Senscot Bulletin: 06.05.16

Dear members and friends,

Polishing this on Friday morning with the count mostly in; a convincing win for the SNP but a couple short of a clear majority which will make everything much more interesting; the Greens, for instance, can do good deals and Holyrood’s committees will work better. The Tories absolutely demolished Labour and can no longer be dismissed as a joke. Like many people, part of my reaction this morning is one of relief that this tedious affair is over; there must be a better way of doing democracy than these presidential parades – 5 leaders, lined up shouting at each other. I find the general level of bad manners and unpleasantness unacceptable – a turnoff.


My personal recovery from ‘election fatigue’ began on Monday – when I happened to read this short poem by Mary Oliver: “It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, it could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few small stones; just pay attention then patch a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate; this isn’t a contest but a doorway into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak”. For the next period I’ll ignore the phoniness and stridency of professional politics; my personal ‘doorway into thanks and silence’ is a modest plot of soil – warming at last in readiness for sweet peas, geranium and the like. Gardening in sunshine will replace Scottish politics for a while – it’s not as if anything decisive is going to happen.


The disgraceful inequality in Scotland – across health, education, justice, poverty etc tells that the current economic system only works for some of us; the creation of a more democratic and inclusive economy will require reforms which the Scottish Govt doesn’t even have under consideration; for this reason, an important sub-theme of Scottish democracy is whether or not the political left can organise – to win electoral support for radical policies. Some encouragement can be taken from the advance of the Scottish Greens – from 2 to 6 MSPs – but the historic role of Labour, as the Party of the poorest, seems to be over. RISE failed to make an impact – will the Greens now become the rallying point for progressive politics in Scotland?


It’s coming up to 15 years since I touched alcohol, 35 since I had a fag; addiction has loomed large in my life. Intrigued to read this week about a homeless shelter in Ottawa which serves alcohol to alcoholics: 5 ounces of white wine every hour on the hour – highly regulated. The street alcoholic, they argue, really only thinks about getting drink – removing this fixation allows other considerations; they claim some success.


It’s important that those of us who stand against Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine are not distracted by spurious accusations of anti-semitism flying around just now; like Iain MacWhirter in the Sunday Herald, I simply don’t believe that Labour is anti-semitic – a concoction to damage Jeremy Corbyn. Professor Kamel Hawwash from Birmingham, wrote a letter to the Guardian on Monday offering a Palestinian view of the anti-semitism row – which I find compelling.


This is an article in the Nordic Labour Journal about how Finland’s ‘Basic Income Experiment’ has attracted international interest – before it has even started. The basic idea is to engage 10,000 randomly selected people over 18, in control groups, testing levels of basic income. People who start working or studying will still be able to claim benefit; will a certain level of economic security be an incentive for people to take on more or different work – or will it have the opposite effect?

Sometimes I’ll catch myself checking out the care homes sector (I’ll be 76 on Tuesday!); piece in Wednesday’s Guardian asking if the private sector is fit to run care homes. This is not a new issue – many of us argue against the tide of privatisation – that care of the vulnerable is best organised on a co-operative basis – without any tension between maximising profits and feeding people. Article says that almost a third of the UK’s 18,000 care homes are at financial risk; many of them ‘zombie operators’ – paying more to service their debts that they make in profits. This is the model the UK Govt is trying to impose on third sector investment.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Equality and Human Rights Commission, Local Energy Action Plan, The Equality Network, The Melting Pot, WorkingRite, The Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Impact Arts (Projects) Ltd,
EVENTS: Portobello Market, 7 May; Fundraising: Make it Happen (W Lothian), 18 May; 2 Million Voices: Listening, Learning & Leading Change, 23 May; Community Landownership Briefing Session, 1 May;
TENDERS: Exhibition & Interpretation Design Services for Scapa Flow Visitor Centre & Museum Project, Supply and Delivery of Fresh/Organic Food Stuffs – East Ayrshire Council, Inverclyde Community Finance Initiative – Feasibility Study and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.
The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes:  Following our recent review of Thematic SEN activity, 2016/17 will see a focus on key priorities identified in the review – and a further emphasis on exploring joint opportunities between the respective thematic areas. The specific priorities include: Health and Social Care Integration; Self Directed Support; Food Poverty; Tourism and Heritage; Creative Industries; Sport for Change; and Employability. We will be holding a series of joint thematic meetings across Scotland during the year ahead – working in partnership with Local SENs.  These events will provide a space to explore joint working opportunities; building connections; sharing good practice and developing ideas and /or pieces of work – and will hopefully lead to greater involvement for SEs within specific policy areas.  The first event is in Perth on 16th June at The Salutation Hotel. More details to follow. For further info’, contact


Following our recent story about GlenWyvis – the first community-owned distillery in Scotland, we have been hearing about other innovative community shares initiatives around the country. One particular example is the Penicuik Storehouse Project – where the local community is in the throes of developing a retail bakery, foodstore, café and community hub in the heart of the town. Almost £100,000 has already been raised through a community share purchase and together with support from Scottish Govt and Social Investment Scotland, they are working towards a proposed opening of Phase 1 in September of this year. An added dimension has been the active participation of the pupils from Penicuik High School who have made a significant contribution to the marketing, advertising and promotion of the Storehouse Project.


Who is mainly benefitting from social investment in the UK – social enterprises or the social finance intermediaries themselves? Our pal, Robbie Davison (Can Cook in Liverpool), does not hold back in this hard-hitting blog – addressing the short-comings of the social enterprise and social finance intermediaries in the south of England who are “dedicating their time to shaping the ‘market’ in their own image”. Robbie himself describes his blog as a ‘leftie rant’ – but a lot of it will ring true for a lot of people in our sector.


Congratulations, this week, to Jean Cummings and her colleagues at Crisis Ltd, on their 20th birthday (10th May). They will be celebrating their anniversary at an event later in the year – sponsored by RBS Community Banking. Crisis was founded in 1996 to support individuals and families, regardless of their background or origin, who are increasingly experiencing difficulties coping with modern day living. It provides early intervention, specialist therapeutic services and non time limited support – either from their bases in Paisley and Erskine or in the workplace and on occasion, through home visits. Over the years it has evolved into a thriving social enterprise and has provide its service to around 40,000 individuals.


This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise that offers low-cost, high-quality solutions in woodwork, engineering and laser cutting while providing work experience and practical training opportunities for young people. The Workshop Aberfeldy, based in the Perthshire town, was initially incubated by charity Project Northern Lights and after a successful 18 months recently left the nest to go on its own. John Swinney last week did the honours at their opening launch. The enterprise focuses on young people who have struggled with mainstream education but also helps those with mental health issues and learning difficulties. To date, The Workshop Aberfeldy has worked with 42 individuals. 37 of these are under 25 and 21 of these have additional support needs. The Workshops’ founder, Paul Parmenter, was initially supported by Firstport’s Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund.


Mary Oliver will be 80 now – each visit to her poetry affirms ‘my place in the family of things’.
A couple of her better known verses:


“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – From ‘A Summer’s Day’.


“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. […] The world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things.” – From ‘Wild Geese’.


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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