A bombastic, narcissistic and scatty old Etonian called Boris Johnston, is likely to become our next PM; this can only be understood in the light of a deep English (not British) deference for posh boarding schools – and the imagined, unchanging past they proclaim. George Orwell explored this theme in a 1940s essay called ‘Boys Weeklies’:
Orwell wrote: “You are at Greyfriars, a rosy-cheeked boy of fourteen in posh, tailor-made clothes, sitting down to tea in your study…There is a cosy fire, and outside the wind is whistling. The ivy clusters thickly round the grey old stones. The King is on his throne and a pound is worth a pound. Over in Europe, the comic foreigners are jabbering and gesticulating, but the grim, grey battleships of the British Fleet are steaming up the Channel and at the outposts of the Empire the monocled Englishmen are holding the natives at bay…Everything is safe, solid and unquestionable. Everything will be the same for ever and ever”.
Oldies like myself, will recognise the Greyfriars narrative, as the lifelong work of Frank Richards (excellent Wikipedia article). If you read the Billy Bunter books, you’ll also recognise that Boris has modelled himself on the Greyfriars ‘cad and bounder’, Herbert Vernon-Smith. In public school folklore, a ‘bounder’ disregards the norms of propriety and gets into ‘scrapes’; unsuitable to become a PM. Over many years, I’ve enjoyed nostalgic English yarns, about PG Wodehouse’s comic toffs – Frank Richards boarding school japes; Tories from the shires think Boris will bring that world back – for ever and ever.
Last week, the actor Mark Rylance resigned from the Royal Shakespeare Company over its sponsorship by BP. This George Monbiot article, Snake Oil, says that ‘Shell is not the green saviour it claims to be – but a planetary death machine’. All the giant fossil fuel producers know their future depends on ‘sustaining a societal licence to operate’ – which they purchase through sponsorships. I live close to the giant Ineos refinery at Grangemouth; driving past on M9 you’ll smell it. The Ferret reports this week that Scottish Govt have moved to renew Ineos’ fracking licence – for which there is no societal consent.
Shoshana Zuboff, author of ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’, has a piece in the Guardian called ‘It’s not that we failed to rein in Facebook and Google – we’ve not even tried’. This is a very useful briefing for outsiders like myself, on what this industry is capable of – its threat to democracy. Surveillance Capitalism thrives on the absence of Law; our societies successfully confronted destructive forms of capitalism in the past through regulation. Zuboff thinks ‘warriors for democracy under threat’ will shape the next ‘great regulatory vision’. An optimistic article – with practical suggestions for Lawmakers.
CommonSpace, the digital media site, also hosts forums on the last Thursday of each month, at Glasgow’s Kinning Park Complex; on 25th July, at 7.30pm, the topic will be ‘Social Security in the age of AI and Robots’. The discussion will explore several ‘universal’ options like a basic wage.
Last year, Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights, investigated the UK – found that in one of the world’s richest countries – 14 million people are living in poverty. This week, Alston says that, in response to his Report, all the UK Govt has done is sidestep the issues and try to discredit him. Todays end piece is a quote from the short summary of his report – a devastating indictment of Tory ideology.
“The social safety net has been badly damaged by drastic cuts to local authorities’ budgets, which have eliminated many social services, reduced policing services, closed libraries in record numbers, shrunk community and youth centres and sold off public spaces and buildings. The bottom line is that much of the glue that has held British society together since the Second World War has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos. A booming economy, high employment and a budget surplus have not reversed austerity, a policy pursued more as an ideological than an economic agenda.”
Interesting article in this week’s SCA Briefing on ground-breaking work taking place in Inverclyde where local communities are offering services based on the simple premise of showing compassion towards fellow citizens. This is a further reflection of the range of community initiatives addressing many of the health inequalities that exist across Scotland. Over the last year, Senscot has highlighted the contribution of social enterprise in addressing many of these issues through our regular Briefings – one, in particular, touching on public health reform. Other areas covered have included Dementia; Mental Health and Wellbeing; Loneliness and Social Isolation; Social Prescribing; and Diet and Obesity. With a new national agency for public health being set up in April 2020 – Public Health Scotland – to tackle Scotland’s public health challenges, it will be important that they take cognisance of and look to support the vital work and contributions already taking place – under the radar – in local communities across the country. Senscot will be responding to the Govt’s consultation document inviting views on proposals for Public Health Scotland.
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The benefits of our sector working together in shared spaces are undeniable – with venues such as Norton Park and The Melting Pot in Edinburgh and Robertson House in Glasgow being amongst the better-known examples. News now of another Hub due to open later this year in Stirling. The Barracks , another Robertson Trust initiative, is a £5m development of three old army barracks into shared office accommodation and meeting space – including a conference space for up to 200 people. All space appears booked up already.
Following a period of uncertainty as a result of the EU suspending payments for Scotland’s European Social Funds, Scottish Govt has this week issued the following statement to all affected third sector organisations.
With our SE Census 2019 due out in September, new this week of similar work taking place in Northern Ireland. Here, John McMullan (Chair of SENI) comments on the findings of their own Rebalancing the NI Economy 2019 Report – the first such exercise since 2013. It’s good to see both the social and economic contribution of our colleagues over the water being recognised.
Last year, we highlighted the concern of local authorities pawning off land to property developers to churn community spaces into student flats – one example being Leith Walk. In spite of a successful local community campaign, it’s sad to hear that as a result of the ongoing uncertainty around the development proposals, Punjabi Junction – recently featured on BBC’s ‘Walks of Life’ series – is now closing its doors.
Punjabi Junction is the SE Café set up in 2010 by Sikh Sanjog. The good news is that Punjabi Junction is not disappearing altogether and plans to continue ‘on the road’ – appearing at markets and fairs across Scotland.
Date for the Diary: The 14th SE Conference and Ceilidh will be held on the 25th/26th November 2019 at the Westerwood Hotel, near Cumbernauld. The focus, as always, will be about bringing together grassroots social and community enterprises from around the country – to network; share experiences; and highlight the challenges and opportunities for SEs operating within local communities. More details soon.
This week’s bulletin profiles a co-operative, based in Glasgow, that seeks to involve people as both thinker and doer in all of their work. Jangling Space is located at the Shawlands Arcade in the city, from where they operate ‘open workshops’ – free to attend – where you are able to learn the skills needed to make their products in a friendly, supportive environment. This is not a class, members teach each other. Specifically, they look to incorporate ‘found’ or discarded materials as much as possible. Currently, members are choosing to work with stained glass. In addition to their ‘Open Workshops’, Jangling Space also takes commissions and can advise and carry out repair work – in their aim to become self-sustaining.