will help our new country be equal, prosperous and fair to all.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 26th November 2021

COP26 – Another Opportunity to save our planet

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the on-going COP26 in Glasgow and the hope that politicians and world leaders come together to fight climate change that will affect all life on the planet.

The COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference, hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy, began last Sunday 31st October in the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow and will conclude on the 12th November. The biggest challenge facing the world is not climate change deniers but the rich western countries, corporations and politicians who have been catering to their local population and their ideologies. For example, in America the Christian right and the majority of the Republican party leadership do not believe in climate change and that humans are the biggest contributing factor. Billions of pounds have been spent over the years so far on refining buzz words and creating technical jargon to market the impending climate catastrophe to the lay person and many millions more spent to keep these updated as new evidence is available. Below are a few examples;

UNFCCC – The UN framework convention on climate change, which was signed in 1992 in Brazil dubbed the Rio Earth summit, binds all of the world’s nations – apart from a few countries – to “avoid dangerous climate change”. However, it did not set out in detail how to do so.

Kyoto protocol – This was the first attempt in 1997 to turn the UNFCCC’s resolution into what came to be known as the Kyoto protocol. This set targets on emissions cuts for each developed country, stipulating a 5% cut in global greenhouse gases overall by 2012. Developing countries, including China, were allowed to increase their emissions. But the protocol immediately ran into trouble when the US, which signed the treaty under Bill Clinton, could not ratify it owing to opposition in Congress. The protocol eventually came into force without US backing, in 2005, but by then was largely irrelevant, so countries set out on the long journey to a new treaty that would fulfil the UNFCCC aims, resulting eventually in the 2015 Paris accord.

The Paris Agreement – In December 2015 developed and developing nations came together to limit greenhouse gases. The main goal of the Paris agreement was to limit global heating to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels, while “pursuing efforts” to stay within the lower, safer threshold of 1.5C. Countries set out targets to stay within those limits, in the form of nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

The most vague and ambiguous one is NDC – Nationally Determined Contribution. Every country signed this as part of their target to reduce greenhouse gasses by around 2030! The Paris accord contains a mechanism by which every country must improve its target every five years, so the next NDC’s will be submitted by December 2030. Many countries have yet to submit their first five-year targets, as they were due in December 2020 but delayed due to Covid-19. Here is hoping that they do submit this data during COP26.

While I was writing this column, news just came in that a cruise ship procured by the government to host COP26 attendees will have to run on fossil fuels despite being equipped to use clean energy. These ships can usually connect to electricity while docked at ports, enabling them to switch off their auxiliary engines, but the port hosting the two ships does not have onshore power capabilities for medium or large vessels.

Billionaires should be focusing their massive wealth on saving our planet first before trying to inhabit other planets to repeat the same mistakes. Fingers crossed, COP26 will be a success as pressure is mounting on world leaders to act now!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 5th November 2021

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