Senscot Bulletin: 02-03-2007

Dear members and friends,

Thomas Hardy wrote, ‘The business of the writer is to show the sorryness underlying the grandest of things, and the grandeur underlying the sorriest of things.’ I love the ambiguity of that, because it reflects my own life experience. Even as a child at the circus, a young man falling in love, etc, I remember saying to myself, Is this all there is?’ So now I try to empty myself of expectations – we simply don’t know what’s coming – or how we’ll react.
 John Mortimer, creator of Rumpole of the Bailey, is 84 now – confined to a wheelchair, still writing – savouring the human adventure. He tells of a recent incident: He needs a pee urgently, but no disabled toilet is available. Someone wheels him into the cleaner’s cupboard and he recounts that as he sits urinating into a mop pail, it occurs to him that he is totally happy. His point? That the most important thing is to be attentive in this moment in time to experience the grandeur of life.
 We all get these flashes – wish we knew how. Putting the wheelie bin out on Wednesday morning – squally rain, avoiding puddles, big wind in the trees – it occurs to me that everything in the universe is in place – in harmony – just as it is meant to be. Even me. Remember thinking, ‘Gosh, I’m happy. This is easy.’

In 1988, I was in the USA visiting deprived housing estates – all black – when a community leader called Bertha Gilkey said, ‘Laurence, don’t come here and do things for us from the goodness of your heart – from now on only teach us how to do things for ourselves.’ I’ll never forget that. By contrast, in Scotland, our municipal authorities foster a passive citizenry, a culture of dependence. The development trust movement stands for strong independent communities which own their own development vehicle. The Development Trust Association is growing steadily but, in Scotland’s central belt, a great slab of local authority staff and councillors see local Anchor organisations as a threat to their control – even to their jobs. No one speaks openly against the model – they just quietly smother the baby. DTA Scotland, Senscot and others are initiating a campaign called ‘Local People Leading’. We’re building alliances – there’s no rush – this will take years – we’re here for the long haul.

Colin attended the ‘from Social Economy to Social Enterprise’ Conference this week in Edinburgh. The event, hosted by Volunteer Health Scotland, heard about the opportunities for social enterprise emerging within the Health and Social Care sector. To exploit these opportunities, the sector needs to balance a strong business approach with measurable social added value. During the Q&As, Rhona Brankin (Minister for Communities) said discussions are underway to establish a unit with responsibility for social enterprise within the Health Service – as there is in England. But England also has a related investment fund of £73m – how serious is the Scottish Executive in this? Read the minister’s speech – all the right words – let’s hope there’s conviction behind them.

Robin Callander, an intrepid land reform campaigner, informs us of a major report which sets out the case for a review of the Crown Estate in Scotland, so that the resources involved, including Scotland’s seabed and much of its foreshore, produce greater benefits for local communities. This could become very big:

Another intrepid land reform campaigner, Andy Wightman, is living abroad just now and sends word from ‘the sunny highlands of Ethiopia’. He has posted a review and critique of ‘Community right to buy’ on his website. Here’s his page of recommendations.

Last month of our appeal for donations. Donate online at or send a cheque (and address so we can send you a receipt) payable to Senscot, 54 Manor Place, Edinburgh, EH3 7EH. Thanks for your support.

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: 32 vacancies, incl. posts with: Enterprising Eastern Perthshire, Glencanisp and Drumrunie Estates, Edinburgh Cyrenians, PilotLight, Assynt Foundation, Children in Scotland.

EVENTS:12 events, incl. Supporting Social Enterprise in a Rural Setting, Dunkeld, 27 March; FOE Scotland Environmental Justice course, Scotland-wide, starts April 2007; S2S Social Enterprise Trade Fair, Perth, 26 April; Critical Connections: Education for Social Change, Edinburgh, 24-25 May.

The Fife School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) at BRAG is recruiting for this year’s programme. This is their fourth year on the trot. They will be running a new 6 month course starting on 1st April. I’m a fan of the SSE model – Scotland could do with 6 of these. For info’, see

The Big Lottery (BLF) has now appointed the ten members of its new ‘Scotland Country Committee’ which marks an important devolutionary step. We don’t know the membership yet, but we’re invited to the announcement shindig.   Still on the Lottery, Senscot hears that applications for Growing Community Assets are slow coming in – particularly from urban communities. Opportunity knocks.

We hear that the Ethical Property Company (EPC) has secured premises in the centre of Edinburgh. EPC buys properties and develops them as centres that bring charities, co-operatives, community and campaign groups together under one roof. Tenants benefit from reasonable rents and flexible tenancy terms and office space. The company already has a portfolio of properties down south and their recent share issue will give them up to £12 million to invest over the next few years. It is expected that the premises will be ready by June/July 2007.
This week’s bulletin profiles the latest social enterprise to emerge from the Forth Sector Stable. The Wood Works, set up over the last few months, collects waste wood from construction sites, households and wood-trades people for reuse. They sort and clean the timber at their premises in Leith where good quality wood is sold at a reduced price to DIY’ers, builders, hobbyists, architects, gardeners and wood enthusiasts. They will cut to size while you wait and deliver to your door. Their collection charges are less than the standard waste disposal method of ‘skip and dump’ and more sustainable than the landfill or incinerator route. For more info, see

Thomas Berry is famous for proposing that a deep understanding of the history and functioning of the evolving universe is necessary for us to live properly as individuals and as a species.
‘We cannot have well humans on a sick planet. We cannot have a viable human economy by devastating the earth’s economy. We cannot survive if the conditions of life itself are not protected. Not only our physical being, but our souls, our minds, imagination and emotions depend on our immediate experience of the natural world…’ For full text, see

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: