Monday, August 16, 2010

Emergency Debate: Scots Starving

Starvation and Herald propaganda. Both make you sick.

This story appears in today's Herald:

Starvation contributed to death of 450 Scots

This statistic is a national disgrace. In the developed world 'malnutrition' doesn't exist. Well it does in Scotland. This story requires immediate debate and a real enquiry. It is shameful that Scotland suffers from this third-world problem. Yet the story in today's Herald is buried in the health section.

Credit to Ross Finnie of the SLD for pouncing on the statistics and demanding that the issue be investigated as a "matter of urgency". A self-respecting 'developed' nation would do just that.

Not in Scotland. Why? Just like the oil debate certain facts lend themselves to certain conclusions. Why is it that Scots are dying of starvation if the union is so successful? That's just not the sort of evidence that New Labour want to hear cited in political debate. And so their buddies hide it from public view. One quote used by The Herald lends itself to a certain category of conclusion, namely that people are dying of malnutrition because they are old and are not getting enough help with eating:

Most victims are elderly people, many of whom have conditions that make eating difficult or need help with their meals.

I don't know about you but I'd like to see the statistics. We are given a certain statistic related to people who are diagnosed in hospital and who have died. How many Scots, right now then are suffering from malnutrition? What are the age groups? We can assume most are in and around the West central belt but can we have the information?

The economic crisis and international factors only makes matters worse. We are seeing and will see food-price inflation in the near future. The problems with crop harvesting caused by fires in Russia and problems with supply in other areas will see food-price inflation increase dramatically as the year progresses. Combine this with the coming cuts in local government services and you will conclude that the problem of Scottish malnutrition can only worsen and at a pace. If the pound falls even more, as expected, then cheap imports will no longer be available in supermarkets either. People, this is a serious public health issue which could quickly become extremely worrying. In the US 1 in 7 people can't afford to eat properly and need food stamps. Britain has the same problems of household debt as the US - if not worse.

The alarm must be raised. This issue should not be allowed to be swept under the carpet because it is uncomfortable for unionists. Please consult your politicians immediately on this subject and demand action as soon as possible.


Anonymous said...

Alex, you make a strong argument, and eloquently. But you inhibit the effectiveness of internet search by misspelling malnutrition.

That hunger stalks the land in this day and age is a national disgrace, and an indictment of all politicians of whatever colour.

Alex Porter said...

Yep, I really should spell check. And me an English teacher too..

It is a disgrace - an absolute disgrace but where is the public outcry?

There are reasons for these kinds of cover-ups and they are political as well as economic. The transfer of wealth to the super rich is part of the problem. The cost of wars and weapons systems, bank bail-outs and so on are part of the problem too.

This matter was flagged up by the Scottish Liberals but it got almost no press coverage. Why?

Statistics are dangerous for the establishment. That's why we are lied to about inflation, GDP, unemployment and lots of other stats.

I see no reason why a statistic like this should not become a political issue. It clearly is a political issue. I'll be doing what I can to get it on to the agenda before the Holyrood elections!

Bob said...

Alex. I suspect that most of the deaths are of people who have 'given up' due to ill health and old age.
Living a life of pain so deciding to quietly go to their beds and ignore offers of help. Happy to give up their mortal coil to rid them of their depression and pain.
It has gone on for millenia.
450 sounds about right with the demographic of Scotland.

Alex Porter said...

Hi Bob, interesting conjecture and like the Russians say 'every theory has the right to exist' ;) Maybe you're right Bob but something tells me there's something more to this, experience. I remember a friend in Drumchapel, who was like a rake and pale. When he got well paid work he couldn't stop eating and became fat. I know he and many others just didn't eat properly. I'm sure he was not the worst case even in the street.

That was towards the end of Thatcher's time but I suspect that things are even worse now than then and about to become a lot worse.

For a whole bunch of reasons, the poor don't get discussed anymore. Not just because of unionist politics but also because they disprove the lying statistics. Do you believe the GDP, unemployment or inflation figures? Years of massaging figures would be exposed if Labour started talking about the true numbers and the extent of poverty in parts of the UK and in parts of Scotland especially.

I think this is something the SNP must pick up on. This is about economics and it's about the state of the UK's finances as a whole as well as about distribution of wealth. There is evidence that the worse the inequality in an economy between the rich and the poor the more that inequality drags the whole economy down. Clearly, the poor have got poorer relatively and absolutely under Labour.

This needs to be an important issue. We are not just capital of the new ruling banking elite but should think of ourselves as citizens.

People starving is a nation hungry for change.

Bob said...

Sorry to flog a dead horse but there's no answer from the SNP. They've recently announced that their carbon reduction target of 42% will cost Scotland £8Bn by 2020.
That wasted money would have easily alleviated any starvation problems.
Salmond ate like a horse at our expense ( £400 a month even when parliament was shut) and his MSPs' are now trousering £60k to £100K each as they flog off their taxpayer funded houses before the free mortgage rules change.
Society is unequal but none of the parties care. Too interested in whether class sizes are too big or who has the best carbon credentials.

Alex Porter said...

Hi Bob,
I don't really know enough about carbon reduction to comment except for to add that peak oil is going to drive up the cost of energy anyway and let's face it high fuel costs, which also result in poverty are another legacy of union. There is a looming disaster in the energy sector and however late it is renewable technology must be developed as quickly as possible. Although I agree that this should be done as sensibly as possible I think carbon reductions are positive, going to happen anyway and I prefer it to be staged (are happening because of recession) but I don't believe in carbon trading.

The housing costs were a system that everyone would take advantage of. It was wrong and the rules have been changed - that's a positive thing, no?

Really, I think war and Trident are the big cuts that should come. That and the refund of the bail-outs.

These problems continue and will result in severe poverty and more families with jobs will see their standard of living fall.

I'm more than glad the SNP are on the right side of these war issue!

Bob said...

" renewable technology must be developed as quickly as possible."

Can't agree Alex. Nuclear and coal must be the priority. Hydro is good aswell but seems to have gone out of fashion.
We've got 2,500 windmils at the moment and when the wind blows they produce 0.5% of our energy needs. Nothing of course during maintenance or when the wind stops blowing. There's a wave generator study going on but by the time anything happens we'll have wasted billions.
To get to a 20% UK reduction in carbon emissions we'll need hundreds of thousands of windmills. All that cost and don't forget we will need more than our present capacity of conventional power stations for when the wind stops blowing. We need the extra capacity of conventional power stations because of the extra energy required firing up the power stations when the wind drops and reducing the output when the wind picks up.
Maintenance costs for the offshore windmills and wave power machines is mind boggling. Imagine changing the main gearing system in January with a gale blowing ?
This stuff isn't rocket science. Many countries have been there before us and reversed their reliance on 'green energy'. It helped to bankrupt california and now European countries are starting to realise what a waste of money it is.

Indy said...

Your interpretation is too simplistic. There may be cases where people starve from poverty but there are also other explanations.

When my gran died she had not eaten properly for months. Malnutrition was a factor in her death. She was in her 90s.

The nurses did all they could to get her to eat and so did her family - but she did not want to.

What was anyone supposed to do? Force a tube down her nose to feed her intravenously?

Many of those who have cared for elderly relatives will recognise that there comes a time when they themselves decide that it is time to go.

Have you never heard the saying about people turning their face to the wall? There is very little you can do about it. With my gran it was when her last remaining sibling died and she had no-one of her own generation left. She just decided to die.

Alex Porter said...

I agree that it is not efficient and currently expensive and not viable. That's why I say thje technology must be improved as quickly as possible. Windmills are becoming efficient very quickly and as time passes will be far better. The problem with offshore is that it uses land windmills technology. I agree that it is all very expensive and inefficient as it stands. There should be no roll-out until the technology proves itself which I'm sure it is starting to and and will very soon. If Scottish companies develop that technology then we stand to have a very nice export sector.

I think in the interim hydro and coal can plug the gap but nuclear just can't prove itself in terms of safety and disposal - until it does it's totally out for me.

Have to agree with you only in the short term then..

Alex Porter said...

My point is that the article pushes one angle. I would like more information so that we can make informed decisions.

I do accept that cases such as your gran's exist but how do we know that this is the only or even the most common cause? I will bet you my hat that turning your face to the wall is not the only cause of malnutrition in Scotland. Indeed, obesity is another cause of it, if you can imagine that..?

I could say that all cancer is caused by sunburn because I know someone who that happened too but that would be a wild extrapolation based on anecdotal evidence.

My point is that we need more information and that there are grounds to believe that people just are not able to afford nutritious food. I think that is a safe 'interpretation' - what we need to know is how prevalent this problem is!

Indy said...

The detailed answers are here:

The detailed answers are here – it gives age ranges and breakdowns by health board area. Just put in Finnie and malnutrition.

I can only speak from my own experience but the nurses who cared for my gran did everything possible. It wasn't the case that they did not try to help her to eat. She just wouldn't.

Alex Porter said...


Thanks for that. The link seems to be incomplete for some reason - do you have the full link?

Indy said...

I can't link to the actual answer - you need to search for it. I found it by putting in malnutrition and Finnie