Senscot Bulletin: 02-02-2007

Dear members and friends,

This is only my second day in Spain and my mind has detached already – from papers, emails, TV, even books. It has wandered off to find space. For lunch I’m up the hill at Antonio’s place. As he greets me, I feel again the energy, the life force of this man – a wee café which over time became this one hundred-seater restaurant. It’s warm enough to sit outside – roast lamb, the most marvellous apple crumble, with spices and sultanas, probably Moorish. Close my eyes – aware of the sun on my face, of the hum of contented conversation, of the smell of mountain pine. Aware that I love this country, and that alongside my main Scottish life, for thirty years I’ve had a parallel Spanish bit. I should have adopted one of these villages in the hills – any one – bought a wee pad, cultivated a local persona: Don Lorenzo – the eccentric writer from Escocia – comes and goes – accepted – “they say of him that when he was young…”
 The Chinese have a saying that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago – but the second best time is now. Maybe I’ll still do something – I’d certainly keep healthier in this climate. So much depends on energy, life force. I parked my car today beside the pine tree which was struck by lightning two years ago. It’s beginning to live again – a few shoots miraculously sprouting.


When David Miliband had the Communities and Local Government portfolio, I had great expectations of a truly radical shift of power to our communities, addressing what he called “the serious democratic deficit”. But since Ruth Kelly took over, the entire process has become progressively diluted, and last week heard that ‘community right to buy’ has been dropped from the English bill, as has the proposed ‘community call fro action’. Civil servants, in both central and local government, hate any kind of shift of power from the centre. But one felt Miliband was game for a serious battle. Kelly is not – the civil servants have taken control. If Blair had really wanted radical change he’d have left Miliband in post. Empowerment of the people will need to be from the bottom up – it has always been thus. 

One Plus has long been one of the leading social enterprises in Scotland. Its recent difficulties are of concern to us all. There has been talk of mismanagement, but as John Findlay himself says, “Are they saying it’s been mismanaged for twenty five years?” The Scottish Executive is prone to overreact. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. More than anything there will be important learning for our sector in the One Plus situation – let us capture it. Good piece in third Force News:

Gave a talk last week – my usual theme about how Scottish Labour’s ruling municipalists have deliberately attacked any communities with aspirations of independence. My remarks got an unusually animated response and I’m wondering if energy is building in Scotland for a new movement to reclaim our communities from the dead hand of council control. Here’s my speech:
Interest in LPL (‘Local People Leading’) is strong and a development worker, Di Jennings, starts on Monday. Anyone registering interest with LPL will be kept in the loop:  

Each year at this time we invite readers to make a donation towards production costs. If your contribution is £25 or more, you can be included (as an individual) in Senscot’s register of company members. Just let us know. Company member subscriptions are renewable annually. You can donate online here or send a cheque (and address so we can send you a receipt) payable to Senscot, 54 Manor Place, Edinburgh, EH3 7EH

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but submit jobs and events and we’ll post them on our site. See This week: 

JOBS: 35 vacancies, incl. posts with: Routes to Work South , Re-Union Canal Boats, Toonspeak Young People’s Theatre, Blake Stevenson, Scottish Renewables, Enable, Move On, SPARC Community Arts.

EVENTS:15 events, incl. ‘Calyx Project community fun day, 4 Feb, Perth; Assist Social Capital networking evening, 22 Feb; Doing the Business – Community Food and Health Scotland, Dunblane, 27 Feb; Art Expo 2007, Glasgow, 27 Feb; Community Retail Training Day, Glasgow, March 6.

The Exchange has been hearing that new legislation introduced on 1st January suggests that small businesses risk financial penalties if they do not include mandatory information on their websites and email signatures. For info’, see  

A group from the Scottish social enterprise sector are off on a study visit to California in April, taking in the conference of the American Social Enterprise Alliance. First reaction to this news was “Bah humbug! Waste of money.” But I’m coming to realise that this small-minded stinginess cramps our country. We need to broaden our horizons. Gerry Higgins of CEiS, who is leading the visit, is very focussed and I suspect anyone looking for a skive will get a shock.

The pioneer of recruiting and supporting social entrepreneurs in developing countries is the Ashoka Foundation from USA. Although they are the brand leader, they have never had a programme in the UK. Now we hear that Ashoka is in discussion with UnLtd on the possibility of their making ‘top end’ awards together in Britain. This would be a good move – the Ashoka global network of Fellows is an impressive bunch. Here’s an interview with Ashoka founder Bill Drayton.

Forth Sector has relaunched its successful Planning Guide. The guide has been updated and refreshed to make it more accessible and is available electronically: 

This week’s bulletin profiles Buchan Dial-a-Community Bus, one of Scotland’s best known and most successful community transport organisations. Set up in 1993, Buchan Dial-a-Bus now operates a 5 days service, taking customers from all over rural Buchan to shopping centres etc in and around Aberdeenshire, and then back to their homes. They offer a wheelchair facility, walking aid and/or a volunteer escort so as to encourage greater independence. Since 2002, they have able to offer concessionary fares so that customers with a concession card (approx 99%) can use the bus for no charge. For further info’, see

One of the most attractive of religious teachings is that no human pain is wasted – that we are all conjoined in a kind of Divine Economy. Sheila Cassidy, after all she underwent in a Chilean jail, was still able to write these words:

“I believe no pain is lost. No tear unmarked, no cry of anguish dies unheard, lost in the hail of gunfire or blanked out by the padded cell. I believe that pain and prayer are somehow saved, processed, stored, used in the Divine Economy. The bloodshed in El Salvador will irrigate the heart of some financier a million miles away. The terror, pain, despair, swamped by lava, flood or earthquake, will be caught up like mist and fall again, a gentle rain on arid hearts or souls despairing on the back streets of Brooklyn.”

That’s all for this week. Good luck with your adventures.

Best wishes.

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Laurence’s book, ‘You’ve Got To Laugh’ is available at Word Power, 43 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh. See: