Senscot Bulletin: 03.03.17

Dear members and friends,

Became surprisingly absorbed in the recent TV programme ‘Life on the Edge’ – about Fair Isle; halfway between Shetland and Orkney, it’s the UK’s most remote inhabited island; getting there is by scary 12 passenger ferry (2 ½ hrs) or scary 8 seater plane (25 mins). We learn about Fair Isle’s reknowned hand-crafted knitwear – about the rare migratory birds which stop off there to ‘refuel’ (visiting ‘twitchers’ help the local economy) – but it was getting to know the islanders and their life together which hooked my interest. I’m fascinated by the behaviour of this tiny community of fifty five souls – on a remote island often cut off by weather; the multiple jobs they each undertake; individual survival totally dependent on the group; can such communities survive; do they matter?
            Of course there’s a tendency for us ‘townies’ to romanticise the ‘rural idyll’ – but I found myself really ‘rooting’ for the islanders – particularly their commitment to shared living; and I can see hopeful signs going forward for remote communities. In the first place, satellite technology will make the whole world of the internet available everywhere to everyone. Secondly, I believe a future automated economy will provide a basic income for every citizen; belonging to a community where your several contributions are needed and valued, will become a coveted lifestyle. Perhaps healthcare is a downside; a nurse/paramedic for routine ailments – air-ambulance to the mainland for serious stuff; but we all know the NHS is shrinking anyway – you’re going to live better/longer on a working croft, than in our cities. It’s the attraction of sharing, not solitude, that will repopulate Scottish islands


Senscot’s annual invitation for contributions to the cost of producing this bulletin – is in its final week. We would offer our thanks and appreciation to all 105 individuals (company members) and organisations (associates) who have offered their support – donating £6,250. Please check here – so that we haven’t missed your name out. Anyone inclined to join or donate over these last few days, please see members page.


Local authorities have less money – grants to community groups are being cut. This recent snapshot of our third sector economy (by SCVO) is somber – a shift from growth to survival mode. Big Society Capital – the ‘social bank’ created by the UK Govt – exists explicitly to persuade the third sector to use repayable loans (another Gordon Brown brainstorm). Particularly in England, the increasing entry of commercial money into the provision of care services brings pressure to increase return on capital – alien values which undermine the quality of care. In a recent talk, Paul Streets from Lloyds Bank Foundation urged our sector to ‘return to the values which differentiate us from the public and private sectors’. We have a better chance in Scotland where money lenders don’t yet control everything – or maybe I’m being naïve.


I’d never heard of Stir to Action magazine – a print quarterly since 2013 which promotes new economic alternatives.  They have now launched a digital version (£11.99) and I’m enthusiastic about the content:
‘exploring where the social economy, the commons and civil society come together’.  I’ve selected an article ‘a care economy’ which champions the Italian ‘social cooperatives model’; this turns ‘users’ of social care into partners alongside the workforce – each with a share in the business.  There is now a social co-operative in every town in Italy – a nationwide labour force of 360,000 – regional consortia play an important role.


I have no enthusiasm for nationalism (except rugby internationals) – I am a strong supporter of independence for reasons of subsidiarity; the SNP is nationalist and centralist – so I vote Green.  Scottish ‘yes’ voters know that 80% of the media support the union – with Murdoch’s Times Group leading the charge.  In response to a hostile leader saying that she has no mandate for a second referendum – our First Minister sets out the argument in Tuesday’s Times. Theresa May in Scotland today rousing the Tories.


Within the current parliamentary term, the SNP govt. is committed to a bill that ‘will refresh local democracy and give more power to communities’.  No one knows what this will involve – but an indication of ‘something on the move’ is a piece in the Herald by a Deloitte’s partner Angela Mitchell calling on Council’s to ‘share systems and infrastructure’ – (designed presumably by Deloittes) I would move in the opposite direction – improving Councils’ partnership with small local organisations – not even visible on Deloitte’s radar screen.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Gairloch and Loch Ewe Action Forum, Maybole Community Council, Victim Support Scotland, Pilton Community Health Project, The Larder Cook School,
EVENTS: Advanced Facilitation Training, 7 Mar; Volunteer Management Training, 8 Mar; Re-connecting People with the Hills, 13 Mar; Life science for good: speeding the convergence of profit and impact, 13 Mar;
TENDERS: Community Based Support – East Ayrshire Council; Transport and Delivery of Meals on Wheels Service – Shetland Islands Council; Attainment Challenge Contracts – North Lanarkshire Council; Health Survey 2018-2021 – Scottish Govt.  Join Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: In light of the SE Strategy and the impending Action Plan – and early actions – a number of Scottish Community Alliance (SCA) members met this week to consider how they could improve the benefit to their members from the Govt funded services on offer to social and community enterprises – including both new and existing services. Between them, the SCA members represent nearly 2000 social and community enterprises. They have agreed to meet more regularly and jointly to engage with support organisations so that services are better tailored to the specific needs of their members. The objective is a more co-ordinated and cost-effective use of the resources being directed to the sector. This will be to everyone’s benefit.


Bella Caledonia, one of the pioneers of Scotland’s alternative media, has been around for 10 years – but had a bit of a wobble recently; delighted by this announcement of bold forward plans – including a new partnership with the National. On the first Saturday of every month (this weekend) a 24 page Bella print magazine will be carried in the National – an additional content platform for some of our best writers who favour independence; some balance to the relentless tide of overwhelmingly Unionist news outlets.


Transform Scotland, the national alliance for sustainable transport, has called this week for Scottish Govt to investigate the re-opening of former rail routes across Scotland. Some communities that suffered station closures have grown substantially – new communities have grown up; they need to be reconnected to the rest of the country. Transform Scotland want all former rail routes to be protected until a proper strategic assessment is made of future needs: ‘These old rail routes are national assets – and should be viewed as such’.


SCRT’s monthly bulletin is available this week – featuring Scottish organisations offering mutual or ethical banking options. These include news of Scottish Friendly (our largest Mutual Society); Scotcash’s move into Edinburgh; Scottish Building Society – as well as news of Responsible Finance’s 2016 report and Triodos’ new personal current accounts. SCRT Director, Pauline Hinchion has also contributed an article to the online journal Philanthropy Impact, called ‘Measuring impact: How best to measure the third sector?’ Pauline also contributes a regular series of blogs on the OSCR website.


This week’s bulletin profiles a new social enterprise in Leith – Quay Community Improvements (Quay CIC). Quay CIC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Port of Leith Housing Association (PoLHA)and launched in the autumn of 2016, providing stair cleaning services in Leith and north Edinburgh. It has been founded on the principle that all profits generated through a range of commercial activities will be ploughed back into physical, social and economic regeneration opportunities in Leith and surrounding areas. This marks PoLHA’s second social venture following on from the success of its TOiL programme.


This quote from Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye (1953), reminds me of the original Ferrari’s Restaurant – 10 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow – in the late 1950s.


“I like bars just after they open for the evening. When the air inside is still cool and clean and everything is shiny and the bar-keep is giving himself that last look in the mirror to see if his tie is straight and his hair is smooth. I like the neat bottles on the bar back and the lovely shining glasses and the anticipation. I like to watch the man mix the first one of the evening and put it down on a crisp mat and put the little folded napkin beside it. I like to taste is slowly. The first quiet drink of the evening in a quiet bar – that’s wonderful!”


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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Senscot is a Company, registered in Scotland. Company Reg No. 278156: Scottish Charity No. SC 029210