Senscot Bulletin 02-05-2003

MAY 2003



Dear Members and friends,


I am addicted to strong black coffee and my working day is
punctuated by ‘hits’ of caffeine. Occasionally I overdose – get a kind of dizzy
spell/panic attack. Get one outside coffee shop in George Street on Saturday
morning. Have to sit on a bench for a bit. My Buddhist breathing is interrupted
by arrival of a vagrant alcoholic aged 30 carrying can of strong cider. He
shows signs of mental health problems. His companion, aged 13/14, is carrying
their bedding in a bin bag. The older one, called Andy, says, “See me, I need
two of these each morning just to take the edge off.” The younger one clearly
hero worships Andy. His look of adoration says that he too would like to be a
vagrant alcoholic as soon as possible.

            On Saturday
afternoon I have agreed to play golf with a friend and his guests – two
holidaying Americans. My partner Zak is ages with me but somehow more relaxed –
and better preserved. We share a golf buggy and get chatting. He tells me he
“never really worked,” so I ask “how come?” “May family owned a steel mill in
Pennsylvania,” he says, “but I didn’t enjoy business.” I ask why but he smiles
and says, “I only worked there one day.” “Well at least you gave it a good
try,” I laugh – he seems fed up with that joke. It transpires Zak is worth over
100 million dollars – I’d like to report that he was overbearing – superficial
– miserable. But he was unassuming – thoughtful  – cheerful. Lucky bastard. I have been neither a vagrant
alcoholic nor a millionaire but I know which has been closest.



I was first inspired by Bunker Roy ad the story of Barefoot
College, India, over 20 years ago when I was a community worker – but I have
never until now had the opportunity to meet him. Mel Young, through his
connections with the Schwab Foundation, has met Bunker and considers him “one
of the outstanding social entrepreneurs in the world.” Mel’s persuaded the
great man to stop off in Edinburgh for a couple of hours on Tuesday week to
meet and talk with Senscot network members. The Big Issue in Scotland and
Senscot invite all of you to the Quaker Meeting Room in Edinburgh on Tuesday 13th
May, from 4-6pm. His work will be of particular interest to those of you
interested in educational issues. There’s no charge, but please e-mail




Last Wednesday the Scottish Executive invited 24 people to
spend the day together in a Perth hotel to share thinking about the support
needs of social enterprise organisations in Scotland.  In the ‘run-up’ I felt cautious about being co-opted into some
clandestine ‘carve-up’, but nothing such occurred and I’m really glad I went.
The group was split equally between public sector officers and social economy
intermediaries, and this was a genuine attempt by the Executive to consult with
the sector. The tone of the day was open and honest, and I was heartened by the
level of goodwill and common purpose. Barbara Philips from the DTI shared the
day with us – her contributions connected us to the wider picture – added a bit
of ‘gravitas’. Discussion centred on the Executive’s ‘purple’ report and in
particular the proposals that support services are co-ordinated in local
partnerships. Alas, no beam of light descended from on high – we didn’t solve
everything – money wasn’t even mentioned. But progress was made and the process
– chatting to everyone – will in itself move things forward. Mark Batho gave
the impression there may be more such gatherings – with the group changing
around the focus of the agenda. If you’re interested in who was attending on
Wednesday the list is at: 



“The spirit of service is in our people. But only in the few
is it a driving force which makes them pioneers, not to be stayed by
difficulties.  There is always need for
the few – dynamic individuals wholly possessed by this spirit.  They call it forth in others; they create
the institutions and societies through which it acts; they lead by their
example.  Voluntary Action depends on
its pioneers.” (Lord Beveridge, Voluntary Action, 1948: 151)



NOTICES: See ‘Listings’ at
for more on these and other items and job vacancies. If you have a relevant
notice you’d like posted, send it to


‘Being a good social economy employer’, 22 May, 9.30am-4pm,
Wynd Centre, Paisley, conference to raise awareness of new (April 2003)
employment legislation and consider financial & operational impacts of the
changes. For: managers, reps from soc. economy org.s /soc. enterprises &
public sector agencies who support such org.s. More: Fiona, RCVS, 0141 587


Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair, Thurs 29 May. 7pm:
George Monbiot opens the Fair, launching ‘The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a
New World Order’: What would global democracy look like? How do we overcome
government’s resistance?   


‘Agriculture:  The Primary Health Service?’ conference
28 May 32003 by Soil Association Scotland &
Scottish Agricultural Colleges at Univ. of Paisley; speakers from the food,
farming, health & public sectors, Further info: Dom Lane, Conference
Manager, 0117-914-2451,

BTCV volunteer conservation holidays – woodland management,
access & habitat work, path repair, etc, in Highlands and Dumfries &
Galloway (& international).



Senscot has heard the Bank of England’s enquiry into the
availability of finance for social enterprises will report in May 20th.
We’ll keep you informed.



This week’s bulletin profiles ReBoot, a non-profit
organisation located in Forres, Moray. Founded in 1998, ReBoot is a charitable
organisation set up to redistribute and recycle obsolete computer equipment,
the first project of its kind in the North of Scotland. By making computers
available for reuse, ReBoot aims to reduce waste and is confident that it can
also provide opportunities for work experience and training for local
unemployed people. All equipment donated is refurbished and tested to make
sure  that it is safe, reliable, and
contains no company data. Usable systems are then distributed to local
charities, voluntary groups or disadvantaged individuals. Further info: see (Project Profiles) 



So Labour will continue to rule Scotland, but their grip
continues to weaken – welcome breakthrough of new independent energy, SSP,
Greens etc. Jack is strong – an operator – and that is good for the time being
– stability is paramount – but he has few colleagues of the calibre to carry
ministerial responsibilities, and this usually means that the civil servants
run things. The intractable factionalism in Scottish labour dilutes a tired
party. The crop of fresh newcomers will be good for Scottish democracy.



Albert Camus published ‘The Plague’ in 1947, clearly
influenced by the Nazi occupation of his country. Near the end Tarrou asks “Can
one be a saint without God?” to which Dr Rieux responds, “Heroism and sanctity
don’t really appeal to me… what interests me is being a man.” In the same year
Primo Levi wrote “If this is a man” exploring the same theme. Both books
recognise that our humanity is denatured by war – both ask how the bits can be
put back together again in a form that can be lived with. This is the very
question facing Iraq at this time. So devastating has been our conquest that,
as Ben Okri says, “Some Iraqis have been dehumanised. Broken by sanctions,
crushed by tyranny and now annihilated by the doctrine of overwhelming force –
they have turned on themselves.” By looting their own museums and burning their
priceless national library, great swathes of their – and our – past has been

It cannot be assumed that these
fractures can be repaired. History shows that advanced cultures have been
obliterated by brutal invaders. The Aztecs never recovered from Cortez. Persia
never recovered from Alexander. Nor should we think that this is ‘their
problem’ somewhere in a foreign country. The deeply corrupting power of war
doesn’t affect the victims so much as the aggressors – and that’s us.


That’s all for this week. Hope the Monday holiday is sunny
for you.

Best wishes,



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