Senscot Bulletin: 02.09.16

Dear members and friends,

The headlong pace of technological change shapes our society – feeds an appetite for books which speculate about the future; the latest is Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari.  Harari is excited by the possibilities which bioscience and genetic technology offer to improve and prolong life – but, he tells us, they will be expensive and available only to the wealthy.  A gap already exists (including parts of Scotland) in life expectancy between rich and poor; in a couple of decades, he says, health inequality will widen to a chasm.  Harari argues that our society in founded on humanist principles which assume certain levels of equality.  He predicts that this widening gap will tear apart western liberal democracy.
            He also says that, just as the 19th century created a ‘working’ class – the coming century will create a ‘useless’ class: billions of people replaced by robots, so they have no economic function.  Providing food and shelter should be possible, he says, – but how to give meaning to their lives, will become the huge political question.  I take a very different view of this: when a universal basic income frees humankind from the need to do craps jobs – I would anticipate a flowering of our higher more creative functions; something like Abraham Maslow’s vision of fulfilment.  I find it more difficult to refute Harari’s warning of the threat privatised, privileged healthcare poses to our social democracy: a clear and present danger.


It’s not just the decision to leave Europe – we’ve been aware for many years of the mismatch between the ‘Scottish position’ and the free market consensus which governs the Westminster parliament; how we are all regarded as outposts of the City of London.  Personally I would vote for an independent Scotland – which set a higher level of taxation – so that we can move towards a more Scandinavian version of social democracy; I believe this to be the preference of the Scottish people.  But still the game is played out – as if among children – the ‘bedtime story’ of high level public services for low level taxes.  When can we expect a more ‘grown up’ honest politics – which spells out the realistic options; people have the right to choose.


Found another article from the USA about the Universal Basic Income (UBI) – it’s called ‘a basic income could upend American’s work ethic – and that’s a good thing’.  The article acknowledges that ‘wage work’ has become one of the most elemental pillars of the ‘civic religion’ of the world; and that there is a massive psychological barrier to giving people ‘free money’ (the history of ‘poor law’ is traced).  UBI would not be just another reform – it asks big scary questions – like what is an economy for – and why can’t we have one that serves the needs of everyone.


Good piece in Bella Caledonia about a report called ‘Banking for the Common Good’ – which shows with stark clarity that Scotland’s banking sector still comprises a small number of shareholder owned mega-banks, with little interest in serving local communities.  The report says – that within the powers it already has – Scottish Govt. could lead the way in building a better system; this would include – a powerful Scottish National Investment Bank – locally rooted ‘People’s Banks’ – a publicly owned interbank payment system.  New Scottish proposals could draw on international examples – like our German and Nordic neighbours.

Guardian journalist Aditya Chakrabortty visited a rundown area of Birkenhead and did a piece on the Neo Café – a community project just getting underway.  He seems more surprised than most of our readers would be that such ‘barefoot’ projects can thrive.  Lesley Riddoch suggest in this Scotsman piece – that sheer necessity will force councils to embrace community based services – as the only option within their means.  She gives the example of the impressive Food Train (Michelle McCrindle and colleagues) – in Dumfries and other parts of central Scotland – of how the concern people feel for a neighbor can mature into a locally run service offering dignity and friendships.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Lyth Arts Centre, Creating Conversations, Furniture Plus, Voluntary Action Fund, Glasgow SEN, Development Trusts Association Scotland, Resonate Together, CHAP, Glengarry Community Woodlands
EVENTS: Stirling SOUP, 2 Sep; DTA Scotland Annual Conference & AGM, 4 Sep; The Scottish Land Reform Conference 2016 – What Next for Land Reform?, 23 Sep; Scottish Rural Parliament 2016, 8 Oct;
TENDERS: Glasgow’s ESF Poverty and Social Inclusion Operation – Glasgow City Council; Landscape Maintenance Services – Clyde Valley Housing Assn; Interpretation Services Framework – Highland Council and many more.  Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes:  Instead of our usual SE Conference and Ceilidh in November, Senscot will be hosting a joint event – in partnership with Community Enterprise; Social Firms Scotland; and the Scottish Community Alliance. The event will look to build on the success of Community Enterprise’ June symposium – Where Community Meets Enterprise – and will explore further the opportunities that may exist for grassroots/frontline organisations to increase their impact at a local level – through collaboration with others – in the delivery of local services. Date, venue and booking forms available next week.


This weekend sees the return of the UK’s first major food festival specifically aimed at tackling food inequality to Glasgow. Let’s Eat Glasgow, run by the co-operative Real Food, Real Folk, is providing a showcase for an increasing number of the city’s food-based social enterprises. The event – on Sat 3rd and Sunday 4th Sept at SWG3 in Finnieston, is FREE to enter. Social enterprises taking part include Freedom Bakery, Shettleston Community Growing Project, Slow Food Glasgow, The East Ate/Bottle of Ginger, The Milk Café, Unity Enterprise’s Spoon Café, Urban Edge and Woodlands Community Garden.


Someone sent this map showing the percentage of young adults in European countries (aged 25-34) who still live with their parents.  The Scandinavian countries show by far the lowest (around 4%).  Italy has an amazing 46% – UK 14%.  Clearly family culture is a factor here – but there must also be economic influences.


We welcome the announcement that MSPs who act as aides to Scottish government ministers will no longer be able to sit on committees which scrutinise their bosses.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a change to the ministerial code after opposition MSPs raised concerns about conflicts of interest.


Reminder: Two of the sector’s ‘big’ events are looming up over the next week. First up is the 2016 DTA Scotland Conference – on Sunday and Monday at the Westerwood in Cumbernauld – with their theme being: “Climate Change, Localism and Social Justice”.  A couple of days later (Wed, 7th Sept) the 10th CEIS SE Policy and Practice Conference takes place at the Radisson Blu in Glasgow. See Programme and if you’d still like to go along See Registration form


Many congratulations to the folk at BroomPower – who smashed through their £900k community share target with a few days to spare. Having reached £250k in early August, they welcomed a flood of new investors over the last three weeks and hit their target late on Sunday 28th August. The funds will be used to
to establish a community-owned hydro-electric scheme on the Allt a’ Mhuilinn – just south of Ullapool. Invest will benefit from a 4% return on investment; will own part of a hydr0 scheme generating enough green energy to power 100 households; and will see at least £500k going into community projects over the next 20 years. The share offer has now closed.


This week’s bulletin profiles another of the growing band of cultural enterprises active across the country. Loud and Proud is a community choir, based in Edinburgh, that was set up by the LGBT Centre of Health and Wellbeing – and now has over 60 members. As well as performing a series of concert each year, the choir also runs Significant Others – a tiered programme giving everyone an opportunity to be part of the Loud & Proud Community and to contribute invaluable financial support for the choir so that it is able to develop exciting projects in the future. As well as performing a Fringe event in support of Waverley Care, Loud and Proud has also performed this year at the Usher Hall and the Scottish Parliament


Ursula Le Guin has become my new heroine.  This is a renowned (and moving) commencement address she gave to Mills College class of 1983 – "a rare chance to speak aloud in public in the language of women".  All of Le Guin’s writing is permeated by the Taoist philosophy. Her address ends thus:


“And when you fail, and are defeated, and in pain, and in the dark, then I hope you will remember that darkness is your country, where you live, where no wars are fought and no wars are won, but where the future is. Our roots are in the dark; the earth is our country. Why did we look up for blessing – instead of around, and down? What hope we have lies there. Not in the sky full of orbiting spy-eyes and weaponry, but in the earth we have looked down upon. Not from above, but from below. Not in the light that blinds, but in the dark that nourishes, where human beings grow human souls.”


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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