Natalie Bennett to visit Barnsley

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Exciting news! Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party has agreed to visit us in Barnsley on Friday 11 March 2016.

We are currently finalising the details of a venue for Natalie to deliver a speech to a public meeting and hope that as many Barnsley Green Party members as possible will attend.

More details soon.

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Can we still afford the luxury of green belt? Yes we can!

On January 29th, the Barnsley Chronicle published a letter by Michael Clynch, an architect from near Penistone, under the title ‘Can we still afford the luxury of green belt?’

Barnsley Green Party member Dale Turner has responded.

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Dale Turner of Barnsley Green Party

Michael Clynch: Currently the Barnsley borough has 77% of its land designated green belt. Most of the land is agricultural, but much is of poor quality, of little visual value and often with oddly drawn boundaries which defy logic and common sense. Nationally only around 11% of land is actually built over including highways and railways. Much of the land has green belt status. The original purpose of green belt land was intended to prevent “ribbon developments” where developers bought up road frontage land connecting towns and villages. Build costs were low because highway access and drainage was freely available. Unfortunately green belt has achieved an almost religious status among Friends of the Earth and other unelected quangos and lobby groups who would prefer no development at all and certainly no housing where people would actually like to live.

Dale Turner: We should all be thankful that we are lucky enough to live in an area with such a high proportion of designated green belt.

As Michael mentioned the main purposes of green belt land are to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built up areas and to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another. However there are other purposes which are to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment, to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns, and to assist in urban generation, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land. We must also remember that we share this planet and the land within it with other species and flora and fauna. Green belt land protects their habitat and allows the planet to provide enough oxygen for us human beings to thrive. So the more green belt land we build on, the less oxygen is provided for the human race to live harmoniously alongside the other species and flora and fauna of this planet. We are only one species amongst many so what right have we to use up all the land for our own ends.

MC: The government has wisely abandoned ‘zero carbon’ housing initiatives not least because the Royal Institute of British Architects calculated that it would add £50,000 build costs to a family home.

DT: As for the government wisely abandoning zero carbon housing initiatives because of costs it is stated in research carried out by the “Sweett Group for the Zero Carbon Hub” that current additional build costs of a semi-detached house are under £5,000 and it is expected that these will reduce to £3,500 by 2020. This seems to be very much at odds with the figure of £50,000 quoted by Michael.

MC: The green lobby has covered the country with useless windmills and forced up energy costs massively for factories and homes and is a major reason we recently lost our steel industry.

DT: The useless windmills that Michael refers to are currently along with other renewable sources such as solar power generating 21.6% of the UK’s electricity grid. A survey conducted by consultants for the parliamentary climate change committee states that the UK could be generating at least 65% of the UK’s demand by 2030, but only with sufficient investment. The main reason that the UK has all but lost its steel industry is almost entirely due to the flooding of the UK and European markets by cheap massively subsidised Chinese steel driving prices and down and meaning the UK’s steel industry is unable to compete. In short successive UK governments have allowed unfair competition to decimate our steel industry and have stood by and let it happen.

MC: Recent flooding is not caused by global warming, but by lack of river clearance in the green ‘biodiversity’ cause i.e. care of a few fresh water mussels and crayfish counts more than people’s lives.

DT: Whilst the recent flooding is not exclusively caused by global warming it contributes massively to the changes in our weather patterns and the repeat of 200 year flooding events 3 times in one decade is all the proof we need. Climate change sceptics need to wake up and smell the coffee. The other major factor in the recent floods in the north was the clearing of bogs on the moors by landowners to provide grouse shooting for the wealthy few. We must not overlook the fact that these floods were predicted and could have been reduced, if not fully prevented, had the government not cut the funding it had promised to deliver.

MC: The ‘no fracking’ group are following a similar route. There is a great opportunity or England with new sources of gas in a well regulated industry. This will provide reduced heating costs for our homes and factories as it has done abroad with no real risks.

DT: The ‘no fracking’ group are protecting us all from an inept industry, with no real regulation that will destroy our beautiful countryside and pollute our air, cause earthquakes, pollute our drinking water with a toxic mix of chemicals used to fracture the bedrock. Each well will use up to 5 million gallons of our precious clean water over its lifetime. The toxic mix will escape via split or deteriorating well casings and pollute our water supply and farmland, and once it is polluted there is no treatment that can remedy this. Also property values near to wells will be adversely affected. Need I go on, the scientific evidence is there for all to see from the USA and Australia where local communities are fighting back to ban fracking in a number of states now they can see the effects on their landscape and the massive risk to health it brings.

The reduction of heating costs from shale gas is a complete myth and the continued development of renewable energy sources will render this irrelevant. Most of the gas will be exported abroad once it has been produced anyway.

MC: We need many new homes and not just on expensive to reclaim brown field sites. The green lobby should recognise a period of silence from them would be a good idea.

DT: I agree we need to build many new ‘affordable and sustainable’ homes and doing this on brown field sites is much better than stealing green belt land for this purpose. To meet our commitment to the Paris Climate summit of limiting increase in global temperatures of no more than 1.5% much more is needed to be done by the government and every single one of us. Not just moving towards renewable energy sources but also reducing our consumption of the planets resources. Unless we all strive to reduce our usage of this planets resources it will all be too late sadly, not for us but for future generations.

It is only the green lobby speaking up that will save our planet from catastrophe.

Standing for election: you can do it too!

Barnsley Green Party member Kate Raynor, talks of her experience standing as a local candidate in last year’s elections.

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I have lived in Penistone East for around 5 and a half years, having moved to Silkstone from Barnsley town centre. I stood in the local elections for Penistone East in May 2015 which was my first involvement with local politics. I’ve always lived in Barnsley and have a great affection for the area.

I work for a local company, volunteer for a charity which provides meals for the homeless, and help run the youth club at the village church. Silkstone has become our home and as a family we really enjoy village life and getting involved in the things that go on here.

When I first decided to stand in the local elections I had only been a Green party member for a matter of weeks. I hadn’t even attended a local meeting yet. I had joined on a bit of a whim but the values and ideology of the party struck a chord with me.

I had initially felt quite happy to pay my membership fee and assume someone else would take responsibility for the rest. A request was sent out looking for paper candidates to stand in as many areas as possible.

I’ve been so disillusioned with politics in recent years but feel strongly that democracy and women’s suffrage are really valuable. I knew that others, like me, would want to vote but may not feel represented in the options on their ballot paper. As no one else came forward to represent my ward, I decided to sign up, to allow myself to vote for a party I agreed with as much as anything else.

It was the first year that Barnsley had stood any candidates, in local or national elections. So the experience was new and daunting for all of us. As well as a number of local candidates, we had a national candidate who stood for Barnsley Central. He had political experience and it was quite motivating to hear him speak about Green Party politics.

I chose not to do any campaigning for myself. I work, have two children and several other commitments. I didn’t feel ready to actually BE a councillor yet. Efforts were also concentrated on the national candidate and I was quite happy to help with that and allow my nomination to slip quietly by.

The main hurdle, and the only real effort, was the paperwork. After a frantic night of form filling in the nominating officer’s living room, with some great support from regional officers who checked over everything to make sure we got it right, we did it!

It felt a little surreal, but quite exciting, to see my name on the ballot paper. Quite a few people I hadn’t expected to be green supporters were fairly enthusiastic when they told me they’d voted for me. It prompted some interesting discussions with people I would never normally discuss politics with.

I found it really encouraging that there was an interest and affinity towards Green Party opinion, especially because all the current councillors in my ward and most historically, are Conservative.

When the results came in that we had got 14% of the vote we were gobsmacked! The candidate we stood in nationals got a similar number of votes throughout the whole constituency and on the back of some fantastic public speaking and a lot of leafleting.

I can’t take any credit at all. Of course some people knew me locally, but there had been no publicity or press release to say who I was or what I would do as a councillor. I can only imagine it was a general appetite for change which led to 949 people to vote for me under the Green Party banner.

I think it’s really important that people have the chance to vote for someone they actually want. Instead of it being a case of choosing the best of a bad bunch. I don’t think the local party had anticipated Penistone East being of interest, but now, on the back of that result, it will be our target ward for the 2016 elections with Dale Turner standing this time.

We plan to put some work in, to talk to the residents, understand what their issues are and how we might be able to help. And hopefully build a bit more of a presence in the area; maybe even gain a Green councillor so we can really make more of a difference.

If anyone is considering standing I’d urge you to. You don’t need to do any campaigning or publicity. Although I’d been warned that I may be contacted by press or public, I only received a single email to ask my view on a traffic concern. The chances of being elected are slim, but you could be giving a voice to hundreds of people who want to say; we want something different. We don’t want politics as usual.

Barnsley Green Party: Supporting Junior Doctors

Barnsley Green Party member Dominic Wood, on support for today’s Junior Doctor’s strike.

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It was a clear, bright sky that smiled over our Junior Doctor friends at Barnsley District & General Hospital this morning…

Safety is their paramount concern. The dispute is about contracts. BMA (British Medical Association) IRA representative Maria Butterfield was quoted as saying, “We have been asked not to bring banners. This is about the doctors and there message, which is clear and simple.”

Under the new contracts being offered, Student Doctors would have the EU legislative legal protection removed that currently prohibits the working of more than 48 hours a week. The reason for this legal prohibition is the well known and documented fact that tired doctors can kill patients. Unwittingly. Accidentally. Through being pushed to work longer hours than their mental and physical capacities can sustain.

That is why, said a Junior Doctor training in anaesthetics, we are striking in Barnsley today and on the 26th. We care about patients. We came into this profession because we want to help people and patient safety is paramount. Tired doctors can’t work to the best of their ability, much as they would like to do so.

Think about Patient Safety please, Mr. Cameron!

Standing up to racism in Barnsley

Barnsley Green Party member Callum Moss on how Barnsley people proudly stand up against racism.

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Barnsley has a history of helping people in need, in World War II we welcomed around 20,000 Polish refugees who were displaced by war and destruction to their homes, towns and communities. They worked with our grandfathers in the mines and the glassworks that are the pride of Barnsley, and they have integrated with our communities to this day. The community spirit of Barnsley to help people at home and beyond is one of the best attributes of our town.

So when Barnsley gained support to become a sanctuary for refugees from Syria and around the world in war torn countries, the Barnsley Green Party welcomed this. This however galvanised the anti-immigration groups around Barnsley such as the EDL, the South Yorkshire Casuals and political parties past and present such as the BNP and UKIP.

This prompted the South Yorkshire Casuals (SYC) to hold a demonstration in Barnsley, on the 12th December 2015. It also inspired a group of people to form a grassroots movement to put a positive light on asylum and immigration, happening naturally as a response to the dominance online of the anti-immigration movement.

A page was created on Facebook called ‘I’m from Barnsley and I’m not a racist’, which quickly gained support from local people, political parties, trade union groups, regional groups and the media. Local newspapers and online news sites contacted the page for information on what this movement was doing, showing their support for helping Syrian refugees both in Calais and the families that have come to Barnsley.

The movement started helping coordinate efforts against the SYC demonstration and got to work on putting a positive light on contributions from immigration and asylum seekers. We posted articles based on news from around the world, to highlight the plightful journey Syrian refugees make to find safety and nurture the humanitarian response as to why we need to help refugees.

The Green Party advocate within the movement, for immigration to be a humane process. Something that members have been learning from organisations such as South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (known as SYMAAG) and United Against Fascism (also known as UAF). We also learned about the rise in a market for asylum seekers between private firms who run detention centres, such as G4S and Serco. As they get government funding for running these detention centres and keeping asylum seekers in them for as long as possible, to maximize funding from government. With this information being shared between members, the advocation for a humane immigration process only grows stronger as members find out more information on how our asylum system works and highlights that they are seen as a tradable commodity.

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Eventually after a few meetings and some planning, it all came ahead on the 12th of December when the SYC held their demonstration, so did the Antifa movement in Barnsley. It was a miserable rainy day but they managed to match the attendance of the SYC demo, and get support from Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis, who had questions of his own about the motives behind the SYC.

When it came to engagement with the public, the group to pride in being peaceful and friendly to the public, while the SYC marched around the town centre chanting and swearing in public spaces where families were out Christmas shopping.

After the demonstrations the SYC suddenly died down, and more recently, the British National Party (BNP) have lost their recognition as a political party. The anti-immigration online presence is diminishing, while the Antifa movement keeps growing stronger and stronger in support.

Officer claims Met police improperly destroyed files on Green party peer

This story by Rob Jones originally appeared in The Guardian.

Whistleblower David Williams alleges his unit got rid of records to prevent Jenny Jones from discovering extent of its monitoring of her political activities

Green party peer Jenny Jones. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Green party peer Jenny Jones. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

A police officer working for a secretive Scotland Yard intelligence unit that monitors thousands of political campaigners has alleged that police improperly destroyed files they had compiled on a Green party peer in a “highly irregular” cover-up.

Whistleblower Sgt David Williams said the unit got rid of the records to prevent Jenny Jones from discovering the extent of the police’s monitoring of her political activities. Lady Jones is also deputy chair of the committee that supervises the Metropolitan police.

In a personal letter to Jones, which Williams said he had written as a last resort, the officer said: “I didn’t become a police officer to monitor politicians or political parties, nor to pay casual disregard to policy and procedure.”

He said he believed that the police had failed to investigate his allegation properly.
“This letter to you may not be in my best interests but not sending it would be unconscionable for me. I fear it may initiate a series of escalating actions against me designed to discredit me or lead to my suspension from duty or my dismissal,” Williams added.

The Met said the records on Jones were destroyed as a part of a legitimate programme to improve its record-keeping. The force added that it did not happen “inappropriately”.

In the four-page letter, Williams also described his concerns about a series of other incidents that he alleged appeared to show a pattern of misconduct within the unit.

He alleged that this misconduct included the abrupt removal of an officer who had complained about racism, drunken behaviour, faking time records and apparent fraud.

The Met dismissed these claims as either false, lacking in detail or because it said Williams had never raised them with his colleagues. The Met also disputed his claim that he had been victimised for speaking out.

Williams has worked for five years in the Met’s clandestine “domestic extremism” unit, which monitors protesters. The Met maintains that the unit is only concerned with keeping track of campaigners who commit crime to promote their political cause.

But police have been criticised for keeping files on protesters who, like Jones, have no criminal record, and recording trivial information, for example the sale of political literature and merchandise by an activist at the Glastonbury music festival.

Two years ago Jones used the Data Protection Act to obtain records showing how the police had kept a log of her political movements between 2001 and 2012. During the entire period she had been a member of the official committee scrutinising the Metropolitan police as a London councillor, and in 2012 she stood to be the capital’s mayor.

The records she obtained consisted of 17 reports recording, for example, how she had spoken at public meetings about issues such as police violence and public spending cuts.

For some time afterwards, she complained to the Met and demanded to know who had authorised the monitoring, the justification for doing so, and whether it continued.

In June 2014 Jones had an official meeting with the unit as she continued to press for answers. According to Jones, officers from the unit said they were unable to say whether the file on her remained on the domestic extremism database.

In his letter to her, Williams described how that month he “saw three officers engaged in physically destroying a number of police records by shredding. I believe all of these records related to you. There were in excess of 30 reports.

“One of these officers then began to electronically delete a number of police records from a police database. Again, I believe these records related to you.”

But the officer could not delete the records, according to Williams, as two other officers were also trying to delete them at the same time.

Williams said that, also in a “highly irregular manner”, the records were deleted immediately without being retained on the unit’s back-up database. “This process would thwart any freedom of information request within a 28-day period from the initial deletion,” Williams wrote.

“Understandably the behaviour of these five officers caused me great concern as I believed this was a cover-up to ensure you could not get any access to police records relating to you through a freedom of information request.”

Williams said he reported his concern to the Met’s directorate of professional standards (DPS), the internal department responsible for investigating misconduct. Eight months later, the DPS told him it had been unable to find any evidence to corroborate his allegation and was going to close the matter.

But Williams said he persuaded the DPS to initiate a second investigation. According to the whistleblower, he detailed all his concerns about misconduct in the unit, but only his allegation about the destruction of Jones’s records appeared to have been investigated – a claim disputed by the Met.

He said senior officers held a meeting with one of the officers alleged to have been involved in destroying Jones’s records to discuss the issue. “This seemed highly irregular and seems to be similar to tipping off a suspect for a crime,” Williams wrote.

He said that in July last year he was told by the DPS that the second investigation had found that the destruction of the peer’s records had happened.

However, according to Williams, the DPS sent a report to Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met commissioner, concluding that there had been no wrongdoing, although there had been “an issue of poor communication”. Another of Williams’s colleagues had reported the same incident, he added.

Williams told Jones that as he still had “serious reservations” about all his concerns, he had decided to write to her as he had exhausted all the Met’s internal procedures for raising alleged wrongdoing.

The Met said there was no evidence that there “had been any inappropriate destruction of documents” or that records had been destroyed in order to prevent them being released under freedom of information rules.

It added: “In fact the lead detective in the case, who spoke to all potential witnesses as part of their investigation, found that the unit was responding positively to demands to improve its document retention procedures by destroying information that it had no need to retain and that therefore should not be retained.”

Jones paid tribute to Williams, who she said “has tried to point out apparent wrongdoing within the intelligence unit where he works and is now facing dire personal consequences as a result.” She said it was worrying that the police could destroy files to “hide what they were keeping on me”.

Molly Scott Cato MEP: Banking’s central structural flaw has not been adequately addressed

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REACTING to the news that the Financial Conduct Authority is to shelve its investigation in to the culture, behaviour and pay of staff in banking (1), Molly Scott Cato MEP, the Green Party’s finance spokesperson, said:

“Following the banking collapse of 2008 we were told that both the structure and the culture of banking were at fault. The central structural flaw, the fact that the public was required to guarantee the casino economy, has not been adequately addressed. Instead of the essential separation of retail from commercial banking only a much weaker ring-fence is proposed but yet to be implemented.

“With the removal of FCA boss Martin Wheatley earlier this year we now see that the Financial Conduct Authority is to drop its investigation of banking culture, which was so widely blamed for the banking collapse. So neither structure nor culture is to be radically changed following the worst financial crisis in the history of capitalism.

“In an economy where money is created in the private sector based on debt, a banking licence represents an extraordinary power granted to a small number of corporations by the state. Strict regulation of their activities, particularly when their risks are guaranteed by the public, is therefore essential. An insistence on the need to reform both the structure and the culture of banking is nothing to do with ‘banker bashing’ but rather a necessary defence of the public interest against the destructive behaviour of the greedy few.”

1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35204010

No wonder landowners are scared. We are starting to learn who owns Britain

Scotland is breaking the cover-up that stifles our political thought. Bring the Highland Spring south

This article by George Monbiot originally appeared in The Guardian on 3 December 2014.

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Bring out the violins. The land reform programme announced last week by the Scottish government is the end of civilised life on Earth, if you believe the corporate press. In a country where 432 people own half the private rural land, all change is Stalinism. The Telegraph has published a string of dire warnings – insisting, for example, that deer stalking and grouse shooting could come to an end if business rates are introduced for sporting estates. Moved to tears yet?

Yes, sporting estates – where the richest people in Britain, or oil sheikhs and oligarchs from elsewhere, shoot grouse and stags – are exempt from business rates, a present from John Major’s government in 1994. David Cameron has been just as generous with our money: as he cuts essential services for the poor, he has almost doubled the public subsidy for English grouse moors, and frozen the price of shotgun licences, at a public cost of £17m a year.

But this is small change. Let’s talk about the real money. The Westminster government claims to champion an entrepreneurial society of wealth creators and hardworking families, but the real rewards and incentives are for rent. The power and majesty of the state protects the patrimonial class. A looped and windowed democratic cloak barely covers the corrupt old body of the nation. Here peaceful protesters can still be arrested under the 1361 Justices of the Peace Act. Here the Royal Mines Act 1424 gives the crown the right to all the gold and silver in Scotland. Here the Remembrancer of the City of London sits behind the Speaker’s chair in the House of Commons to protect the entitlements of a corporation that pre-dates the Norman conquest. This is an essentially feudal nation.

It’s no coincidence that the two most regressive forms of taxation in the UK – council tax banding and the payment of farm subsidies – both favour major owners of property. The capping of council tax bands ensures that the owners of £100m flats in London pay less than the owners of £200,000 houses in Blackburn. Farm subsidies, which remain limitless as a result of the Westminster government’s lobbying, ensure that every household in Britain hands £245 a year to the richest people in the land. The single farm payment system, under which landowners are paid by the hectare, is a reinstatement of a medieval levy called feudal aid, a tax the vassals had to pay to their lords.

If this is the government of enterprise, not rent, ask yourself why capital gains tax (at 28%) is lower than the top rate of income tax. Ask yourself why principal residences, though their value may rise by millions, are altogether exempt. Ask yourself why rural landowners are typically excused capital gains tax, inheritance tax and the first five years of income tax. The enterprise society? It’s a con, designed to create an illusion of social mobility.

The Scottish programme for government is the first serious attempt to address the nature of landholding in Britain since David Lloyd George’s budget of 1909. Some of its aims hardly sound radical until you understand the context. For example, it will seek to discover who owns the land. Big deal? Yes, in fact, it is. At the moment the owners of only 26% of the land in Scotland have been identified.

Walk into any mairie in France or ayuntamiento in Spain and you will be shown the cadastral registers on request, on which all the land and its owners are named. When The Land magazine tried to do the same in Britain, it found that there was a full cadastral map available at the local library that could be photocopied for 70p. But it was made in 1840. Even with expert help, it took the magazine several weeks of fighting official obstruction and obfuscation and almost £1,000 to find out who owns the 1.4 sq km around its offices in Dorset. It discovered that the old registers had been closed and removed from public view at the behest of a landed class that wishes to remain as exempt from public scrutiny as it is from taxes. (The landowners are rather more forthcoming when applying for subsidies from the rural payments agency, which possesses a full, though unobtainable, register of their agricultural holdings.) What sort of nation is this, in which you cannot discover who owns the ground beneath your feet?

The Scottish government will consider breaking up large land holdings when they impede the prospects of local people. It will provide further help to communities to buy the land that surrounds them. Compare its promise of “a fairer, wider and more equitable distribution of land” with the Westminster government’s vision of “greater competitiveness, including by consolidation” – which means a continued increase in the size of land holdings. The number of holdings in England is now falling by 2% a year, which is possibly the fastest concentration of ownership since the acts of enclosure.

Consider Scotland’s determination to open up the question of property taxes, which might lead to the only system that is fair and comprehensive: land value taxation. Compare it with the fleabite of a mansion tax proposed by Ed Miliband, which, though it recoups only a tiny percentage of the unearned income of the richest owners, has so outraged the proprietorial class that some of them (yes, Griff Rhys Jones, I’m thinking of you) have threatened to leave the country. Good riddance.

The Scottish government might address the speculative chaos that mangles the countryside while failing to build the houses people need. It might challenge a system in which terrible homes are built at great expense, partly because the price of land has risen from 2% of the cost of a house in the 1930s to 70% today. It might take land into public ownership to ensure that new developments are built by and for those who will live there rather than for the benefit of volume housebuilders. It might prevent mountains being burned and overgrazed by a landowning class that cares only about the numbers of deer and grouse it can bag and the bragging rights this earns in London clubs. As Scotland – where feudalism was not legally abolished until 2000 – becomes a progressive, modern nation, it leaves England stuck in the pre-democratic past.

Scotland is rudely interrupting the constructed silences that stifle political thought in the UK. This is why the oligarchs who own the media hate everything that is happening there: their interests are being exposed in a way that is currently impossible south of the border.

For centuries, Britain has been a welfare state for patrimonial capital. It’s time we broke it open, and broke the culture of deference that keeps us in our place. Let’s bring the Highland spring south, and start discussing some dangerous subjects.

Caroline responds to the winter floods

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