Senscot Bulletin: 03.06.16

Dear members and friends,
From early on, my life took an anti-establishment slant – although I don’t know why this should be; Philip Larkin’s killer question: ‘What was the rock my gliding childhood struck?’  Some strive to ‘join the club’ – but I preferred to roam free – like an American mustang.  It’s possible I’m mellowing with age – but these days I find ‘the establishment’ more difficult to locate; new media enable aggressive scrutiny from below – traditional institutions lose their grip – the future belongs to those who welcome change.
            When I was younger, recruits into community work tended to be motivated by Christianity or Socialism – but each of these doctrines has lost conviction and influence.  Commercial interests drive public consciousness to a kind of turbo consumerism – few alternatives to materialism are on offer.  But the young, in particular, will always find an outlet for their natural generosity; the human need to give meaning to our lives comes from deep within us.
            Where I see ‘the establishment’ most clearly is in the power of global corporations – increasingly operating outwith the reach of elected Govts; their ‘free market economics’ plunders our planet.  Senscot is part of the social enterprise movement – which explores another way of organising society.  Businesses, we argue, are not necessarily about maximising personal wealth – they can be owned and operated by local communities – serving local economies.  Our movement attracts generous, self-motivated people – and its present growth is not surprising.  Like all successful movements it will eventually become part of the establishment – and the whole thing starts again; that’s the natural order of things.


On Monday I had an appointment at the new Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for a CT Scan; I was there a couple of hours and left demoralized by the extent to which the private sector now holds sway. The nurses, radiographer and consultant were all skilled and kind – but I sensed their discomfort with the increasingly commercial ethos. Through PFI and other sweetheart funding deals – New Labour moved our hospitals and universities from the public realm, closer to profit driven corporations; reduced their operation to the principles of running supermarkets. Few of us realised at the time – but this was the great Blair/Brown betrayal. Good piece by Aditya Chakrabortty saying that voices within the neo-liberalism project know that it has failed – a zombie ideology.


On her recent retiral as speaker of our Parliament – Tricia Marwick warned that Holyrood’s committee system was dysfunctional – mainly because the SNP Govt had taken a majority on every committee. Well, that’s over now – with the announcement this week of the new committee arrangements: 15 instead of 20; the SNP to chair 8, the Tories’ 5, Labour 4; the SNP to hold a majority on NONE! The new speaker, Ken Macintosh, said that negotiations had been ‘co-operative and collegiate’.


A few years ago I sat next to Tommy Sheppard at a dinner – he wasn’t yet an SNP MP but ran the Stand comedy club – and I remember thinking he was smart.  This is a blog from his website which sketches his current take on Scottish politics – most of which I agree with.  He thinks that the (once separate) left/right and nationalist/unionist debates have almost completely overlapped.  Scotland now has a left of centre majority espousing independence – and a right of centre opposition supporting the union (well roughly). He also displays fresh energy for Independence.


Lao Tsu was an older contemporary of Confucius, who in the sixth century BC lived in north western China. According to ancient legend, he was riding off into the desert to die – ‘sick at heart at the ways of men’; (when thankfully he was persuaded to write down his teachings for posterity). Whenever I’m reminded of this legend, I reflect on what degree of barbarism it would take for me to feel despair at the human race – and then we hear about the terrible abuse and murder of Liam Fee at the hands of his mother and partner; what to do with our anger and disgust? Front line staff – social workers, childminders, police officers etc – require personal ‘one to one’ support to cope with the horror of events like these – otherwise they can become overwhelmed with hopelessness, and another child ‘drops off the radar’; in Scotland we don’t take ‘burn out’ seriously enough


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Lifeline Project, Stepping Stones for Families, The Melting Pot, Aberdeen Foyer, Victim Support Scotland, Turning Point Scotland, Resonate Arts House, CHAP, Glengarry Community Woodlands
EVENTS: Portobello Market, 4 Jun; In Focus: Legacies, 8 Jun; Volunteer Management Training, 14 Jun; Advanced Facilitation Training, 15 Jun; West End Women’s Heritage Walk, 19 Jun;
TENDERS: Big Lottery Fund Scotland ESF Programme, Tender for Cafe Operation – Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes:  The SE Vision 2025 (Feb 2015) set out a blueprint for how SE can increase its contribution to the economic, social and environmental well-being of communities across Scotland over the next decade. The document followed a consultation process involving the Scottish SE community – over 400 individuals and organisations – and emerged with a strong emphasis on supporting the local economy, local decision-making, and local services – delivered by local providers. Similar themes are also evident in the more recent Community Alliance Vision and the SE Manifesto for May’s elections. The intention is now to work with Scottish Govt to co-produce a ‘SE Strategy for Scotland’ for the next 10 years – with SE as an important partner in our economy, in local communities, in civic society, in public services – and in creating a fairer and more inclusive Scotland. Next steps include a series of Roundtables involving the wider third sector as well as the public and private sectors. An interactive website will also be available shortly to facilitate as wide a range of contributions as possible. More info over coming months.


Very sad to hear this week that Chris Higgins (formerly of HIE) passed away after a long illness. Chris had long been a friend and long-standing member of Senscot. Our paths first crossed around 2002/3 during Senscot’s early years. In his position at HIE with John Watt, he played a particularly active role in supporting and encouraging the development of social enterprise in the Highland and Islands – recognising the importance of its role within rural communities. He became a member of the inaugural SE Academy Board in 2004 and, on his retirement, re-joined again – keen to continue making a contribution. He will be sadly missed by his many friends and colleagues across the sector.


Years ago, before community workers went to work for the state – our ‘normal’ role was around supporting community groups to challenge, and even confront local govt; I have always been a fan of the ‘development trust’ movement because of its clarity on one point – that trusts must be owned and controlled by local people.  Scotland has been well served by our Association of Development Trusts (DTAS) – which will host on July 13th in Glasgow a conference on community owned housing solutions.


Couple of weeks back, we mentioned that GlenWyvis community share offer had reached the £500k mark in its quest to raise £1.5m to establish the first ever community-owned distillery in Scotland. The good news is that, 3 weeks on, they have now over halfway (£800k) in reaching their target. Still 21 days to go.


Here’s the May edition of SCRT’s monthly bulletin. Stories covered include Airdrie Savings Bank’s new ‘Social Mortgage’; SIS’ view of the social investment landscape in Scotland; and a guest blog from Community Shares Scotland – including an animated guide to community shares.


This week’s bulletin profiles a new social enterprise set up by Remade in Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Remakery opened its doors last week to new premises in the city’s Leith Walk. The Edinburgh Remakery is, in essence, a unique re-use and repair superstore, encouraging second-hand shopping and enable more people to learn key repair skills as a way of driving a circular economy. The store offers affordable refurbished computers and furniture and repair workshops in computer, textile, and furniture techniques, as well as workstation hire. They have been supported in this venture by Zero Waste Scotland as part its drive to transform the scale and economic impact of re-use shopping in Scotland.


The teachings of Lao Tsu are contained in the Tao Te Ching – only around 5000 words; apart from the Bible, no other book has been so often translated. This passage is from the back cover of a 1972 translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English.


“The philosophy of Lao Tsu is simple: Accept what is in front of you without wanting the situation to be other than it is. Study the natural order of things and work with it rather than against it, for to try to change what is – only sets up resistance. Nature provides everything without requiring payment or thanks, and also provides for all without discrimination – therefore let us present the same face to everyone and treat all men as equals, however they may behave. If we watch carefully, we will see that work proceeds more quickly and easily if we stop ‘trying’, if we stop putting in so much extra effort, if we stop looking for results. In the clarity of a still and open mind, truth will be reflected.”


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