Senscot Bulletin: 08.05.15

Dear members and friends,


My introduction to party politics was distributing leaflets for Robin Cook in the 1974 general election; Robin became the member for Edinburgh Central and I joined the Labour Party. Our family tribe were Italian immigrant shopkeepers – no Scottish working class tradition – yet the spirit and solidarity of the Labour movement inspired me – I shared its vision for a better society. But then came Thatcherism – which morphed into New Labour (same thing); the integrity of our government (and democracy) increasingly compromised to big business; Scotland has never forgiven the Blair betrayal.
I’ve been hugely encouraged by the enthusiasm of the Indyref and by Scottish politics since. Our people seek divergence from Westminster – so we can deepen social democracy – a society attuned to the potential of all – rather than the unlimited benefit of a few. We would do this within the UK if possible – but, if necessary, through independence
FRIDAY 8am, 8th MAY: The polls got Scotland right – we’re sending an unbelievable 56 SNP MPs south – ‘an extraordinary statement of intent by the Scottish people’ – one which looks increasingly settled – difficult to see a way back for Labour up here. But the polls got England wrong – and once again Scotland gets the Tory Govt we don’t want; punishing austerity will continue. Instead of keeping Miliband honest – the Westminster tactic becomes disruption – which Alex Salmond might enjoy. One thing is clear – we are headed for major constitutional reform – no-one can stop it now – it’s all to play for.


Is ‘austerity’ necessary to ‘balance the books’ – or as Ken Loach argues – is it an ideological policy to permanently reduce the welfare state; how can ordinary citizens know the truth? Last week it was Professor Paul Krugman saying that the case for cuts is a lie; he calls it the ‘austerity delusion’. This week it’s another eminent economist – Professor Steve Keen – saying that the British passion for austerity is based on ‘a kindergarden level of understanding economics’. The rest of the world, he says, has moved on from this – and mainly laughs at austerity economics. This election has broken the consensus – the coming round of welfare cuts will meet increasing resistance.


What are the special tensions for charities which adopt a social enterprise business model – particularly those which deliver a range of care services.  Very interesting article by Graham Bell and Lesley Fuller of Kibble – in which they outline the need to blend social purpose with financial considerations; and explore the impact of this on staff and service users. I was particularly interested to read of the Kibble debate around the development of the secure unit – a decision that must have taken a lot of courage. This is one of Scotland’s leading social enterprises.


One of the models for the KibbleWorks stable of SEs – is Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles – which is a mighty impressive outfit. The founder is Fr Greg Boyle – a Jesuit priest/social entrepreneur – who, in the context of the Baltimore riots, has written a penetrating piece about the psychology of policing. Boyle believes that the while crime has law enforcement implications – it is not primarily a law enforcement issue; crime, he says, is a community health issue – and only the community can heal its damaged members.


I have two early qualifications – a training in my Italian family’s catering business and then a professional course in community work; for these reasons it is not surprising that I have been a lifelong champion of community cafes.  Be clear from the start – the expectation is not to make a profit – there is unlikely to be one; but even subsidised, a locally, well-run café offers a unique focus for the provision of local services and fostering a sense of community. For those who take comfort from an academic ‘fix’ – Ray Oldenburg’s (1999) concept of ‘a third place’ is helpful; a study explores the impact of a Govan drop-in café for women.


NOTICES: If you wish to publicise any stories or events please email these to us. To publish vacancies or events on both the Senscot and The SENs websites click the respective links.
JOBS: The Caraven Project, Wevolution, Mid Argyll Community Pool, Carnwadric WIN Project, Kilwinning Community Sports Club, DTA Scotland, Glasgow Bike Station, Freespace, Action for Children
EVENTS: Launch of Enterprising Third Sector Support in West Lothian, 28 May; Citizen Wellbeing Assembly Scotland, 25 Jun; Nesta Spotlight on Crowdfunding, 20 Oct;
TENDERS: Funded Early Learning and Childcare Places for Children Aged 3 And 4 Within Fife, Provision of Asset Based Community & Stakeholders Engagement Services – NHS Grampian, Catering Services – Scottish Qualifications Authority and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


SENs Weekly Update; Kim writes: The sad news this week that Claverhouse in Dundee is to close is another reminder not only of difficult operating environment for so many SEs and charities at present but also of the particular pressures on organisations currently operating in the employability field – trying to deliver contracts that, financially, offer low unit costs as well as being heavily output-based. As more and more national contracts have been scooped up by the ‘big boys’ –  Sercos, Capitas etc – there is hardly a locally-based training/employability provider in the country that has not experienced considerable difficulty in maintaining quality levels of provision and, at the same time, remaining financially viable. The sad irony for Claverhouse – delivering services in Dundee since 1981 – is that the next twelve months could well see these programmes being devolved to Holyrood – where we’d expect a very different approach to be taken.


Update: The Social Enterprise Census Scotland 2015 is still ongoing – with almost 800 SEs having already participated in the online survey (see link above). This census is seeking to capture the size, scale and reach of SE in Scotland – for the first time. Many SEN members have already responded – and, again, we would encourage SENs and SEN co-ordinators to likewise encourage their own members to respond. We also believe that that all Third Sector Interfaces have also been approached – which is good to hear. The survey takes around 15/20 mins to complete. Your participation is very much appreciated. See more background
I’m an enthusiastic fan of renewable energy schemes – especially when local communities have a stake, and revenue is kept in the local economy. Scotland is well served by Community Energy Scotland – which is expert at supporting social economy organisations through what can be a long and complicated process. Senscot hears anecdotes from the front-line that a bottleneck exists in the length of time it takes for schemes to get connected to the Grid (sometimes years). Is this the ‘fault of the English’ or could Scottish ministers do more to get this moving?


The third sector in Scotland is dependent on the goodwill of individuals who give up their time voluntarily to oversee the governance of our sector. Two of the more significant organisations in our sector are now on the look-out for such individuals. Community Enterprise Ltd is now looking to recruit a new Chairperson to help shape its longer term strategy. Community Enterprise Ltd has been on the go for 28 years, with a staff team of 22, delivering its services to over 300 clients per annum. Social Enterprise Scotland is also seeking to recruit new Board members at their AGM on 24th June. Nominations will be drawn from their membership.


This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise, based in Forth Valley, that operates as a training provider for young people from across the wider area. Forth Valley Social Enterprises (FVSE), set up in 2014, is a community interest company that offers a mix of theoretical and practical learning in enterprise activity that covers four main areas: training; events; film and media; and enterprise. Already, FVSE is making its mark through delivering training programmes in partnership with Stirling Council Youth Services and, the events field, in re-introducing the Stirling Highland Games. See more.


Another friend has died – someone with whom I once worked and shared dreams; and I think of the lovely epilogue Richard Holloway wrote in Leaving Alexandria; he called it Scald Law, after one of his favourite Pentland walks.


“Then, as I continued to walk the hills, accompanied, or so it seemed, only by the dead, someone else was dying, a friend whose name I have written in this book. And I, a doubting priest, blessed and committed him to the care of the God I don’t believe in. It is the pain of our humanity to know that we are nothing that lasts, like the haar that blows along the street; yet to feel the pity of that because of the dreams we have dreamed, dreams that sometimes seem to be higher and better than the universe that so indifferently spawns them. That is the conundrum of our humanity, the place of living and losing we occupy.”


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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Senscot is a Company, registered in Scotland. Company Reg No. 278156: Scottish Charity No. SC 029210