Senscot Bulletin: 05.11.10

Dear members and friends,

 At my age, one can’t help observing how people’s lifestyle choices have played out over time; the big eaters got fat – the gamblers got skint – those who hammered the fags and booze got unhealthy (or dead); occasionally it’s good to meet someone who changed – turned it around.  When I knew Ronnie 20 years ago, he was making his way as a young advocate – tipped for the top; he was also a top end ‘bon viveur’ – drank only champagne – lots of it – a definite candidate for burnout.  When we met this week, he is totally different – almost serene.  Over lunch, he explains that when his second child was born with Downs Syndrome, it changed what he considers to be important.  He slowed everything down – divides his time between home, legal and charitable work.  He seems at peace with the world.
   The idea that we can transform our lives always inspires me. The work of the Russian masters – Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy etc understands that even in the darkest despair, redemption remains a possibility.  The book I’ve just read about the anguish and destruction of war, affirms this theme, that there’s always a way back.  This is how Alberto Moravia ends his novel ‘Two Women’; "Rosetta and I had indeed been dead – dead to the pity that we owe to others and to ourselves.  But sorrow had saved us at the last moment and we had emerged from the war that had enclosed us in its tomb of indifference and wickedness, and had started to walk again along the path of our own life, which was maybe a poor thing full of obscurities and errors, but nevertheless the only life we ought to live."

I much admire the Scottish writer and commentator Neal Ascherson – he has great historical perspective – his essay in Sunday’s Herald was a rare treat. Ascherson believes that our welfare state lifted Britain out of despair and desperation. The shrieking, guffawing Tory cheers which welcomed the spending cuts, indicate to him that welfare is about to be dismantled with relish. Ascherson argues that Scotland is a country with different traditions – communitarian rather individualistic – deeply suspicious of our own and everyone else’s elites – obsessive about equality. He believes that Scotland could become the last bastion of belief in a public sector state – but that we are a nation with half a state – incapable of implementing our own policies.

Ian Cooke, Director of Development Trusts Association Scotland (DTAS), has written an essay in which he celebrates the movement as a bottom up attempt by communities to become more self sufficient – through asset and social enterprise development.  I enjoyed his quote from the Independent (March 2010) "The present situation has shown that the purely profit-motivated business model hasn’t worked.  It never worked for the poor and excluded, but now it can’t even survive on its own terms.  It has over-borrowed, over promised and finally the bubble has burst." Ian’s piece appears in the Glasgow Papers – a new collection of Community Development essays edited by Akwugo Emejulu and Mae Shaw.

Community bus services have been run by social enterprises for years – some have become serious operators. If the Govt decides to give ‘micro-franchising’ a try, there is no reason why the community transport sector couldn’t enter the rail market. Can you imagine a wee area-based franchise – feeder bus services – promoting local tourism – lovingly kept stations – hiring bikes – selling local produce. The Govt is currently reviewing its policy on rail franchising. Here’s a short piece by Paul Salveson, founder of Community Assoc. of Rail Partnerships.

I tend to dismiss the USA Tea Party movement as a bunch of right wing nutters – but a reader sent me this piece which may interest you.  It’s an interview with the American journalist Chip Berlet – who is a long time researcher and analyst of USA right wing movements.  He cautions the Left not to dismiss the Tea Party as irrelevant fringe activity.

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See . This week: 
JOBS: The National Trust for Scotland, Cairn Housing Association, Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition, Bute Connections, Kirknewton Community Development Trust, Children’s Parliament, The Big Issue
EVENTS: Connecting Social Innovation 2010, 7 Nov; Whose Economy? seminar series, 11 Nov; Good Deals 2010: The UK Social Investment Conference, 16 Nov; EVOLVE workshops, 23 Nov
TENDERS: Landscape Maintenance & Repairs Contract, Deer Population and impact assessments, Close Cleaning Contract, Police Cycle Clothing & Equipment, UK-Glasgow: refuse recycling services

NETWORKS 1st:  The countdown for the 6th Social Enterprise Ceilidh has begun! Applications to the Dragons’ Den are in and being whittled down to the lucky 5. The Ceilidh is, of course, FREE to SEN members. This year, we’re asking the audience buy into the theme of ‘Working Together’ by bringing along £5 or £10 to enter the DEN. This will be added into the Audience Prize (two days consultancy from Rocket Science). There are only a few places left so, if you know anyone who’s still interested, tell them they’ll need to get in quick! See booking form,  
For more Networks News, see

Goodness knows by what convoluted process of bureaucracy the Big Lottery in Scotland has made a link between two groups much in need of support – dementia sufferers and young people leaving care.  A new independent charitable trust will invest £50m over the next 10 years in services for these two groups.  The process is underway to identify the most appropriate organisation to deliver this important funding.  But, I just don’t get it – what have youngsters leaving the care system got to do with dementia?

The SURF Annual Lecture is always one of the more interesting events on the calendar. Some places are still available for the event taking place on 11th Nov at the City Chambers in Dundee. This year’s lecture will be delivered by Sir Peter Housden, the new Permanent Secretary in the Scottish Government.
For more, see

I was a guest last week at the AGM of St Bride’s Community Centre, Douglas, West Lanarkshire. I saw my first ever community heating scheme – the church, bowling club and community centre all heated from the same wood chip boiler! Being with local volunteers who are working to build a caring community – is inspiring – humbling. Reminds me that this is what our work is all about. I gave this wee speech.

This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise in East Lothian that appears to be the only one of its kind in Scotland. Stepping Out has been operating as mental health project in East Lothian since 1993. They have now established their ‘Yurt Hire’ social enterprise (Yurts are Mongolian-style tents). This is an enterprise in which clients get involved with customers and paid to work with customers who rent the Yurt.  They are involved in all aspects including assembling and taking down the Yurt and customer interaction.. For more, see

Another snippet from the novel, "Two Women" by Alberto Moravia.

 "I have eaten plenty of good things before and since, but that dark-coloured, stale bread mixed with bran and cornmeal, and that sheep’s-milk cheese, so hard that you needed a hammer to break it, seem to me the most exquisite things I have ever tasted. Perhaps it was the appetite that came to us from our walk and from the mountain air that acted as a sauce, perhaps it was the idea of danger, which is also a rare seasoning; certainly I ate with a strange enthusiasm, as though I was realising for the first time in my life what it meant to eat and to take nourishment and to restore one’s strength and feel that food is a good and necessary thing."

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

Best wishes,


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