Four Years Ago…

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Four years ago, today, reality collided into our very beings as we realised that despite all the canvassing, meetings and conversations, most Scottish voters had preferred to stay part of the United Kingdom than for Scotland to become an independent country. Despite the grief felt by many, there was a genuine optimism that a new kind of politics had been forged throughout the referendum campaign. I for one was very proud to play a role, working with people of all parties and none to put across an alternative vision for the future of Scotland.


In the weeks and months following the referendum, this hope and optimism turned for many into an adoption of different colours and fierce attacks at any criticisms of roles played in the referendum. Some like myself, foolishly thought real change was possible in helping to evolve and enhance other pro-independence parties to in part remove the stigma that independence was ‘all about the SNP’ While members of smaller pro independence parties were asked to lend their vote in General Elections on the vague assurances that it would be repaid in the PR votes of Holyrood.

When they never came further divide was created. Added to that those who dared to ask for more from a Scottish Government who had pledged in 2015 to end austerity politics were hounded, tarred as unionists in disguise, suddenly the unspoken common charter of decency and genuine debate was torn apart. In what may be an unpopular opinion, the SNP must shoulder some of this blame. In seeking to maintain their ascendancy they have allowed this to tarnish the positive and inviting atmosphere the yes campaign had created. In short, they have placed party power ahead of any chance to improve the route to independence.


Further proof in this was in their attacks on Jeremy Corbyn. Here at last there was a Labour leader who shared the vision of a society many in the yes campaign had espoused, yet rather than seek to work with him or to convince his many supporters in Scotland that independence was the best route for this society in both Scotland and ergo through successful implementation in the RoUK also. They have instead joined in with the Tory party and media attacks on him and those with an opportunity to transform the Labour Party into the socially just party it was created to be.


To be fair to the SNP their attacks and power grabs are understandable to a degree in that they must retain power in Holyrood to have another opportunity at an independence referendum, however they have by proxy set off the more ardent fringe members of the yes campaign to act in a way that has seriously tarnished not only the legacy of the yes campaign but also future opportunities for a successful referendum result.


It is however not too late to rescue the situation. The re-emergence of local yes groups is a positive step in moving the campaign away from the fringes of social media. The real positivity and creativity of the last campaign came from these groups in conjunction with the smaller yes parties and groups such as Labour for Independence, RIC, BFI, and Women for Independence. While the Common Weal has been in place these last four years and have produced a power of positive alternatives for policy within an independent Scotland, they have with respect fallen into the same trap that many local yes groups had last time out.


Far too often meetings and events were arranged that were preaching to the converted. A reality must set in that if we are to achieve a yes vote beyond 50% we must reach out to those who voted no the last time. Offer to debate them, attend the same groups & projects within the community and engage with them on a more personal basis. I for one am guilty of not reaching out as much as I could to no voters in these last four years.


Finally, Labour are not the enemy, most decisions in the party are made by a select few within the party, most members whether they will agree with a yes vote or not will engage and debate. One of the biggest failings in the last campaign was finding comfort in calling Labour red Tories when really, they just had a differing point of view.


There is still an opportunity to begin to rebuild the bridges which have fragmented the Yes Campaign, I’m sure some will accuse this article, by criticising the SNP, of further fracturing the movement. I respectfully disagree. As we so often repeated during the last referendum, yes isn’t about Salmond, or Sturgeon or the SNP, it is about creating a better society. I believe in that better society, I believe that Jeremy Corbyn can deliver that in a Westminster Parliament if given the opportunity, but will he ever get that chance? That’s a case that needs to be made. It won’t be made without engagement of no voters, nor without self-regulating the content we support on social media. It’s time to mend fences and then regardless of yes or no, we will be back on the road to a better nation.

 

By Allan Grogan

 

You can read more Ungagged Writing here or hear from a range of left views on our podcast 

Ditch the Donald, Dump the Trump

Reading Time: 1 minute

Ditch the Donald, Dump the Trump

free protest signs

Want to carry a super cool protest sign for when the orange menace visits the UK, but you aren’t very artsy? We’ve got you covered. Our art department (the brilliant Red Raiph and Debra Torrance) have created a whole range of  Dump the Trump posters that you can download and print off to use absolutely free. After all, he deserves an appropriate welcome.

 

We’ve got full colour, black and white for cheaper printing, images to scrawl your own slogans on, have a scroll through and take as many as you like:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, you are welcome to download as many of these images as you like to use for your own protest signs, give them to friends, use them as posters, share them online, whatever you like, absolutely free, but if you’d like to make a donation, you can find our collection tin at paypal.me/ungaggedleft

Wonders of the Fair

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Wonders of the fair

Debra Torrance
Image courtesy of Yasmin Parnham

The carnival is in my soul, I love it so very much. The smells, the sights and the sounds. It fills my senses with nostalgia and excitement. I’m sure this is true for many of us. As I wrote last time about Showmen this is another sad tale of a Fair that’s being treated not so fairly.

Feltham showmen have a history spanning over a century, residing in Feltham, in the council borough of Hounslow, just south of the M4 and West of London. On a bit of land that was formerly an orchard and piggery, descendants of the original plot owners today still live in chalets, brick built homes and caravans. Doing the same job their forefathers done. Bringing joy and fun to many areas around London including Wimbledon Common and Ravenscourt Park.

Image by Yasmin Parnham
Image by Debra Torrance

From wee babies to elderly residents, this community of showfolk are under threat. 60% of the land is privately owned by the Showmen families, however Hounslow council own 40%. Hounslow council have been reviewing their housing stock, they say the new London Plan requires Hounslow to provide 21,800 new homes over the next 10 years. It is no surprise then that such a perfect spot for commuting is under threat of redevelopment. But it is a surprise to the hundreds of residents that already live there.

On June 11th, Hounslow council leader Steve Curran said “The Feltham Masterplan… identifies the Station Estate Road ‘Travelling Show Peoples’ site as having potential for redevelopment for housing due to its close proximity to the train station and town centre.”

You can view the full statement on the Feltham Masterplan here:

Furthermore the councillor continues:

“In order to identify a suitable alternative site, we have carried a detailed assessment of the current and future needs of the existing Traveling Show People community at Station Road. We have also carried out a “Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (GTAA)”, which is a borough-wide assessment.

We continue to look for a suitable alternative site and engage with the community to assess their needs”.

I wondered about this impact assessment, as I covered in my last article, showmen are a unique culture. Business people who have mastered the art of logistical nightmares, literally living their livelihood. How can a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment take into account unique traits of the showman? Most with a home base, a large static chalet or even brick built homes. Often in yards where they can maintain their vehicles and machines. A showman may move vehicles and machines several times a day from fairground site to yard to stadiums, many will stay with their machines and vehicles on site but many also return home to their base. Where their children attend school and elderly relatives are cared for.Hounslow council say they carried out an impact assessment. So we had a look at the Hounslow Bedfont Lane and Station Estate Road TSP Accommodation Assessment.

This GTAA is a 33 page document, outlining the various types of accommodation that the showman use. The trouble is, without fully understanding the complex working and travelling routines of showmen, it would be easy to misconstrue the facts being presented to us. If the majority of households in the showman sites have mobile homes, then what is the problem with just moving elsewhere?

Except, that isn’t the case. A showman’s household may span several generations, elderly grandparents may reside with up and coming young showmen, some members of the household may travel from fairground to fairground, while others stay at their static site, in brick homes and bungalows, as well as modern chalets, often costing tens of thousands of pounds.

 

Image by Yasmin Parnham
Image by Debra Torrance

Does this assessment give a fair representation of the showman community in Feltham?

We asked showman spokeswoman Yasmin Parnham her opinion on the situation:

“While the GTAA does reflect on us and it does show indeed we have a need for additional yards due to growth within the families and business. We have given Opinion Research Services our full co operation but even though the assessment was complete we had to push the leader of the council for us to see the report even though we knew they had it we hadn’t seen the results.
We have been in total shock after finding out from a councillor Elizabeth Hughes sometime ago that our land was identified for compulsory purchase order, this she told a fellow showman in the local pub, since then we have been trying to get more information about this.
Showmen have lived on this site for 4 generations over 150 years when infact it was originally a pig farm and an orchard, Feltham has built up around us, we are the only ones included in the masterplan to be under threat of losing our homes.
I have been seeking help from all over and our local ward councillor John Chatt told me in a recent meeting how very upset he was over losing his local labour club where he used to drink, he was quite mortified I said ‘John that’s a club and you feel like this imagine how we feel this is our homes and livelihoods!’”

The local community have been rallying with the showmen and residents under threat from this Feltham Master Plan. The local Victoria Junior School Year 4 children were learning about the history of Feltham and were outraged by the story of the Showman’s site and offered to help. Lawyers have offered their services, thousands of messages of support have been flowing into the inbox of Yasmin and now have over ten thousand members (and growing!) on their facebook page. Although it is often misunderstood, the life of the showman is intrinsically linked with the community in which they live for the off season. That home base is just that, their home. Can you imagine being told in the pub that your home was under threat? How would you feel if your neighbour came to tell you that your council was proposing new homes where your home was? If the council have identified like for like alternative sites for this showman community then why don’t they build new homes there and leave this site alone? I asked Yasmin how the whole ordeal has impacted her:

“The threat of losing our homes is taking its toll on our elderly, there has been heart attacks, deaths and some of my friends are now on antidepressants through anxiety and stress, I have been too recently!
My own father has had a heart attack and has prostate cancer, whilst in his hospital bed he said if I manage to get through this we will fight the council…”

Please digest that for a moment. A specific group of people in a community under threat are getting sick through this whole ordeal, mental health is being affected, physical illnesses exacerbated and sick and hospitalised people are fighting for their homes! In Great Britain. In the 21st century.We can’t let these hardworking, community minded, culturally rich and historic folk fight this by themselves. Showmen the length and breadth of the countries of the United Kingdom will be fighting together, have no doubt. Let’s support them. Because remember our communities would be poorer without carnivals and fairs. What is a gala without a bouncey castle? What is a Highland games without a hook a duck? These events are vital boosts to lagging local economies. What is happening in Feltham to the Showman community isn’t fair.

You can contact Steve Curran council leader here:
Write to your own MP and let them know about it all and how you would feel if your home was flagged for redevelopment in an ominously named “Masterplan.”

I want to finish with the words of a Showman, because this is their story, I’m just sharing it.

“In 2018 should we not be trying to integrate our communities rather than making the showmen social outcasts on the edge of town!

Feltham has created what other towns have failed to do, they have a community that is made up of so many diverse groups of people that even though they are very different to each other they do not see themselves as separate groups but as one large community!

Is this not what every borough should be striving to achieve, rather than tearing it apart?”

You can sign the petition to save the Feltnam site here

 

Yasmin Parnham also wrote a moving piece of poetry. You can read it here

 

You can read more of Debra’s Ungagged writing here, or listen to her on our podcast

The Feltham Masterplan

Reading Time: 1 minute
Yasmin Parnham

I can’t believe it that I’m having to fight,
For something that belongs to me by right.

We just don’t rent or set up any where ,
We aren’t gypsys we’re showman from the fair!

We work long hours come rain, blow or snow,
We don’t get much time off either you know.

But that don’t matter Cos it’s our way of life,
We’re used to having a little trouble and strife,

We can take the ups with the down,
Especially with the help from our little town.

The community’s support is overwhelming to us,
We only wanna be left alone without a fuss.

But the council are intent on taking my home from me,
Well I can tell you it’ll be over my dead body!

A showman’s life isn’t an easy one ya see,
Fighting the council will be soo easy,

Cos we’re all made of truly strong stuff,
And stick together when the going gets tough.

So Mr Curran a walk in the park this won’t be,
I’ll make it as hard as I can for you so happily.

For 4 generations showman have lived on this land,
And worked hard for what’s there’s with their own bare hand.

And you think you can just come and take our home?
And stick others in high rise flats that don’t even roam?

What about our heritage and also our Human right?
This isn’t gonna be easy, we’re gonna put up a good fight,

So now is the time to prove you are a good councillor man,
And get the showman removed from The Feltham Masterplan.

 

You can read more about the case that inspired this poem here

Arms Fair Activism: Arts Not Arms

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Arms Fair Activism

Arts Not Arms

By Jay Sutherland

As Britain’s Armed Forces Day approaches Scotland Against Militarism and others are working against the upcoming UDT Arms Fair due to be held at the SEC events centre in Glasgow on June 28th and 29th.

When we tell most people, even those who claim to be fully switched on and up to date about politics they are shocked to hear that an Arms Fair is coming to Glasgow, and sometimes even deny that it could be sponsored and supported by the Glasgow SNP-led council.  This has been one of the biggest challenges for us to overcome, the fact that the council and the SNP group of councillors have done their best to hide the fact that they silently support this.

But as always, money talks.  The SEC, which is 90% owned by the council, will be hosting the event.  It’s important to name and shame who we are dealing with, the key people who are involved in this through the council are David McDonald the deputy leader of the council and public defender of the Arms Fair within the city chambers. He claims that it is simply a technological conference and that Trident is not involved, despite having speakers, displays and information relating to Trident at the conference, as well as a student recruitment drive led by Trident experts taking place at the event.  The logo for the entire event involves trident – you would think they would do their research.

More hypocritical is Susan Aiken’s approach who claimed she only found out about the Arms Fair a few months ago despite being head of the Council and Glasgow Life.  She has defended the Palestinian cause in the past but sees no issue with Israeli Defence Force technology being promoted at the conference and companies which are linked to the IDF being there.  Some of the technology present at the conference will be the same tech which continues to oppress the people of Palestine but also keep them within from the land as well as the sea with underwater detection.

S.A.M (Scotland Against Militarism) and activists from CAAT Scotland (Campaign Against The Arms Trade) have been doing most of the ground work in Glasgow and beyond to try to get the event cancelled or at the very least remove council support.  Recently we have held demonstrations outside the city chambers and outside Susan Aiken’s surgery where we confronted her about her support for the Arms Fair.  She claims that cancelling the Arms Fair would damage the city’s reputation.  The opposite is true, it will show Glasgow doesn’t deal with warmongering/human rights abusers such as Israel.  Also the fact that the SNP-led council will only speak to us when we turn up at their surgery’s unannounced shows a real democratic deficit, despite David McDonald saying he would always be happy to meet with us, he also gave no reason for cancelling his surgery when Scotland Against Militarism announced our day of action.

Before that we met with Green MSP’s who gave their backing to the protest on the 26th of June at SEC.

We have a lot of actions lined up in the days and weeks ahead, we want to make it clear to the council that we won’t stop the disruption until they remove their support for this trident showcase. With the council blatantly lying about the links to trident we have no choice but to step up our campaign.

We urge everyone to get involved by contacting their elected representatives, taking part in actions and attending the protest weekend we have planned. 26th June: Mass protest 8am/10am, 27th: #ArtsNotArms a festival of music and Arts Against the Arms Fair, 28th: TBC

Scotland Against Militarism welcomed the news of the removal of the People Make Glasgow logo, but we won’t be backing down until full support is removed.

Scotland Against Militarism and the Sink UDT Campaign first pushed for them to remove the branding with our meeting with Susan Aitken, this was not a decision that the council came to themselves.

Most of all it shows that people power works and that the council realise they have got it completely wrong, but they are still refusing to remove full support. They recognise that people have claimed the brand but what they don’t realise is that people own the city too and we are not putting up with this.

We won’t be backing down until they remove their full support for the event, nothing less. Otherwise they are simply hiding their interests.

Pay To Spend

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Ged Killen MP

Can you imagine being charged £3 per every time you withdraw cash?

98% of us withdraw our money free of charge from cash machines, however changes to the way these free to use ATMs are funded could see many close and others having to charge withdrawal fees in order to stay open.

The LINK Network, which sets the funding formula for free to use ATMs (the interchange rate fee), plans to cut this funding by 20% over the next four years. The interchange rate fee is a 25p charge which is levied on card issuers and banks every time you use your card in an ATM machine. It is these 25p charges which pay for the upkeep and maintence of the ATM machine.

LINKs 20% reduction means that this fee will drop from 25p to 20p over four years. The first 5% or 1.25p cut will happen in just a few weeks on July 1st.

LINK claimed during the consultation over this cut that between 8% and 18% of free to use ATMs would go, and these closures would only happen in urban areas where there is an oversupply of free to use ATMs.

I however do not believe this is the case.

In the United States a similar change to how free to use ATMs were funded pushed up the average withdrawal fee to almost $5, and reduced the spread of ATMs in rural areas.

When LINK appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Jobs and Fair Work Committee they revealed that they now estimate the closures of free to use ATMs to be even greater than they initially expected. They now believe that up to 10% of Scotland’s free to use ATMs could close after the just the first 5% cut. This means that as many as 40% of Scotland’s free to use ATMs could close over the next four years, more than double LINK’s higher estimate of 18%.

Previously LINK has also offered assurances that no ATM would close if it was more than 1km way from another free to use ATM. This assurance was the bedrock of their financial inclusion policy which they said was designed to protect rural communities access to cash. When pressed on this recently, LINK chairman Mark Boleat said “I’m reluctant to make promises we can’t keep.”

ATM providers, the companies which run a business providing and running ATMs, are concerned that LINKs cuts to the funding formula means that their business will be put under threat and that existing free to use machines will have to close or charge a fee to remain viable.

Cardtronics, one of the UKs biggest ATM operators, is currently reviewing the economic viability of 1,500 ATMs, 600 of which are under urgent review. There will also be a hiatus on the installation of new ATMs.

There are no legal protections for free cash and nothing which secures the place of free to use ATMs on our high streets other than a business case based on the funding formula set by LINK or their ability to charge users to make a profit.

That is why I have introduced a bill in Westminster to ban ATM charges and introduce an enforceable access to banking standard to prevent communities from being cut off from financial infrastructure such as free to use ATMs.

We may be moving towards a cashless society, but we are not there yet. Research by the consumer body Which? has shown that in 9 in 10 people in Scotland see access to free cash as important to their lives, with rural areas being the most dependent.

The use of free to use ATMs is worth protecting. Studies by the FSB have shown that a loss of free to use ATMs can reduce footfall on the high street and decrease trade for businesses which rely on cash.

LINK argue that they are cutting the funding to ATMs because we are using cash less. While I accept we are moving towards a cashless society I believe the extent of LINKs cuts are an example of a forced change, against the broader needs and wishes of the public. That is why in my bill I want to shift the risk and the burden away from consumers.

If we are moving towards a cashless society, we must ensure that we arrive there at a pace set by the needs and desires of the public, not via fee-charging ATM machines that penalise consumers.

My bill would ban ATM charges and establish a right to free access to cash based on a full market review of the ATM network to establish demand for cash.

If we are serious about financial inclusion and economic development, particularly outside metropolitan areas, we should seek to protect the services people rely on.

Change should be driven by consumer use, not by financial institutions acting in their own interest.  So long as there remains a demand for cash, access to that cash should be freely available no matter where you live.

World Refugee Day

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

By Debora Kayembe, Human Rights campaigner and Director of Full Options

 

It’s summer, most countries in the world expect migration movement to increase. Human migration is the movement by people from one place to another with the intentions of settling, permanently or temporarily in a new location. The movement is often over long distances and from one country to another, but internal migration is also possible; indeed, this is the dominant form globally. A person who moves from their home to another place because of natural disaster or civil disturbance may be described as a refugee or, especially within the same country, a displaced person. A person seeking refuge from political, religious or other forms of persecution is usually described as an asylum seeker.
Since the Arab spring widely considered as the Arab revolution which was a revolutionary wave of both violent and non-violent demonstrations, protests, riots, coups, foreign interventions, and civil wars in North Africa and the Middle East that began on 18 December 2010 in Tunisia with the Tunisian Revolution. The world has witness an expected and unprecedented massive movement of refugees to Europe that result to a reception crisis; thousands of refugees cross the sea and attempt to settle in the most appropriate place that they taught suitable for them.

Once arrived the host country; it is not always a welcoming sight; a lot it expected from the new comer as well the from refugee perspectives; it is the time to rest, recover and make choices. Some likely manage to make it to the place of their choice, some do not and the most unfortunates end up in detention centre or being deported back to their home land depending on countries and immigration refugee policies.

When integration in the host countries comes to the mind of a refugee, the challenges are immeasurable. It requires great mental and/or physical effort and is a major test of a person’s ability. It is also important for members of the host society to recognize that it is the right of a person to have or to do something in order to strive to move forward.

Integration is, after all, defined as a process of developing a society in which all the social groups share the socio economic and cultural life. Each and every country holds its own policies on refugees and asylum seekers in order to allow them to settle. We can divide these in two parts: the socio economic integration and the cultural integration. There is also a third part and that is the responsibility that both the host country and the refugees (that includes asylum seekers) take for ensuring that the policies work.

A new life in a host country places a lot of expectations on refugees and little thought is often given to how much or how well the refugee understands the society in which s/he has joined and been called up to integrate. Are there any ways that the host country can help the refugee to overcome the challenges that they will certainly face? Have ways of teaching the new way of living been provided to minimize additional tensions on the life of the refugee? While each country has its own systems, they all have some things in common, namely, they are discriminatory, non-equal, and segregationist. People are led to believe that the world is working towards less racist policies at local levels, but in the context of the refugee (and asylum seeker) experience this is not the case.

We also need to think about the ignorance and naiveté that can be part of the refugee’s way of seeing the world after going through tremendous trauma, and their expectation that the world will look upon them with compassion.

Challenges are not only felt by the newcomers and it is important to consider that those attempting to welcome them can face significant challenges too including offer refugees the opportunity to participate in a dialogue and to be open-minded about how refugees might be perceived.
Fundamentally, there is a need for an open and inclusive local/national society that offers refugees the opportunity to be introduced to a new culture through non-judgmental inclusion. Being a refugee in host countries is like finding refuge in your neighbor’s home.

Your neighbor will give you a bed and will probably provide food for you in the earliest days on your arrival, but will soon expect you to make a contribution to their home as long as you stay. I do not think the neighbor will be pleased to see you stealing or destroying his property for no reason. But it is also true that, the refugee will be much settled if his host offers him in equal measure and all the necessary help that he need in order to be become self-sufficient.

I will not finish to write this article without mentioning the immigration detention Centre; around 30,000 people are held under Immigration Act powers every year, for a range of reasons. In 2017, 27,331 people entered detention. Some are asylums seekers who have had their claim refused. Others are asylum seekers who have a claim in process, and are being held while that decision is made (under what is known as the Detained Fast Track). In the Scotland we have a detention centre called Dungavel, I always call for the closure of that centre because of the persistent and continuous violations of Human rights that happens in that centre ; It is also true that immigration matters are not part of the devolved powers to the Scottish government ; but the welfare of the individuals in Dungavel it’s very much a Scottish responsibility ; I am calling upon to the Scottish parliament to conduct an investigation into the conditions of detainees in that centre .

You can find out more about Full Options on their Facebook page or on twitter

 

 

You can read more news and views on our writing page or listen to our our latest podcast

Real Carers Week

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Sandra Webster

I am privileged to belong to a group of passionate writers who are called Ungagged. I love them because they share voices that deserve to be heard and often are not. At the end of Carers Week, am proud to be writing for them.

Once a year we carers get patted on the back and told what a fantastic job we do. I think there will come a time when we all realise the love and compassion carers have, make the world a better place. We do what we do at the expense of our own health, there are no health and safety measures put in place. In a past life I was a paid carer a career, fantastic colleagues. I worked in places with great practice. I had time off and paid holidays. My work then could not prepare me for the reality of being an unpaid carer. We care round the clock often 24/7 when our caring role is over many of us have PTSD and are expected to find work quickly. We have much to offer our skills include advocacy, form filling, managing our time effectively. Most employers will look at our “work history” and not regard this as real work. However we do what we do with love in our hearts.

This week has been a rollercoaster for me but is just a typical one. I have read so many stories on social media. Some of us have been tweeting #RealCarersWeek. We live in the shadows and keep the dark times to ourselves; posting pictures about happy times masks how difficult our lives actually are. The stories I have read this week have made me cry and smile and make me realise I am not alone. I rarely get out. I saw a dear friend who is also a carer this week and got to a gig!! I thought I would not get but I have not had a night out on my own for over a year and we made it. It refreshed my batteries but I felt so guilty going. I know many folk will get that.

Carers contribute more than the NHS budget in unpaid care. What would happen if we downed tools but w won’t of course. The Adam Smith foundation presented a paper this week which said women should expect to be unpaid carers. That is the crux of the matter it is mostly seen as “women’s work” though I know more and more men who are carers. Assumptions are made as well as cuts to essential services. I believe in people being seen and part of their community but this is used as an excuse to making cuts to essential services. Such services are crucial and I am all for volunteers and charities but they should not provide essential centres. Language about community care are used as an excuse to make cuts.

So another Carers Week is almost at the end for us though #RealCarersLives continue 52 weeks a year seven days a week. We have to battle and advocate for support for our loved ones forgetting ourselves. Am glad that so many people have shared their stories on #RealCarersWeek this year. It is up to a 1000. I live in hope things will get better this week but in reality doubt it. Am proud on behalf of Ungagged to wish all who care the best, always at your back. Come and share the microphone that is Ungagged and let others hear your story it is an important one. Love and strength to you all. xx

 

You can read more of Sandra’s Ungagged writing here or listen to her on our podcast

Plastic Pleurisy Part Poo 💩

Reading Time: 4 minutes
The war on plastic is real, it’s escalating. Humans are devising new ways to tackle the ever growing problem that is plastic. We are recycling more, we have discovered plastic eating insects,
We’ve deployed barriers across rivers to catch plastic, we have sophisticated tractor dragged rakes to pick up the plastic on our beaches. However, we really should be cutting down on the production of plastic, and the only real way to impact that is to stop using it.
Hence the logic behind banning some plastic convenience items, such as straws that was featured in my last article on the subject, Plastic Pleurisy.
Now the newest great idea is to ban wet wipes. There has been a bit of an uproar from parents on the issue, there’s many articles that share parents concerns. But do I even need to mention the needs of the disabled? Yes, it seems I do.
Now, you’ve a wee baby and how gross to imagine carrying about a wet rag you’ve just used to clean up a really dirty nappy. Now imagine that baby is a grown adult. Are you still carrying about that cloth? No, no you are not, it’s probably binned. Adding to the every growing number tonnes of rubbish in our dumps.
Double incontinence is a concern for many disabled people who want to go out in public, wet wipes are a necessity. Not a convenience. Yes wet wipes shouldn’t be flushed, and they are causing huge fatbergs in sewer systems around the country.
What is a fatberg? It is a huge build up of mass in a sewer that is caused by things that aren’t meant to be flushed down the loo. There was a whole program about it, where they dissected one, if you want to physically balk when you watch tv then its not hard to find the link online. But here in Scotland we have adverts on tv telling us how our water systems work and regularly advertise what and what not to put down the loo. I think education is a better alternative than flat out bans.
The needs of disabled folk are quickly becoming afterthought in Tory tokenistic environmental policy, and it’s the afterthought that irks me so much. But that’s to be expected from a party who’s welfare reform can be called nothing else than a bureaucratic attack on the sick and disabled citizens of their own country. What’s surprising and depressing tho is the ableist responses from the general public;
Apart from the clearly ableist commentary, the backlash is growing against parents who know what disabled/changing room facilities are like. (Let’s be honest, they are usually one and the same.) There is no bidet and they almost always already smell of poo. There is the cries of “what did you do before wet wipes existed?” and that is true, I asked my 77 year old mum what she used to use, she told me a natural sponge, however there wasn’t many public changing facilities. And of course, babies were in natural terry towelling nappies. As for disabled folk, well my mother recalls seeing the first public disabled toilet in the 70’s, before then disabled folk were rarely seen out. Most likely ostracised from their communities and societies for reeking of pish.
Sometimes disabled folk are stuck in bed, and besides the uncomfortableness of a bed bath, it’s quite humiliating to have someone else clean your private parts. There’s a dignity some folk don’t even have the privilege of having. I’m not going to go down the line of telling you all about catheters, digital stimulation of bowels, adult diapers and other toilet stuff, I’m gonna guess you also go to the loo, you know sometimes you get a dodgy tummy, I’m sure I don’t need to go into the details of why a packet of wet wipes is an essential item in a bug out bag for any disabled person.
What I am gonna do however is talk about actual non essential plastics. Things that no-one needs whatsoever and is a waste of plastic.
No 1. Balloons, now my mum says I’m a party pooper for this one, but really what is a balloon for? Those plastic foil, usually filled with helium (which by the way is in short supply and essential for running MRI machines) and attached to a plastic string. We blow them up and give them for celebrations where they are put in a corner to slowly deflate and wilt away, only to be flung in the bin or they float away still filled with precious gases and end up in the ocean anyway.
No 2. Plastic wrap on things made of plastic. If plastic is so durable it can stay in our environment for centuries, and won’t break down naturally then how come we need to wrap up plastic garden chairs in plastic cling film? That seems a real waste of plastic.
No 3. Plastic coffee stirrers. Apart from the fact you can stir your coffee with practically anything else, why do we have little strips of plastic in the billions, available next to plastic pots of milk and sugar at many a coffee shop and canteen?
So there are three other plastic things, totally unessential to anybody. Total frivolous waste of plastic, plastic that will probably end up in our oceans. I want to tackle plastic pollution as much as any other tree hugging environmentalist. I want to save our planet, it’s the only one we have. Mother Nature is my deity and I don’t want to offend her, but I am so sick of bearing the brunt of powerful people’s decisions. Please think before you ban plastic products that of are real use in making disabled people’s lives easier. We don’t want a return to hiding in institutions, hospitalised indefinitely and made to feel ashamed to go out in public. I obviously don’t speak for all disabled folk, but I speak as a human who was once fully abled bodied. I never expected to suddenly soil myself in Ikea, I didn’t know some student nurse would give me a bed bath when I had my periods in hospital.
And that is the other thing, this ban of wet wipes is also classist. Imagine being homeless or having no access to hot water. How could you stay clean? What if it happened to you? We are all human beings, we all have to take responsibility, that is true. But can we just think of each other before we start banning stuff?

Alive, due to lack of death

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Fuad Alkbarov

The UN must recognise Palestine’s right to exist, says leading Human Rights Campaigner

Today 136 out of 193 UN member states have formally recognised Palestine. The UK needs to show some leadership and be amongst the first Western European countries to recognise Palestine and its right to self-determination.
British Government already recognises the principle that the Palestinian people have an inalienable right to self-determination but has not granted this officially because it wants to reserve the right to do so at a moment of its choosing to best help bring about peace.
That moment is now. Recognition is a good starting-point for negotiations and would help guarantee that the focus of talks is about how Palestine becomes a viable and secure sovereign state – not whether it becomes one. Denying recognition as the current British government is doing is entirely at odds with the principle of self-determination.
Of course, neither Israel nor Palestine’s right to exist should be subject to veto or any kind of conditions and we must actively challenge any refusal by either side to deny the other’s right to exist. It can be difficult to understand the scale of the human tragedy that is occurring on this narrow strip of land, day in day out. Not just when the camera crews and journalists are there, but every single day.
It’s vital that human rights violations and violence on all sides cease and that the international community take strong action to hold the perpetrators to account.
One of those core causes is the eternal question mark that hangs over Palestine’s right to exist. Recognition would help the process of removing that question mark and allow Israelis and Palestinians to look forward to a future defined by equality, justice, freedom and peace.
In Gaza, entire families sit in the darkness of their living rooms, with candles creating the only light. Thousands of families have lost loved ones in house fires. Gaza’s residents face so much struggle and pain, just to secure one of life’s basic necessities.
Today, if you ask Palestinians in Gaza how they are doing, they might respond: “Alive, due to lack of death.” This commonly used expression captures the misery of everyday life in Gaza.
Every second in Gaza under Israel’s blockade – where water and medical care are luxuries – is tainted by tragedy. Every time a family can’t afford to put food on the table, every time a house fire claims yet another victim, every time a cancer patient can’t acquire life-saving treatment or another desperate human ends their life, the dreadfulness of the blockade comes into full view.
The UN has declared Gaza “unliveable”, and the blockade creates a passive, collective death. What will it take to convince the international community that the people of Palestine, like all humans on this Earth, deserve to live in dignity?
So long as Israel maintains great control over Palestinian lives but denies them their basic rights and freedoms, it cannot call itself a democracy.