- Best bit: Doing three events in a day, in the snow and meeting fantastic folk trying to change the world
- Worst bit: Giving up coffee this week and having a terrible headache ever since
- Folk of note: Lesley Morrison, brilliant Tweed Green activist in Peebles + Abbie Marland from Aberlady who’s been really supportive
- Miles travelled: 628
- Things I learned: 7 million chickens are wasted in Scotland each year; Peebles is the only major town in the Borders whose population has increased in the last few years; renewable generation accounted for 49.7% of Scotland’s electricity last year.
From snowy travels to sunny tales of mining, it’s been a really busy and varied week with travels to Peebles, North Berwick, Glasgow and Newtongrange.
ON Wednesday I attended an event in the Parliament where the East Lothian Youth Council showed a brilliant film they’ve made on poverty and how it affects young people in the area. I was really struck by the fact that the issues faced by high school pupils today have barely changed since I was at Peebles High School. Expensive or non-existent public transport; difficulties facing young carers; the struggles of trying to find a job or opportunities to study. All of these issues affect young people right across the South and beyond. I’ll be writing more on the subject in the next few days.
Thursday was mostly campaign meetings but the evening brought a great trip to Peebles where I joined the fab folks at Tweed Green for a talk from Pete Ritchie of Nourish. Pete talked about food waste and about the structural problems with our entire way of producing, selling and buying food. Some shocking statistics came out – like 7 million chickens are wasted every year in Scotland. Bought and discarded. We talked about food banks and the fightback that Nourish are leading against the idea that just giving excess food from supermarkets to poor people solves the problem of food waste. As Pete pointed out, we need to create less in the first place, sell less and get over issues of “best before” dates. Equally we need to fight back against a social security system that leaves people with no choice but to seek help from food banks.
On Friday I travelled through to Glasgow for a meeting with Flood RE. They’re about to launch in April an aim to significantly reduce the cost of insurance for people who have been affected by or who are at risk of flooding. They basically insure the insurers but are funded by a levy on the industry. They aim to limit the excess on home insurance to just £250 – great news for folk like Ian who I met in Hawick a few weeks back and whose excess is £5000.
Saturday brought a fantastically busy but really great day. After an early train to Edinburgh, Brenna picked me up (my fractured arm is still not healed enough to drive) and we set off down the road to Peebles. By the time we reached the outskirts of Edinburgh the snow had started thick and fast – that magical, slow snow with enormous hypnotising flakes. We had gone to Peebles with the intention of helping out the Tweeddale Action Group with a stall to protest against Trident, but when we arrived, I spotted that there was a public meeting going on, run by the local community development trust.
So we split our energies, with Brenna helping on the stall and me heading off to the meeting. The session I attended was all about the future of Peebles High School – my old stomping ground. Within about 5 years, the current school will likely be at or over capacity so decisions need to be taken pretty soon about whether and where to build a new school. There’s lots more discussion to be had but it was a great first meeting. Find out more here.
After the meeting I popped back to the anti-Trident stall to help out for a bit before setting off for North Berwick. The wonderful East Lothian Greens had arranged a campaign meeting where Eurig Scandrett and I spoke about the campaign and got folk signed up to help out. Eurig’s number 2 on the list for the South of Scotland and an all round brilliant bloke. It was great to practice our hustings speeches and get some feedback from local members, as well as getting a chance to answer awkward questions about the campaign.
Sunday was Valentine’s Day and a day off with Nat, wandering up the hill behind the town, battling hailstorms and avoiding geese.
Monday brought a couple of meetings in the morning and a trip to Newtongrange in the afternoon. We took the Borders Railway to go visit the National Mining Museum of Scotland. We were really lucky to have some fantastic guides to show us around, including the CEO and the Keeper. You can read more about the trip here.
Tuesday was going to be a quiet day doing lots of prep work for a wee mini project I’ve got going, but instead it became a big media day talking about the future of Torness nuclear power station. I had an early start with Good Morning Scotland on BBC Radio Scotland, alongside Iain Gray, followed by a recording for Reporting Scotland with David Miller, BBC Scotland’s great environmental correspondent.
Our message was that it’s wrong that a private corporation can dictate energy policy for communities and governments alike; and that the decision to postpone its decommissioning kicks much needed investment in renewables into the long grass. The day finished with a wee turn on Scotland Tonight and a sleepy journey homewards.
The coming week brings land reform discussions at the Radical Independence Campaign conference; a session with the Scottish Young Greens and a comedy fundraiser with Ayrshire Greens on Saturday. Until next time…