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.
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
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 beginning of the end of the Tory party because of its decade long austerity, divisions on class, extreme poverty, hungry children and the final nail in the coffin of the breakup of the United Kingdom, a Brexit Deal!
2020 will go down in history as the year the elected majority Conservative party and the political system at Westminster struck the final blow to democracy, decency, equality and social justice in this country. The Brexit saga continues as I write this column even though a deal has been reached by both sides. Boris’s oven baked deal last year had got burnt and was no longer edible, even to himself as he then chose to break International law by trying to push the Internal Market Bill through parliament. Analysts, journalists and economists are pouring over the finer details of the 1246 pages trade agreement. So, chaos will reign in her Majesty’s Kingdoms with England finally getting a deal, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are left feeling frustrated and bewildered by English attitudes towards the European Union and the cost to its young citizens that will be left feeling isolated and insecure with a United Europe.
Covid-19 has mutated into a new strain and Dover was shut due to France opting to protect its citizens and its Borders. 7-mile queues of trucks were common sight for a few days with drivers feeling frustrated and angry and the army had to be put on standby for any eventuality that may arise. Lucky for us France opened its Borders to allow freight and other essential trucks to move thereby reducing the traffic jam and backlog near Kent. We are in Lockdown once again and no end in sight to our situation changing soon in the new year. Unemployment has risen exponentially and the benefit system that the Tories and Lib-Dems coalition put in place since 2010 has been proven to be ineffective and driven many of its claimants to poverty, homelessness, suicides and Foodbanks! Benefit sanctions were imposed on nearly a quarter of a million residents last year from April 2019 until March 2020 according to research by the House of Commons Library. These include people seeking Universal Credit, Job Seekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance. This was temporarily suspended at the beginning of Covid-19 but reinstated in July. Unemployment has reached record levels and we now know that sanctions only push people and families into financial hardship and foodbanks. Yes! The Furlough scheme was great and it kept certain people in their jobs but no pay rises and money for the self-employed, key workers and individuals on zero-hour contracts who are working on poverty wages.
Hoping that 2021 brings in positive change and social justice for all, especially key workers, some of whom who have lost their lives while making sure the economy and food supply chains stay open while we can feed our families and loved ones. We will never forget the ones who are benefiting from the misery of others, its time for change and Scotland finally becoming an Independent nation. Just like England, we need to take control over our borders, immigration and laws and make Scotland a Republic!
Stay safe and Good Luck to all in 2021!
Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 8th January 2021.