Senscot Bulletin: 03-11-2006

Dear members and friends,

Heard recently of a charity which specialises in ‘innovative approaches to ageing’ – what the heck does that mean? I’m innovative and I’m ageing – but I can’t think of any new angles – am I missing something. I sense that my personal challenge will be physical. The op on my neck three years ago relieved pressure but I can tell that my legs are going to stop working before my ticker. I’m an impatient and crabbit man and it has surprised me how stoical I am about this prospect. The biggest issue is independence. If I can continue to feed and wash myself without assistance then the rest seems manageable. My attitude is eminently practical – I’m designing a new ensuite bathroom for a doddery person – handrails, non-slip floor etcetera. I love a new project.
Some time ago I found myself at a dinner, sitting next to a young neurosurgeon.  I invited her to recount dramatic surgical moments – but she wasn’t for playing that game. ‘One day walking home,’ she said, ‘I witnessed a car crash. A man was pumping blood from a severed artery. I clamped it with my thumb and finger until the ambulance arrived. So simple – anyone could have done it – but it saved his life.’ ‘That’s a good story,’ I said ‘What do you take from it?’ ‘For me,’ she said, ‘the moral is that much of living is a matter of small practicalities.’  

Ruth Kelly’s White Paper on English local government reform is a disappointing damp squib – especially the bit which relates to community empowerment. This was meant to be ‘a radical devolutionary paper’ which introduced ‘a new first tier of governance much closer to people’. My personal theory is that Gordon Brown has stolen the good bits, and as soon as he’s prime minister he will announce a ‘radical new 21st century settlement between individuals, communities and government.’ Brown and the Miliband boys are hatching a benevolent plot.

Advert for the new First Port Executive Director in Wednesday’s Guardian – and we would encourage all our readers to circulate the attached job info around your networks (we reckon Senscot’s network reaches circa 500 others). Often, when a joint venture is formed, the lead job is earmarked for someone from one of the partner organisations. This is emphatically not so in this case. This will be a new and important appointment for the development of the social enterprise sector in Scotland.

At the DTA conference in September, Ruth Kelly announced that she has set up an inquiry into the powers and policies relating to the transfer of public assets to communities. She said that she takes this issue ‘very seriously’ and wants an action plan next spring, including proposals for new powers and policies if they are required. We need to ask if the Scottish Executive proposes any buy-in to this process, so that we don’t fall further behind. In England, local authorities can already sell land or property to communities at a discount of up to £2m. Not so in Scotland.

In this week’s Spectator, Oliver Letwin responds to David Miliband (last week) in a fascinating exploration of the difference between New Labour and the Conservatives – if there is any.  Letwin argues that Miliband and Cameron are the same – but that Brown is different.

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: 25 vacancies, incl. posts with: Spruce Carpets, Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Four Square (Scotland), SCVO, The Rock Trust, The REAL project, Renfrewshire-Wide Credit Union.

EVENTS: 22 events, incl. Renfrewshire Local Gathering for community and voluntary organisations, Paisley, 6 Nov; S2S social economy exhibition, Motherwell, 10 Nov; Understanding basic employment law for social enterprises in Dumfries & Galloway, 20 Nov, Castle Douglas. Social Enterprise Academy – Short Courses, 2007, discount deadline 31 Dec.

The Big Lottery Fund Scotland’s ‘Growing Community Assets’ (GCA) got formally underway last week with the signing of the contract between BLF and the delivery consortium headed by Highland and Islands Enterprise. £50m cash will be available until March 2009 both for rural and urban communities to buy land and property. Colleagues in England regard the GCA fund with admiration – much credit to the trustees of BLF Scotland.

Nine GPs in Gloucester have formed a social enterprise to run two hospitals which faced the axe: In a similar vein, a social enterprise delivering dental services in Southampton is set to open a further five clinics. See

The SURF Annual Lecture by Geoff Mulgan is now published on the internet. In this extract Mulgan says that he wants community groups which receive public assets to be representative and accountable:

This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise in the Scottish Borders that has been set up to encourage the creation of natural burial sites. Natural Way Burial seeks to increase the availability of affordable and dignified funeral choices which are ecologically sound and financially accessible to all who want them. It also aims to act as a source of information and education about ecologically friendly funerals and resources, primarily within Scotland and Scots Law. New Way Burial is a young organisation gradually developing its ability to become self-sufficient through trading as a social enterprise. For further info’, see

‘Happiness in Cornwall’ by Raymond Carver

‘His wife died and he grew old between the graveyard and his front door. Walked with a gait. Shoulders bent. He let his clothes go, and his long hair turned white. His children found him somebody. A big middle-aged woman with heavy shoes who knew how to mop, wax, dust, shop, and carry in firewood. Who could live in a room at the back of the house. Prepare meals. And slowly, slowly bring the old man around to listening to her read poetry in the evening in front of the fire. Tennyson, Browning, Shakespeare, Drinkwater. Men whose names take up space on the page. She was the butler, cook, housekeeper. And after a time, oh no one knows or cares when, they began to dress up on Sundays and stroll through town. She with her arm through his. Smiling. He proud and happy with his hand on hers. No one denied them or tried to diminish this in any way. Happiness is a rare thing! Evenings he listened to poetry, poetry, poetry in front of the fire. Couldn’t get enough of that life.’

That’s all for this week. Good luck with your adventures.

Best wishes,

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