A Rambling observation on recent events

A new president of the United States of America has just taken office, and this event seems to have caused some people to lose the plot. I can understand why many people are worried about the actions that President Trump may take and why many people don’t think him a terribly nice person. He’s not my president because I’m not an American so I’m also really not in much of a position to make judgement on his policies or anything else – so I’m not going to. I’ll wait and see what he actually does rather than what he said he’d do or what people thing he’ll do. On my social media I’ve seen many people who have previously complained about misinformation, fake-news and the like sharing easily debunked “news” stories and articles that are so low on information and so biased they can really only be called propaganda. Which is fine it’s their space they can share what they like, though I’ll maybe pay less attention next time they complain about other people doing the same thing. Likewise today many people have gone on women’s marches to protest against Donald Trump being president. Now if that makes them feel better it’s their time and they can do what they like, I’m not going to pretend that i think it’s effective or even worth while action though. The time to protest Trump was before he got elected, if the march was for Womens rights more generally there are better targets, why did it take a US president being elected and maybe perhaps threatening the rights of privileged* western women to cause people to get up and march, why aren’t there constant demonstrations outside the Saudi embassy for instance**? I’ve no intention of telling people what to do or how to protest but I reserve the right to draw conclusions about their revealed preferences from the actions they take.

This though is all rather by the by. What more concerns me is the violence seen in the US following the Presidential inauguration. People being blocked from attending the inauguration and people being attacked in an unprovoked manner because of their political beliefs. When this is is coming from and being cheered on by people that allegedly believe in love trumping hate and kinder gentler politics I do have to wonder what on earth they are thinking. I’ve seen people complaining that the right only gets upset when a member of the right gets attacked and ignore violence against other groups, which only makes me ask so what? Isn’t that what the people protesting expect from the right that they don’t care about others, but aren’t the people protesting meant to be better than that? Shouldn’t they be condemning any violence as they believe in peaceful protest and are better than the right? The think is though in terms of recent political events that I’ve both been at or seen reported in the news mass violence seems to be the exclusive preserve of the kinder gentler left. The right may have loud, hostile and threatening demos but actual violence is always from those that claim they oppose fascism and the right.

This opposition to other people political opinion by means of violence is troubling as history suggests it’s normally a precursor to totalitarian states. The people that allowed President Obama and other “good” people to get away with ignoring checks and balances and to give themselves more power were the ones that have given that power to President Trump, if President Obama hadn’t been quietly given the power President Trump wouldn’t have it now. As the trite meme goes the only way to stop people abusing power is to not to let them have it in the first place. Likewise the people “fighting fascism” with violence today are ensuring that fascism is what they’ll get. Either they’ll welcome it in, in the disguise of a saviour that will save them from all the bad people if only they give up their freedom, or the bad people will turn around and say “this violence is unacceptable and we can stop it”. Either way freedom is lost and a totalitarian state arrives. By constructing a bogeyman that doesn’t exist and fighting that rather than the real flawed individuals they face today they provide cover for the genuinely malevolent. When everyone is “literally Hitler” how can you recognize the real thing when it arrives?

I’m not saying stop protesting, I’ve no intention of telling you what you should or shouldn’t do – that as always is your choice. However I am saying I believe each and everyone of us can make a difference without suppressing other peoples points of views, without violence, without constructing bogeymen to fight. If you want to make a difference talk to people who hold different views to you find common points of ground, don’t condemn opposing view points with slurs – if all you have is slurs you have no argument and don’t lock yourself away in a bubble. If you really believe that our current leaders are “literally Hitler” then don’t give them the excuse of violence and don’t drive people to them by calling everyone a “Nazi”.

I don’t do enough to effect the change I want in the world, and it may not be the same change you want – but and this may be a shock to people most people just want to get by and generally want everyone else to be able to get by as well. So most of us have that common ground where we differ is in how we achieve this – which is a far better conversation to be having than hurling insults from inside cosy little echo chambers.Preventing discussions just allows resentment to fester and gives a breading ground for the genuinely less tolerant and the genuinely nasty. If we talk to each other, especially those with whom we seem at first to disagree then those poisons have left space to grow.

Not quite sure if I had a point there except maybe “be excellent to each other”.

* Compared to the rest of the world everyone in the west is privileged
** I’ve checked via Google and can find no report of a single mass women’s rights march outside a Saudi Embassy

Registering with the Raw Tobacco Scheme

Following on from yesterdays article about how the HMRC have taken leave of their senses, today as a dutiful and law abiding citizen and gardener I sent off my application to register with the Raw Tobacco Scheme. If as a gardener you also need to apply feel free to borrow from my letter or more generally Nothing to Declare have their own application template.

Once you have registered and have got your UAN if you use a council compost bin don’t forget to contact your council to make sure that they are suitably registered for legal handling of you waste raw tobacco. If the HMRC decide that you’re not a fit and proper person to have a herbaceous border, I’d suggest contacting them to ask how you’re meant to dispose of it whilst not registered without breaking their regulations, maybe suggest they could send round their own gardener.

Raw Tobacco Approval Scheme
Excise Processing Teams

Application for Approval for Raw Tobacco Scheme

I am a private individual and need to apply to register for approval under the Raw tobacco Scheme my details are as follows:
Registrant type: Private Individual
Contact Number: +44 208 7946 2003
Postal Address: 2003 The Hovel, Scarfolk
E-Mail Address: [email protected]
Date of Birth: 1st April 2017
Details of controlled activities:
I am a keen gardener and grow several types of Nicotiana for both decorative and fragrance purposes. This usually includes several of the larger varieties which are traditionally used for tobacco production. Due to keeping my herbaceous border neat and seasonal pruning previous years suggest that I will be in a position of holding and transporting over 2kg of waste raw tobacco and so will not qualify for an exemption.
Address for controlled activities: 2003 The Hovel, Scarfolk
Name and address of supplier of raw tobacco:
I will not be being supplied with raw tobacco as the plants are currently alive and any new plants will be bought either as seed or new live plants. As I have no supplier of raw tobacco the question of where that supplier is registered is not applicable.
Estimated quantity of raw tobacco involved with a controlled activity in a 12 month period:
Unfortunately I’ve never previously weighed the pruning’s and dead plants before putting them into my compost or council waste bin, however as I did once weigh one of the root balls from a potted plant and my plants regularly exceed 2 metres I would estimate that over the course of the year I’ll possess in the region of 15kg of raw tobacco material, probably around 10kg at one time in autumn when I prepare the garden for winter.
l declare the information contained in this application is true and complete to the best of my knowledge.

Please respond by mail only.

The Deil’s Awa Wi’ The Exciseman

Baccy As the poet said “The Deil’s Awa Wi’ The Exciseman” or at least with HMRC’s senses. Via the ever excellent LegIron it has been brought to my attention that HMRC are taking steps to crack down on people not paying duty on tobacco products. This news I’m sure will make the Puritans shriveled hearts sing for joy, if they’re allowed to sing that is. HMRC have decided that it’s time to crack down on raw tobacco and that unless you qualify for exemption if you deal with raw tobacco in anyway you will have to register with them, so that they can make sure you’re paying any duty you’re meant to. So far on the face of it this isn’t entirely insane, as people have started importing cured tobacco leaves to shred at home and not pay duty on the processed tobacco the revenue obviously want their cut from such illicit activities.

However when you read the regulations the utter insanity of their scheme soon becomes apparent. Obviously having learnt the lessons of the legal highs debacle they aren’t going to be caught out by listing specific varieties that people can just work round, oh no they’re far to clever for that! Nope what they’ve done is make sure their new rules cover the entire genus! Genius move. Section 2.2 “Definition of raw tobacco” states:

“Raw tobacco means the leaves or any other part of a plant of the genus Nicotiana but does not include”

They’ve got us all bang to rights any sort of tobacco plant and HMRC want to know about it as soon as it’s dead. Of course the Nicotiana genus of plants covers a bit more than just the plants that can be smoked which are “Nicotiana Tabacum”, there’s also quite a few that are widely used as decorative plants, 67 species in all, so this regulation is going to impact garden centers, councils, parks and all manner of gardeners. Yes gardeners because these regulations according to section 2.3 cover all controlled activities and a controlled activity is: “activity involving raw tobacco, but don’t worry if you might be exempt! Section 4.4 tells us the good news:

“If you keep plants of the genus Nicotiana for horticultural purposes in the UK then you’ll be exempt from approval to hold or transport the plants when they die (at which point they are raw tobacco and subject to the approval scheme).”

Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple as there are exemptions to the exemptions most noticeably you must not:

“hold or transport an amount of waste raw tobacco which exceeds 2kg at any one time”

So grow too many plants and put them on your compost and you need to register, put it in a garden waste bin and the waste collected needs to be registered, run a nursery and have dead stock you need to register, really the list just goes on and on.

The madness doesn’t end there of course as even an individual growing decorative plants if they have too many has to keep records for 6 years, these records must relate to purchase and usage but they don’t tell you much more than that, businesses have to record even more including “sales records including customer UANs” so potentially when you go and buy your decorative border the garden center will need to check that you’re registered and record your details. I had hoped that such an idea might be far fetched but no, because even if you’re exempt and thus don’t need to register you still need to keep records! Section 6.7 “Record keeping for exemptions”:

“If you have an exemption for stalks and stems or nasal snuff you must keep, preserve and produce the records that relate to:

  • the import and export of exempt tobacco
  • the ordering and delivery of exempt tobacco
  • invoices and receipts relating to exempt tobacco

Any record that is required to be kept must be preserved for a period of 6 years and must be made available to an HMRC officer upon request.

Exempt tobacco means tobacco stalks and stems and packaged nasal snuff.”

Fortunately for all you gardeners it looks like you probably won’t have to record what you did with the trimmings from that one weedy little plant in the border at least not yet. Of course failing to register, keep records or breaching the terms on your exemption, perhaps your plants grew too well, means you’re liable to penalties probably just a £250 fine.

Now as I’m not the sort of person who would ever advocate breaking the law (no sniggering at the back) I stongly suggest that you register. Which is a painless task for as Nothign to declare report the HMRC don’t have an on line form for this, nor do they in fact have any sort of form at all! Nope if you need to register you have to write them a letter, but they do at least give some guidance on that, so I suggest we all get writing just in case there are any tobacco plants hiding in our herbaceous borders that might put on a growth spurt net year. Just hope that the HMRC consider you to be a “fit and proper” person. In the same spirit as the civic minded citizens I know you all to be, do be vigilant and if you think your local council or MP might have too many plants in their herbaceous borders do be sure to report them to the HMRC, and do let your local garden center know of their obligations. I’m sure the HMRC will appreciate our efforts in making sure that everyone who might be subject to these regulations registers properly. After all it really is important that we make sure that we register to legally grow harmless and completely legal plants that may die or need to be pruned.