IN my computer there are 23,486 photographs. When I have finished writing something, there is a new memory on the screen, my children, a picture of Speyside.

This morning: the wood-shed of my house in Banffshire, a pile of whiskey barrel off cuts to burn warm on winter nights at that wee bothy. That place has a private water supply, crystal clear Scottish water. In the photo was a wheelbarrow. I wondered just how many wheelbarrows I have owned in my life? I like this kind of question, they make me delve into memory banks I seldom access and give me assurance that, fortunately, dementia has not yet got a grip. I do notice lack of memory in the mass media though. It frequently worries me.

Stories sometimes, on the same day, even the same bulletin, completely contradict one another and make no reference to reports from only the evening before.

One major source of news is the BBC. In Scotland, we often call it the English Broadcasting Corporation. Be that as it may, there are many fine people who work for it, and they do provide so much that is worthy.

Today I tried to watch a video “No average Joe: President Biden’s first year in four minutes”. This was a montage too far for me.

A video: “Giant pristine coral reef discovered off Tahiti”. I thought, “why tell everybody?” Now there will be cruise ships full of scuba diving tourists messing it all up! The next video was "Sewage found in UK rivers’" I thought, “is that a surprise?”

There have been lots of similar stories recently. A man peered into a computer screen, it displayed a video from an underwater camera, he described the mawkit water (they put music in the background of this video too). A caption provided information that on 3100 days, over the past four years, sewage has been illegally dumped in English rivers! There are only 1461 days in four years!

Scotland’s water belongs to us, via Scottish Water. Sometimes it too discharges sewage into Scottish rivers, through 3697 combined sewer overflows, which operate as an emergency back-up system, if flash flooding overwhelms urban sewer systems. Fines have been levied over discharges into the Clyde. Scottish Water invests 40% of its annual budget on capital projects, about £600 million, and another £170 million per year on servicing PFI debts, which otherwise could be invested in new infrastructure. There are voices who would suggest Scotland lags behind the rUK on clean water issues. I am not suggesting this is easy, but given a choice between swimming in the Thames and the Spey I would not choose the Thames.

Many of the problems can be traced back to disastrous acts of the Thatcher administration. (Don’t get me started). To put a, basic, life sustaining, human requirement, into the hands of businesses, whose sole aim is to make profit for shareholders. What kind of idea was that?

On October 25 2021 Tory MPs voted for a an amendment to the Environment Bill which placed no legal obligation on water companies not to dump sewage into rivers in England. John Major’s, Tory, administration started the PFI, and Tony Blair went on to encourage it, a scandal which sucks much of the annual budgets from these projects, into the coffers of private corporations.

I am sure stand-alone stories, where links between different happenings are not apparent, are useful to the UK Government. Boris Johnson avoids answering questions by saying “Oh well, but what people are really interested in is ….” deflecting and confusing. Making it even more difficult to remember what happened and when. He does this in every interview. He also knows that enquiries take time, and that time is best filled with as many distracting stories as possible, making the sewage filled waters even cloudier.

Investment in infrastructure, to replace those sewer overflows, could be one of the great benefits of our new independent country. In younger times the Gillies would chase us if they caught us swimming in the Spey. At least my memories are crystal clear.
Cher Bonfis
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