Senscot Bulletin: 07.04.17

Dear members and friends,

Leaving Waterstones (Edinburgh Princes St) on Thursday, catch sight of advert for book launch – in one hour! – Dilys Rose reading from her new novel ‘Unspeakable’; I knew her 35 years ago – so many memories – decide to wait. During the 1980s, when I lived in Edinburgh’s St Stephen Place, the nearest café/bistro was the Blue Parrot, run by Dilys and Brian McCabe – aged about 30. They were both aspiring writers but also took food seriously; the ‘Parrot’ was my main gang hut for years – good pals.
            Easily 50 people are crowded into Waterstones upstairs café; before the event begins I find Dilys and say hello – I’m Laurence Demarco from a different life; she stares – probably doesn’t recognise me – but remembering, gives me a nice kiss. Handout, listing her published works, informs she is also Director of Edinburgh University’s online BSc in Creative Writing. She answers questions and discusses her novel with a confidence and personal authority gained over the years; a professional writer – comfortable in her craft.
            Buy a copy of Unspeakable but because of the long ‘signing’ queue, don’t linger. I would really like to go with Dilys somewhere quiet for supper – ask all sorts of questions about how her life unfolded since I knew her – how she changed – the defeats and victories which honed her writer’s voice. But just as much, I want to tell my own story – to someone who was around 35 years ago – when we were much younger– when we lived with different dreams.


The Scottish Government is irresponsibly averse to bad news – so it takes Alex Neil, a former Health Minister, to say what we all know – that our NHS is lurching towards bankruptcy. His proposed ‘health tax’ is worth looking at – but the underlying problem is deeper; the widening gap between supply and demand requires us all to lower our expectations. I’m not saying it’s only Govt’s fault that the public has unrealistic expectations of health care – but Govt. has responsibility to lead discussion about the criteria to be applied to increasingly widespread ‘rationing’. Health Economist, Cam Donaldson (Glasgow Caley Uni) is leading a team to devise a scoring system (like the Scottish Medicines Consortium); a framework to help our new Care Boards decide which services to fund and which to scale back. Let’s talk openly about rationing – with discussion in the public domain; citizens can be trusted share these decisions.


Some of what we call ‘social investment’ is too often driven by the pressure on lenders to get money out the door; Social Investment Scotland (SIS) announced last week that it is to open products to ‘profit for purpose’ private businesses. The ‘third sector’ is a valuable brand which the general public associates with charities and asset-locked social enterprises – and which both eschew private profit. Simply widening eligibility to include unregulated private profit, may get more money out the door, but at the expense of third sector clarity. SIS can obviously lend the funds they hold to whoever they choose – but there is the question as to whether or not this activity should be supported by Scottish Govt’s Third Sector Division.


The impact investing sector is in danger of becoming discredited by unrealistic expectations of financial returns. This is the kernel of a new discussion document, jointly authored by Oxfam and the Sumerian Partners, called: “Impact Investing – who are we serving”. Impact investing and venture philanthropy began as ‘patient capital’ instruments – success meant getting most of your money back – eventually – while generating clear positive impact. But the report says that industry reports now describe a sector focused on inflated financial returns rather than the needs of investees – a growing mismatch. See Report’s conclusions (one page).


The Ferret revisits this week the issue of lobbying – with the revelation that Charlotte Street Partners (CSP) is acting for Rupert Murdoch’s News Scotland. (CSP doesn’t publish its client list). Thereport probes the links between CSP, Scottish Govt. and News Scotland – the importance of transparency as the powerful buy influence. Robin McAlpine of Common Weal is quoted: "CSP have set out their stall as the people to go to if you want to do things in secret". The existence of the Ferret – independent, investigative, journalism with the capacity to generate reports like this – is important for Scottish democracy. The Ferret is supported by its readers.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Scottish Waterways Trust, Midlothian Voluntary Action, Dundee SEN, Govan Community Project, Social Enterprise Academy, Age Scotland Enterprises, Pilton Community Health Project 
EVENTS: Digital Marketing for Small Businesses, 25th Apr; Carluke on the Run 2017, 21st May; Breathing Space Callander 10k – Spring 2017, 5th Jun; Express Yourself, 10th Jun;
TENDERS: Cool2talk Support Worker – Argyll and Bute Council; Edinburgh’s Domestic Abuse Service Redesign – The City of Edinburgh Council; Path Vegetation Control – Scottish Borders Council and more.  Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes: Today sees the publication of a comprehensive Sport for Change research project, conducted by Research Scotland on behalf of the Robertson Trust, sportscotland and the Scottish Government. Positive outcomes of the research include: a jointly-developed definition of Sport for Change – recognising its contribution to “resilience in communities” as well as evidence that it prevents deaths and diseases; reduces depression, dementia and isolation; builds social capital and reduces NHS costs. The research also found that up to 94% of organisations delivering physical activity or sport in Scotland do so to bring about benefits for individuals and communities. Senscot – as an active member of the Sport for Change Network – welcomes this report and hopes that its publication helps to give greater recognition to the work being carried out by around 150 Sport SEN members in communities across Scotland. Full Report available from 11am on the Robertson Trust website.


Reports surfacing in England about certain big national charities aggressively undercutting existing local providers; resorting to various sharp commercial practices learned from mega-corps like SERCO, G4S etc. When the third sector loses its values – ‘the salt has lost its savour’. Essentially the same fears were expressed last week about the size of work programme contracts – now devolved to Scotland. Although it is planned to divide Scotland into nine geographical areas – this is still far too centralised to enable truly local providers to bid. The continued attachment of payment to outcomes, favours big players, big cashflows, scooping up the low hanging fruit.


With local Council elections looming and a lot of talk focusing on Glasgow – where Labour has been in power since time began – it will be worth keeping an eye on West Dunbartonshire. There, the newly-formed Community Party is fielding four candidates to fight for just one council area – with the aim of ‘restoring democracy’ to the area. One candidate, Jim Bollan, says: “We won’t be controlled from Edinburgh or Westminster. We will be working with the communities to find local answers to local issues. We believe that a lot of the solutions to the problems that constituents face can be found within their communities.”


Eigg Electric – the community-owned renewable energy company – is being held up as a template for rural communities across the globe as how to make renewable energy work. Set up in 2008, Eigg Electric stands as a fine example of both the potential of renewable energy, and the way remote communities can support themselves. Recent visitors from Brazil and Malawi – as well as a stream of international researchers – have visited the island to see how a careful balance of its three energy sources – the Sun, the wind, and the waves – make sure there’s a constant supply of electricity. The combination of the three is what makes the system work – and the beauty of it is that it is all managed and maintained by the community itself.


This week’s bulletin profiles a new social enterprise, based in Glasgow, and set up by a familiar face to many folk in the Fife area and beyond. Pedro Santos (formerly of BRAG Enterprises) has set up Remake Up – whose aim is to build a social enterprise that can help many of the 1.5m people in the UK who suffer from depression due to a perceived skin deformation. Remake Up offer a range of cosmetic treatments as an alternative to expensive surgical procedures for people who have been affected by permanent skin transformations. Restoration options for conditions caused by scarring, alopecia, burns, stretch marks and cancer treatment are some of the packages available. Remake Up is based in Hope St in Glasgow city centre.


In Nov. 2016, Ursula Le Guin posted this beautiful short essay: ‘the Election, Lao Tzu, a Cup of Water.’ She rejects American fondness for the metaphor of war – destructive aggression as the only way to meet any challenge. In its place, she offers the Taoist model of ‘the flow of water.’


“We have glamorized the way of the warrior for millennia. We have identified it as the supreme test and example of courage, strength, duty, generosity, and manhood. If I turn from the way of the warrior, where am I to seek those qualities? What way have I to go?  Lao Tzu says: the way of water…..


Water doesn’t have only one way. It has infinite ways, it takes whatever way it can, it is utterly opportunistic, and all life on Earth depends on this passive, yielding, uncertain, adaptable, changeable element……The flow of a river is a model for me of courage that can keep me going — carry me through the bad places, the bad times. A courage that is compliant by choice and uses force only when compelled, always seeking the best way, the easiest way, but if not finding any easy way still, always, going on.”


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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