Corporations and scientists in the pockets of big pharma are always on the lookout for a perfect opportunity to peddle their creations on an unsuspecting public. Brexit and the pandemic have given these capitalist opportunists a perfect situation to push for the loosening of legislation controlling the quality and safety of our food; both locally grown and imported from abroad. Westminster is hell bent on removing environmental and health safeguards that environmentalists fought for in this country for decades. So, what is happening now at Westminster? The Tory government in London has introduced a Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill which would set different rules from the EU following Brexit and has asked all devolved nations including Scotland to allow gene-edited crops to be grown. The Scottish governments environment secretary MSP Mairi McAllan dismissed the idea saying that Scotland will set its own food standards under devolution and will not accept any constraint placed on its food policies.
What is gene-editing? Gene editing basically allows scientists to change a plant or animal’s DNA. Many experts would consider it one step before GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organism) which is currently banned in Europe and the UK as a whole. Since Brexit, the UK government is hell bent on eroding all our food and environment safety laws that we as a country fought so hard to achieve over the past many decades. I have previously in my columns highlighted citizens to be vigilant against corporations, lobbyists and greedy politicians who are now convinced that the only way to grow and feed the population in the UK post-Brexit is via gene-edited or GMO foods!
Under the UK’s internal market legislation, introduced by the Tory government at Westminster, anything approved for sale in one part of the UK must be available across the whole of the UK. This legislation basically undermines “Devolution” in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We are already seeing the chaos caused by the “Northern Ireland Protocol Bill” and its hasty signing off as an election promise in their manifesto by the Tories in the 2019 general elections. MSP Mairi McAllan has written to her Westminster counterpart saying: “If the UK government is determined to press ahead with this legislation, it must take steps to ensure that its revisions to the definition of a GMO (genetically modified organism) do not force products on Scotland which do not meet standards here without the consent of the Scottish Parliament”. Simultaneously, also raising concerns about the impact of the bill on Scotland’s food exports to the European Union which currently still has a ban in place for GMO’s.
So, what can we do in Scotland to stop this mad onslaught on our food and its impact on Scottish soil and water in the coming decades if this bill is passed? Once again be informed about the technology that is being promoted, ask questions to your elected MSP/MP and try to understand the link between corporations like Monsanto, politicians and large-scale food producers. The citizens always pay the price when things go wrong, let’s make sure this does not happen to Scotland’s land, water, air and health of its population.
*Originally written & published in the Peeblesshire News and WION.
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
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.
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.