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What is the truth about the state of England’s rivers?

 

Despite evidence from at least eight sources, the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency says “It’s wrong to suggest that the state of England’s rivers is poor”

The Financial Times recently reported that only 14% of rivers in England met the minimum “good status” standards as defined by the EU Water Framework directive according to an Environment Agency report in 2018. In 2009 almost 25% did so. Water quality has deteriorated since 2010 when the Environment Agency handed responsibility for pollution monitoring to the nine large water and sewage companies in England.

Evidence supporting their report comes from the World Wildlife Fund, Windrush rivers campaign, Fish Legal, Marine Conservancy, European Environment Agency, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Sewage Free Seas. It was quoted in England’s rivers: toxic cocktail of chemicals, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and untreated waste.

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, replied in a letter to the FT, “It’s wrong to suggest that the state of England’s rivers is poor (“Blighted by pollution”, The Big Read, June 13)”. He continued:

Water quality is now better than at any time since the Industrial Revolution thanks to tougher regulation and years of hard work by the Environment Agency and others.

Rivers that were so polluted that they were severely biologically damaged two decades ago are now thriving with wildlife such as otters, dippers and mayflies returning.

Over the past 20 years EA teams have taken more than 50m samples to monitor water quality around the country. The EU’s water framework directive means that the failure of one test can prevent a river from achieving good ecological status overall but this often does not tell the whole story.

During the last round of testing, 76 per cent of the tests used to measure the health of rivers were rated as good, and last year 98 per cent of bathing waters at 420 locations passed tough quality standards, compared with less than a third in the 1990s.

The EA has also required water companies to install new monitoring systems on combined sewer overflows (CSOs). By March next year more than 11,500 CSOs will be monitored as the first phase of this work is completed

It is not true that the EA simply relies on the water companies to tell us what they are discharging into watercourses. We carry out our own monitoring of rivers to ensure we have independent evidence and we regularly inspect water treatment plants and sewage works. If companies are failing to abide by the law or the terms of their permits we will take action to ensure that they do, up to and including prosecution.

Since 1990, the water industry has invested almost £28bn in environmental improvement work, much of it to improve water quality. I agree that there are still too many serious pollution incidents and we have called for tougher penalties for water companies where they are shown to be at fault.

In the past three years we have brought 31 prosecutions against water companies, resulting in more than £30m in fines, and we will continue, alongside the other water regulators, to act to ensure that people, wildlife and the environment are protected.

The agencies quoted are unconvinced and the FT asked earlier this month: Can England’s water companies clean up its dirty rivers?

It noted that the concerns over river pollution come at a time when the water industry is under fire for paying executives and shareholders lucrative rewards while raising customer bills and failing to stem leakage and ended: “The failures mean that three decades after the regional state-run monopolies were handed to private companies free of debt, and with a £1.5bn grant to invest in environmental improvements, the Labour party is calling for renationalisation of the water companies that are now saddled with debt of £51bn”.


Since this article was written, Southern Water — supplier to Kent, Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Sussex — has been required to pay what amounts to a £126m penalty over five years for letting untreated waste leak into rivers between 2010 and 2017, and trying to hide what happened.

 

 

 

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The Scottish referendum – was fraud committed to retain nuclear bases, oil and land for fracking?

Earlier this month Lesley Docksey wrote in Global Research about “the sneering, negative and arrogant campaigning by Westminster via the Better Together campaign”. She continued:

That didn’t go down too well so they brought in Gordon Brown to do his patriotic bit, which included talking about how many Scots had fought and died in the UK’s wars:

gordon brown no campaign

“We fought two world wars together.  And there is not a cemetery in Europe that does not have Scots, English, Welsh, and Irish lying side-by-side.  And when young men were injured in these wars, they didn’t look to each other and ask whether you were Scots or English, they came to each others aid because we were part of a common cause.”

Lesley comments: “Sorry Gordon, but many Canadians, Australians, Asians and Africans, all remnants of our Empire’s past, also fought in that common cause, since when they gained their independence.  To use dead and injured young Scots for pro-Union campaigning is, as one person put it, “repugnant”, particularly considering the centenary of the outbreak of WWI, the war that was to end all wars; even more so now, as British MPs have just voted to start bombing Iraq – again”. 

poor no lawyers who owns scotland coverLesley added that Scotland is and always has been a proud nation that has been used and abused for far too long by its greedy southern neighbour, aided by its own land-owning elite see Andy Wightman’s book The Poor Had No Lawyers.

But she also wanted the Yes vote to win for the sake of the rest of the United Kingdom, hoping that it would stir everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland into doing something about the Westminster bubble that runs and ruins our lives, unless of course we are corporate, rich or large land owners or, in many cases, all three:

“An independent Scotland could have given us a different and fairer vision for all our futures” . . . My hopes were high but there it was, this unbelievable vote to stay tied to Westminster, not England but Westminster. . .

“But it was not long before the accusations of electoral fraud surfaced.

“It started with grainy videos on YouTube, showing official counters doing odd things with the ballot papers.  Stories emerged of people at polling stations being told that someone using their name had already voted.  Children had been registered to vote.

The police “were investigating”, while Westminster pooh-poohed it all.

“A small and angry petition was launched by Change.org.  First addressed to Alex Salmond it is now going to his Deputy Nicola Sturgeon, and is approaching 100,000 signatures.  And yet more has emerged of the odd and dishonest practices that have appeared to capture the No result so wanted by Westminster.  Among them are:

  • Ballot papers with no identifying marks on the back (illegal)
  • Ballot boxes from polling stations delivered to counting centres in private cars by only one person (illegal)
  • Postal ballot papers apparently being sent to England first
  • Pro-union people being allowed to open and inspect postal votes several days before the referendum (illegal)
  • And there were no exit polls.

scottish ballot 1

“Polls are not very accurate, particularly those published by pro-Union media . . .

Exit polls are.  They are conducted outside the polling stations and researchers ask people coming out how they have voted.  In the space between the polling stations closing and the counting of votes completed, exit polls give a fairly accurate picture of what the result will be.

“But the media, particularly the BBC and ITV, were asked not to conduct exit polls.  That fact alone convinces me that the Scots have been robbed of their independence.  And Westminster should hang its head in shame.  More, it should be investigated by the police”.

“Not satisfied with stealing most of the Highlands for the shooting of deer and grouse, they’re now stealing the land from under the feet of 80% of the Scottish population.  Of course Westminster had to have the No vote.  For in the same month as the referendum they started selling fracking licences to energy firms that will cover most of central Scotland, including Edinburgh and Glasgow.  And beyond, though I doubt it will touch the precious sporting estates. England did far too well out of Scotland’s North Sea oil.  Now it wants their fracked gas.

“But then, where the British elite are concerned, Scotland has only ever been a source of shooting and money.  And of course all those young men who join the military because life on the streets of Scotland’s cities under the current regime offers little else in opportunity”.

Later reports about fraud:

http://www.newsweek.com/scottish-police-investigates-referendum-fraud-after-glaswegian-finds-bag-hundreds-274766

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/scottish-independence-police-scotland-investigating-video-that-claims-yes-ballots-were-thrown-1468196

http://www.globalresearch.ca/scotlands-referendum-the-stolen-nation/5405626

 

 

As the polls tighten it’s been a week of charm and threats in the Scottish Referendum campaign

Steve Beauchampé’s Birmingham Press blog, reproduced with permission

“Darling, I know can be dominating, but I promise to give you more space and be less possessive, I can change, we can make things work, we’re a team, better together. Please, please, please just don’t leave me!”

“But woe betide you if you do leave…I’ll ruin you financially, you’ll never work again, I’ll take all of your friends, I’ll make your life hell, I’ll see you in court – and remember I can afford a better lawyer than you!”

The British Establishment can be a thoroughly unpleasant bunch when cornered.

Right now they feel cornered, horrified, terrified, panicking that the sureties of power and control that they have held for several centuries, and which they complacently expected to hold on to after the referendum on Scottish independence, might be less certain than they believed.

So on one hand, and with all the sincerity of Jimmy Savile in a children’s hospital ward, they turn on the charm.

Firstly, the three main English political parties belatedly confirm offers to devolve a limited package of powers to Scotland (even though many Scots have already passed judgment on independence via postal voting).

Prime Minister David Cameron demonstrates his love of Scotland by flying the Scottish Saltire above Downing Street (and urging everyone else to fly it too).

Meanwhile the mainstream parties bring out every political big hitter they can muster (other than toxic Tony) to plead for national unity. Move over Darling indeed!

And pro-Unionist cheerleaders in the media, financial sector and business world threaten the Scots.

Yet at the same time most other arms of government, supported by their pro-Unionist cheerleaders in the media, financial sector and business world rapidly up the ante by threatening the Scots with all manner of grief if they dare to break with Britain; a run on Scottish banks, a financial crisis lasting years, exclusion from NATO, the EU, the Olympics, the introduction of border posts, immediate withdrawal of some parliamentary representation.

Then there’s the ratcheting up of emotional pressure and use of the ‘Blame Scotland’ card, with claims that a Yes vote would downgrade Britain’s status, power and prestige on the world stage, threaten our permanent seat on the UN Security Council, provide a boost to our competitors and – almost treasonably – offend the Queen something rotten.

Destroying the Union, alarming and upsetting the Queen, it’s a campaign of intimidation and shaming that may yet work. Or perhaps it will result in enough Scots thinking, like many who instigate divorce, that they’ve had enough and while sure, things may get tough for a few years, this is a price worth paying for the freedom to determine their own future, make their own mistakes and prove to their ex, and anyone else who doubted them, that they can and will survive.

We’ll soon know, but whilst the three mainstream party leaders head north today to love bomb Scotland, SNP Leader Alex Salmond and his colleagues increasingly play the anti-politics, anti-Westminster elite card so successfully deployed in recent times by UKIP

Whatever the referendum result it seems that significant change to the United Kingdom’s acutely centralised, London-dominated political, economic and cultural structures could follow. I hope so because the British Establishment has had this coming. Keeping everything of national importance in London, siphoning off billions for South East public infrastructure projects, the arts and sport whilst starving other regions of investment by comparison, has helped foster resentment and turned the capital into something increasingly akin to a city-state.

Even the use of terminology such as ‘the regions and ‘the provinces’ insults and patronises us, creating a divisive and superior mentality.

Whichever way Scotland votes on September 18th both Wales and Northern Ireland will seek further devolution, whilst calls for an English parliament will increase. In all of the hoopla caused by the sudden realisation that Scotland and England really might be on the cusp of a divorce, and whilst acknowledging that Whitehall would cede its powers only reluctantly, perhaps the more federal governance structure that Britain so urgently needs may soon be several steps closer.

And a stylistic contrast, in serious, scholarly vein, Steve’s latest book: ‘Pool of Memories – A History of Moseley Road Baths

Scots voting no to independence would be an astonishing act of self-harm

England is dysfunctional, corrupt and vastly unequal. Who on earth would want to be tied to such a country?

Broken BritainEdited extract from Guardian article

To vote no is to choose to live under a political system that sustains one of the rich world’s highest levels of inequality and deprivation. This is a system in which all major parties are complicit, which offers no obvious exit from a model that privileges neoliberal economics over other aspirations. It treats the natural world, civic life, equality, public health and effective public services as dispensable luxuries, and the freedom of the rich to exploit the poor as non-negotiable.

Points made by the author, George Monbiot, include:

  • Its lack of a codified constitution permits numberless abuses of power.
  • It has failed to reform the House of Lords, royal prerogative, campaign finance and first-past-the-post voting (another triumph for the no brigade).
  • It is dominated by a media owned by tax exiles, who, instructing their editors from their distant chateaux, play the patriotism card at every opportunity.
  • The concerns of swing voters in marginal constituencies outweigh those of the majority;
  • the concerns of corporations with no lasting stake in the country outweigh everything.

Broken, corrupt, dysfunctional, retentive: you want to be part of this?

Independence, as more Scots are beginning to see, offers people an opportunity to rewrite the political rules. To create a written constitution, the very process of which is engaging and transformative. To build an economy of benefit to everyone. To promote cohesion, social justice, the defence of the living planet and an end to wars of choice.

The currency debate

The Scots are told they will have no control over their own currency if they leave the UK. But they have none today. The monetary policy committee is based in London and bows to the banks. The pound’s strength, which damages the manufacturing Scotland seeks to promote, reflects the interests of the City.

To deny yourself independence, to remain subject to the whims of a distant and uncaring elite, to succumb to the bleak, deferential negativity of the no campaign; to accept other people’s myths in place of your own story: that would be an astonishing act of self-repudiation and self-harm. Consider yourselves independent and work backwards from there, then ask why you would sacrifice that freedom.

Scottish independence campaign: FFA to ask all politicians if they will legislate on farm gate prices

Press release from William Taylor, Farmers For Action UK NI co-ordinator:

ffa header 2

Rural dwellers in Scotland have a golden opportunity to settle the debate on independence: they should immediately put the case to the Scottish National Party and to the Westminster government for safety-net legislation on farm gate prices and see what the politicians are made of, then vote accordingly.

A project campaigning for legislation on farm gate prices for staples

12 months ago in Northern Ireland, FFA put the case for legislation on farmgate prices for all the staples that would provide a safety net giving farmers a minimum of the true cost of production plus a margin inflation linked return minimum. If the market prices go higher NI farmers would receive such prices, but when prices fall they could only legally come down to the safety-net price of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked.

In Northern Ireland four farm organisations, including Northern Ireland Livestock Auctioneer Associations, are now working equally with Farmers For Action on the project with the Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister and the Agriculture Committee at Stormont.   The icing on the cake for the Northern Ireland politicians who see the legislation through is the creation of 25,000 jobs immediately, which equates to a minimum of one professional job for every farm in Northern Ireland, only to be followed by thousands more good quality permanent jobs throughout agriculture and its suppliers. In Scotland this would equate initially to 53,000 jobs.

 The facts:

  1. 25% of UK family farmers are living below the poverty line (welfare overrides the legislation being anti competitive);
  2. the price of beef is in free fall along with virtually every other commodity needing a huge lift to even reach the true cost of production, eg milk 42p/l, beef £5.15 per kg, lamb £5.15 per kg, potatoes £175 per tonne;
  3. grain and oil seeds are one of the few exceptions, in that world market shortages due to bio fuel use is keeping the price currently just about cost of production but usually over and above.

With family farmers standing no chance of getting a fair price against the likes of Tesco or corporate processors, it’s time for the politicians who put Scotland before themselves to stand forward and do what Roosevelt did in the US 30s depression; he couldn’t get the US out of recession until he put money in farmers’ pockets. Farmers with money in their pockets purchase from approximately 123 other businesses and create employment, they cannot currently reinvest and continue producing food whilst losing money.

So come on Scotland! Put the case to the politicians, let’s end 21st century rural poverty together by making the politicians pull their weight and earn their keep. Now is your golden opportunity to turn the debate back to the politicians and ask if they are prepared to legislate on farm gate prices so that rural dwellers are properly rewarded for their work as the Lisbon Treaty states, or if they will turn their backs on 53,000 Scottish jobs by putting corporate greed first, yet again!

Farmers For Action

56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, Co L’derry, N Ireland, BT51 4NU

Tel/Fax 028 703 43419 Email taylor.w@btconnect.com

 

“In Scotland the people are sovereign, and parliament their delegated representative”

FT letter: 16.1.12 

The doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty is an English tradition, not British. In Scotland the people are sovereign, and parliament their delegated representative.

Alyn Smith, SNP Member of the European Parliament for Scotland

Avoid hosting Trident, spilling blood in illegal wars and political exclusion

The FT [22 Oct] reports that Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, announced that the independence referendum could include a second option, offering full fiscal autonomy.

Mr Salmond said such fiscal responsibility was a legitimate proposal that could allow Scotland to control its own resources, introduce competitive business tax, and fair personal taxation.

But was not good enough, because even with economic powers:

  • Trident nuclear missiles would still be on the River Clyde
  • Scotland could still be forced to spill blood in “illegal wars” such as Iraq
  • and still be excluded from the councils of Europe and the world.