Senscot Bulletin 09-07-2004



Dear members and friends,


I have a sort of cousin called Lisa – we fancied each other when we were eight – bit of a know-all – opinionated – judgemental – but remarkably perceptive of human shortcomings – including mine.  ‘You?  Live in the country? – no chance – you’re a townie – pampered – you’re even afraid of spiders.’  She’s right about the spiders – hate them – my new cottage full of them – all shapes and sizes – attacking from above – below – sideways.  Read recently that, in a lifetime, the average person swallows seven spiders.  They crawl into your mouth while you sleep.  I think I can do better than seven in this house.

            Why is flitting so stressful?  Death by a thousand cuts.  I suppose the space we occupy is so personal – like changing our outer skin.  My new bit is a wee cul de sac – very peaceful.  Instead of traffic, rabbits hop about.  Starting to imagine myself in a Barbour jacket and green wellies.  Thoughts of growing food and chopping wood (though there’s a Tesco four miles away).  Stare a lot from my window at marvellous old trees – mood shifting – softening.  Feel that I’ll catch up with myself here – discover what I really want – or that I’ve already got it.

            While I love my new home, the flitting has interrupted my sleep pattern.  Last night was very anxious in the dark.  When afraid I try to focus on why – otherwise I get scared of everything.  This anxiety seems to come, not from spiders or even gargoyles – but from the total silence.



Just in case anyone out there still cares about the Social Economy Action Plan – Senscot keeps asking the questions.  It becomes increasingly obvious that the Executive just wants the whole thing to go away – which in itself is good reason to find out why.  My view is that when the executive published its social economy review in January 2003, the politicians didn’t understand it, and now that it’s been digested, the rearguard of Scottish municipalism is squealing – ‘Privatisation by the back door’, etc.  Nick Loney of Regeneration magazine (who won an award recently for his reporting of our sector) keeps pestering the Scottish Executive for answers.  Here is his piece in today’s Regeneration   In February 2004 SCVO drafted a letter to Margaret Curran complaining about the delays – to no avail. SCVO and a bunch of us have sent a follow-up letter   



As you will know, both England and Scotland are updating charity law, and both draft bills are currently being scrutinised.  The central condition of ‘public benefit’ is to replace the old definition of what is charitable.  But last week the Charity Commission came out in favour of fee-paying schools being exempt from the ‘public benefit’ argument.  Voluntary sector leaders believe that any exceptions would undermine the consensus behind the bill.    



Urban Regeneration Companies are a way of making it attractive for the private sector to invest in area regeneration.  Several pilots have been running in England since 1999 and now the Executive has selected three pilots in Central Scotland.  The URC model focuses on a specific geographic area – Craigmillar, Clydebank and Raploch will share a £20m pathfinder fund over the next two years.    



Recently we drew your attention to the recommendation of Bishop James of Liverpool – for the creation of a national academy for the sharing of community-building skills. ( A very similar idea has surfaced in a (leaked) report written by Sir john Egan for the Government.  David Grayson, in a letter to Social Enterprise magazine, commends the idea, correctly pointing to the failure of ‘the system’ to learn from each generation of partnerships – how a national academy could gather and disseminate all the hard-won experience.   



YELLOW PAGES: Space constraints mean we can’t carry every notice you send. But please send in any relevant items (before noon Thursday) to and we’ll post them on our site. This week:


JOBS: 60 vacancies, incl: Scottish Human Rights Centre, NCH Scotland, The Rock Trust, Capacity Building Project, Community Links, Ark Housing Association, Intowork, Cornerstone Community Care.


EVENTS: Collective meeting on proposition of a ‘village of the social and solidarity based-economy’, London, c.16-20 July; ‘The Future of Community Composting: Regulation and Opportunity,’ Edinburgh, 22 July; Live @ The Greens Charity Music Festival, West Lothian, 24 July; 1st UK Earthship Launch Celebration, Kinghorn, Fife, 21 August ; Development Trusts Association Scotland 1st Annual Conference, Inverness, 30 Aug; Seminar:  Sustainable Food Procurement In The Public Sector – The Future For Local Food, Stirling, 14 Sept; ‘Greenspace: the common denominator’, conference, Edinburgh, Sept 22;  ‘Walk Your Talk’ event for pioneers of responsible business, Findhorn, 4-7 Nov.


CAN YOU HELP? Up to 14 unqualified black and minority ethnic people, currently employed in social economy organisations, are sought to take part in a 3-year training and work experience programme culminating in award of Bachelor in Community Learning and Development, from Univ. of Glasgow


For details on these and more, visit ‘Yellow pages’ at:   



We reported recently on the plan of Jack Perry, new Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise, to jettison the agency’s social inclusion functions. Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s Jim Hunter, among others, has warned of the shortcomings of ‘separating community development and community regeneration from the task of fostering economic growth’. We suspected Perry had the backing of his superior, Jim Wallace, in his strategy, and this is now confirmed:  



In terms of scale, the most impressive social enterprise I’ve visited is Coin St Community Builders, which sits beside the National theatre on London’s South bank.  This spectacularly successful development trust has, over the past twenty years, literally ‘built’ a community and made a little bit of London unique.  Whenever I begin to question whether community-owned enterprise can achieve the necessary scale – I think of CSCB and am inspired again.  Here is a profile from Regeneration of social entrepreneur Iain Tuckett, who’s been at Coin Street from the beginning.  



This week we profile Equal Exchange, a workers’ co-operative based in Edinburgh, which began in 1979 when three voluntary workers began buying instant coffee from Tanzania.  Although relatively unknown outside its market place Equal Exchange is a leading player in the Fair Trade sector distributing over £1 million of organic and Fair Trade products in the independent natural food sector.  In 1991, Equal Exchange helped co-found Cafédirect and still owns 25% of the company.  Further info’: (project profiles)



The hamlet where I live – its surrounding grounds and gardens are beautiful but unkempt.  You can see that someone once nurtured this place with love – I quickly felt affinity – the urge to restore it.  I revisited from my files an article about John Beal, a man broken by war – given four months to live – at the end of his tether.  ‘I went down to the stream behind my house and just cried, wondering how I’d care for my wife and four kids.  I looked at this wreck of a stream, filled with refrigerators, old tyres, torn garbage bags, stinking carpets – and all I wanted to do was clean it up.’  Beal says that this environmental restoration – restored him: ‘It empowered me and kept me alive.  It’s the connection with something larger than yourself in a world increasingly dissociated from nature.’   


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

Best wishes,



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