Senscot Bulletin: 09.03.18

Dear members and friends,

My cottage is near the new Forth Crossing – one of five in a remote clachan – slap-bang in the middle of last week’s ‘red’ weather warning; snow drifts closed our access all of Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.  Working alone, from home, is normal for me – that’s what I do; but when the option to leave is removed – the dynamic changes; ‘confinement’ is not the same as chosen solitude.  And I don’t ever remember temperatures so low; a power failure would mean, we need rescued.

I hope I’m always polite, but I’m not a chatty neighbour – keep to myself; so, the level of camaraderie among the snowdrifts is a pleasant surprise – the awareness that we’ll all help each other, heartfelt.  I’m dependent on a repeat prescription for six medications – but can’t get out for it; a good friend cycles through the storm to the pharmacy – heroic.  When, on Saturday, my wee car escapes over the snow, I feel a disproportionate exhilaration; this freedom to ‘hit the road’ on impulse – means a great deal to me.

In the worst of the weather, I hear a radio comment – that during Scotland’s 2010 snow storm – half of our bird population died.  This shocking possibility redoubles my feeding efforts – until I’m watching dozens of birds squabbling in the blizzard – vital, immediate.  As my bread supply runs out – I scour my cupboards for alternatives – including forgotten bags of lentils and barley.  A wide assortment of Scottish garden birds enjoy eating dried barley – but have not the slightest interest in red, split lentils; not many people know that.


Last week for our call for readers who wish to contribute to the cost of producing this bulletin. Each year, around 100 individuals give an average of £25 to become full company members – and around 25 orgs give £100-500 to become associate members. Full members for 2018 stand at 108; and 24 for associates. To join or donate, see members page – and to check your name’s there. A big thanks to all those who have given their support.


Although Iceland has a population of only 330,000, it has long held a fascination for me; this article explores why it consistently ranks among the most innovative and creative countries in the world; what ‘enables’ creativity?  Twenty years ago, Iceland invented ‘innovative education’ – which de-emphasises testing; teachers act as facilitators rather than lecturers – consciously fostering attitudes of independence, tolerance and openness to experience – all strongly correlated with creativity.  As well as a liberating education system – Icelanders enjoy a generous social safety net: an interviewed immigrant observed: “Never underestimate what knowing you will always have food, shelter, childcare and education will do for your creativity”.

And while we’re at it – they’re pretty good at football as well!


Alastair McIntosh, the Scottish writer and social activist has just published a piece in Bella Caledonia which starts from the position that “present times are brutal for poverty-related organisations – scrabbling to survive.” His article traces events in recent history which have deflected our sector “from moral leadership, to the ruthless financial demands of survival.” Like myself, he remembers when the ‘voluntary sector’ plugged gaps in social welfare – till the public sector caught up and took responsibility; now it’s the opposite – support for local voluntary organisations being withdrawn, as poverty of all kinds grows.


Everyone agrees, that the present system of local taxation (council tax) needs to be replaced – but all we get is years of dithering. The Scottish Greens have made it clear, in a letter to Nicola Sturgeon – that they will not give their (indispensable) support to the next Scottish budget, unless significant progress is made on this issue. In this conversation with CommonSpace, Patrick Harvie explains that the Greens’ position on local taxation – comes from their wider vision of a much less centralised country – local people making local decisions.


Forthright article from the US, called ‘Wealth Inequalities and the Fallacy of Impact Investing’. It argues that the mainstream ‘impact investing’ industry, simply mimics the structure and presentation of institutional finance – a fig leaf – maintaining the established order of privilege, power and wealth inequality. Instead, “We should seek to bring about lasting systemic change – even if that change might adversely affect us”.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website.

JOBS: The Larder West Lothian, Care Opinion, People United for Banton, The Salisbury Centre, New Caledonian Woodlands, The Findhorn Village Conservation Company.

EVENTS: The Role of the Board in Fundraising (Edinburgh), 21 Mar; Croft Woodland Workshop, 24 Mar; Pre Loved Fashion Show, 24 Mar; Easter Guided Glen Walk, 01 Apr; GDPR Training, 17 Apr.

TENDERS: Social Attitudes Survey Vehicle 2018 – Scottish Government, Tune into Tourism – Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Catering Services at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery – High Life Highland.


SENs Weekly Update: After the launch of our ‘refreshed’ website back in October, we’re continuing to tweak certain features which will be of benefit to SEN members. Whilst our SEN co-ordinators regularly add specific resources to each of the thematic network pages, and the Map of Support offers a comprehensive overview of the support available to SEs in Scotland, we’re also keen to promote wider SEN member activity. This is why we are continuing to develop our social enterprise events calendar – which has been increasing in popularity since the turn of the year –  and it is now packed with seminars, free workshop/ training events and networking opportunities. If you upload your event to the calendar, we’ll promote the event through our newsletters and social media channels. Check out the latest SE events near you.


This six minute interview, with the Guardian’s Owen Jones, is the only time I’ve actually seen Darren McGarvey – author of Poverty Safari; seems impressively smart and articulate.  Asked what his attitude to Scottish independence would be, if someone like Corbyn formed a UK socialist govt – McGarvey said he would have to consider that (as I would).  Predictably this resulted in pelters from the cybernat team.  This is his piece in the Scotsman – advancing our responsibility to think things through for ourselves.


The internet journalist Mike Small suggests that ‘people need a total immersive experience that affects everyone, to come to their senses, to take a pause, to begin to notice’. The ‘beast from the east’ provided this pause – and Small identifies fifteen things ‘the snow told us’ – some amusing – some serious.


Most folk in the sector will be aware that this September, Scotland hosts the SE World Forum. The event will be of interest to many of our SE community and we hope that as many as possible can attend. Senscot is in discussion with others about trying to make attendance as affordable as possible for SEN members (price per ticket currently £249 + vat). The organisers of the SE World Forum are now producing monthly newsletters in the lead up to the event – giving updates on the programme, speakers etc. One particular area of interest for SEN members will be the opportunity to participate in the ‘supply chain’. If so, register your interest here. We will keep you posted if there are likely to be bursary opportunities over the coming weeks.


News this week from DTA Scotland of the launch of their new website – Since it started back in 2003, DTA Scotland (DTAS) has grown into a 200-strong network of community development trusts across the length and breadth of the country. In more recent years, DTAS has added additional services to its stable that include the Community Ownership Support Service (COSS) and Community Shares Scotland. The new site includes a 10 minute video on the DTAS story so far.


This week’s bulletin profiles a community enterprise in Castlemilk, founded in 1986, that offers a range of services that provide a variety of social opportunities for the residents of Castlemilk and its surrounding areas. The Senior Centre aims to ensure that more independent older adults within the community can continue to live at home and improve their social connections and relationships with their peers. Its services include a cafe, games/tv room, computer suite; and a library for members. They also operate a podiatry service and beauty therapies available to members at a reduced rate. The Senior Centre sees itself as a ‘youth club for the over 55s’.


This quote is from Geoff Mulgan’s book ‘Good and Bad Power’ – 2006 (page 320).

“Democracy is in part about turning the state into a true servant. But it is also about releasing the energies of the people to make the world for themselves, free from the state. To make this possible, states can be moved away from their traditional role of creating and running ‘structures’, towards roles which are more about creating ‘infrastructure’ – underlying capacities that support people to make their own worlds……in civil society, these infrastructures include the legal, financial and practical supports for social movements, enterprises and activism.”

That’s all for this week.


Best wishes,




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