What I fat about when I fat about fatties


We as a culture need to stop focussing on obesity as a primary cause of bad health – and not just out of compassion but for pragmatic reasons too.

There have been a few articles in the past few days (notably on the BBC and in the Guardian) citing a new study, editorialised in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, indicating that exercise is bugger-all use for losing weight, and that really it’s all about diet.

This may or may not be the case – to be fair to the research, they were really attacking bad diets and in particular sugary drinks more than dismissing exercise, and the news headlines are largely spin, but what I want to argue is that focussing on ‘obesity’ as the monster to beat rather than bad health is in and of itself incredibly damaging. So, for all you viewing at home…

Gobby Wimmin – Nicola Sturgeon at the Leaders’ Debate


Nicola Sturgeon was called out in the STV Scotland Debates show for talking over other leaders, but did she? Or is it yet another case of a woman being seen as talkative just for daring to make herself heard?

At about the 21:37 mark in the STV Scottish Leaders’ Debate on Tuesday 7th April, a (male) audience member offered this observation:

On the standard of the debate… I am a bit concerned that it seems that Nicola thinks that when it’s her turn it’s her turn exclusively, and when it’s the other three leaders fifty per cent of their time is still hers.

There was a respectable smattering of applause at this so obviously a good few folk agreed with this fair-minded chap, and Sturgeon just smiled wryly, gave a head-tip of acknowledgement and mouthed an ‘okay’ (or possibly ‘sorry’; it’s not entirely clear).

Later when she recognised the same man asking her a question she acknowledged his challenge as fair – but was it?

Certainly my perception, watching along on catch-up, was that everyone had been talking over one another to some degree, but that Sturgeon was no better or worse than anyone else.

As it turns out, we were both wrong.

Letter writing: £200 ‘health surcharge’ for non-EU immigrants


I can still write letters to my MSPs even though I’m running for parliament, right? 🙂 (Note: calls to action herein are personal and do not represent Green Party policy.)

Dear [all],

I’d like to draw your attention to the new ‘health surcharge’ being levvied on non-EU migrants from today, as reported by gov.uk here:


This reform is part of the draconian and inhumane Immigration Act 2014, and is supposedly intended to better recoup the costs of providing healthcare to immigrants. What it is doing however is in effect charging immigrants MORE for the NHS than UK citizens. As you will know, prior to this only non-EU migrants who were in work or study were eligible for free non-emergency healthcare – those who were not working were eligible to pay for their care. The problems in collecting these fees notwithstanding, the idea that we should now charge £200 per annum to those who are working – and therefore paying income tax and National Insurance – in this country is unfair in the extreme.

I am well aware that immigration is not a devolved matter, so you may be wondering why I am contacting you on this topic. Well, the press release on thegov.uk website observes:

“The money collected by the Home Office will be passed to the health departments in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

This money will presumably be distributed on a proportional basis. I would like to see a clear commitment from the Scottish Government that the money recouped from this unnecessary and unfair surcharge will be given back to immigrants, whether in the form of increased support, the creation of a hardship fund for immigrants resident in Scotland, or indeed (admittedly perhaps requiring the increased powers over taxation we’ve been ‘promised’) as a direct tax-break returned to those who have had to pay this surcharge. I believe this would send a strong message to Scottish immigrants and to the rest of the UK, and would show a clear commitment on the Scottish Government’s part to fairness and honesty as far as is in its power. Indeed, this surcharge actually gives the Scottish Government its first real opportunity to ‘put its money where its mouth is’ on matters of immigration.

As is well-documented, immigrants put more into the UK economy on average than native Brits do. Over and above this, immigrants wishing to remain in the UK face years of visa applications with ever-increasing fees to remain in the country already – fees that have increased severalfold in recent years.

On a personal note, as the UK spouse of a US immigrant we are very lucky to even be able to live in the same country together – applying as we did for our FLR(M) only a few months before the July 2012 reforms under which we would have faced my partner’s deportation because I earned a few hundred pounds beneath the £18.6k ‘minimum spousal income’ at that time – in spite of the fact she earned well over that and our household income was perfectly comfortable by any standards. We were in a Civil Partnership and both in full-time, stable employment. Add to this the fact that as same-sex partners we physically could not have begun the immigration process in the USA at the time we got together due to a Federal-level ban on same-sex marriage until very recently, and you must understand that issues like this hit very close to home for me and others like me.

So I ask you, haven’t we been gouged enough? Haven’t we suffered enough stress and financial hardship already? Must we be forced to pay twice for our healthcare into the bargain?

I hope, therefore, that you will give this issue due consideration and consider what measures you might be able to push forward at a devolved level to at least send a message that the Scottish Parliament does NOT stand with Westminster on these draconian reforms, that Scotland cares about and values its immigrants, and that Holyrood will do all it can to mitigate the negative effects of these measures.