Senscot Bulletin: 09.10.09

Dear members and friends,

I picked the last of the sweet peas this week – October blasts sent the swallows on their way – by the end of the month it’ll be dark by 4pm. But I’m enjoying the autumn – its colour and ripeness; the old pear tree where the woodpeckers live must have a thousand fruits this year.  I’ve lived here 5 years, but the ferocity of nature still shocks.  Tilly, the neighbour’s cat, lost a leg recently to a fox – but she still passes my window with all manner of wildlife alive in her mouth.  Life and death feel closer.  Most old folk around here worked their lives on the land – I nod to them in the village shop – discussing crops or cattle or the like.  Last year – trying to buy peanuts – Cath explained to me that wild birds don’t need fed in July.  There’s no unkindness – but standing there with my Guardian and croissants, no one’s in any doubt I’m a townie.
 I’ve always hated explaining to strangers what a community worker is – so since living here I let it be known that I’m a writer – looking for peace and quiet.  Helping me in my garden one day, Rab a local tractorman, says: ”My wife believes you’re a famous writer under another name.”  ”Fraid not” I laugh, ”wish I was.”  He gives me a knowing look: ”But that’s what you’d say anyway.”  I shrug.  Now when I see any old worthies in the village, I get conspiratorial smiles – ”your secret’s safe with us.”  I quite enjoy it.

Last week Senscot wrote to the Third Force News to the effect the SCVO cannot claim to represent the Social Enterprise sector – nor indeed other groupings within our third sector.  (The letter has not yet appeared but here’s the text) We have suggested that a legitimate consortium for a modern third sector would need to recognise the authority of the distinct groupings which have evolved – a federation of equals.  We will soon circulate a simple outline of how this could look.  The govt. of course prefers a single door – easier to control.  But the value of what we do, lies in that it is outwith the direction of the state.  We need to keep it that way. Darwin taught us that in periods of change it is not the strongest – or even the smartest – but the most adaptable organisms which endure.

The saga of Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) has been running now for years – a shameful episode of dysfunctional bureaucracy.  With the recent resignations from board and staff I assumed that it was now sorted – but Senscot connections in that world suggest otherwise.  New super duper consultants have been appointed (day rate £1250).  New CEO being recruited.  New board appointments; but the big question remains – will this organisation start doing what it was set up to do – transfer its housing stock to Glasgow’s community based housing associations.  The power lies with Scottish Govt, Glasgow Council and the Housing Regulator.  Why don’t they just get on with it? 

Scottish Govt. has instructed our third sector to get their act together at local authority level, because henceforth, it will only fund a ‘single interface’ in each community planning area.  Reader Jess Steele pens a spirited reaction – saying it simply won’t work.  She compares ”press 1 for non human response” to Google’s mad but workable pluralism.  I think she makes a serious point.

The business section of my Observer on Sunday headlined the Treasury’s interest in a US style Community Re-investment Act (CRA).  It would be difficult to overstate the potential impact of such legislation.

As the party of independence, the attitude of the SNP to issues like community empowerment and land ownership is frankly disappointing.  Representatives of Scotland’s land buyouts met on Harris last week to hear Dr Jim Hunter set out an agenda to get community land ownership back on track.

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but submit jobs and events and we’ll post them on our site. See This week: 
JOBS: Almond Enterprises Ltd, Spruce Carpets, Church of Scotland, Penumbra, Princess Royal Trust, Lothian Centre for Integrated Living (LCiL), Health in Mind, East Fife Women`s Aid, Bethany Christian Trust, Hyzone, Scottish Churches Housing Action, Barnardo’s Scotland, North East Scotland Credit Union
EVENTS: Climate Change: Effective Communication, 20 Oct; Navigation to…Self Directed Support, 21 Oct; Marketing for Social Enterprise, 21 Oct; Business Acquisition: Getting Ready to Buy, 21 Oct; Funding Issues Conference, 27 Oct; Crafting The Arts: Voluntary Arts Scotland’s 2nd National Conference, 31 Oct;

NETWORKS NEWS:  Colin writes: This year’s Social Enterprise Ceilidh is filling up fast! We’ve already received some excellent bids for the Dragons` Den but there are still a few days left before the closing date of 15th October. Each year over 75% of delegates are from social enterprises with the rest being made up from intermediaries, funders and the public sector. See booking form and list of those already signed up,
For more Networks News, see

Senscot, in partnership with the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition, recently asked the Pool to review how social enterprise is reflected in the Single Outcome Agreements for 2008 and 2009. I’m afraid it’s a pretty bleak picture, particularly amongst the city authorities. On the upside, special mention should go to East Dunbartonshire and South Ayrshire. What is clear is that for all Scottish Govt`s positive talk and action at national level, the message isn’t filtering down to local authorities. Check your Council’s position

In August this year, at the behest of our Social Enterprise Coalition, MORI interviewed a cross section of 1000 Scots – to find out what they know about Social Enterprise; I find the results most encouraging.  More than half (53%) knew what a social enterprise is and their perceptions were overwhelming positive, especially amongst the young.  The roll out of the Social Enterprise Mark early next year should further raise the profile of our movement.

The legal firm Bates Wells and Braithwaite is seen as the leading UK expert on third sector matters. Here they offer an interesting insight into social enterprise and the law.
The Scottish Trades Union Congress and Scottish Churches are jointly hosting a conference on ‘Tackling Inequality in Scotland’ on 6th November in Edinburgh.  The main speaker is Professor Richard Wilkinson – a world authority on the effects of inequality.

Firstport is looking to recruit some new board members. Set up 2007, Firstport offers business support and awards to new start social entrepreneurs as well as administering the Social Entrepreneurs Fund. They’re looking for folk who want to be part of both their governance and award panels. For more, see

This week’s bulletin profiles a nationally-known charity that runs a very successful but less well-known social enterprise arm. Age Concern Enterprises Scotland operates a range of services that include travel and home insurance and funeral planning. Last year, the commercial arm of the organisation raised a quarter of a million pounds for its charitable work. They have recently started providing emergency alarms for older people living alone and are looking at other suitable enterprises, such as providing stair-lifts and mobility equipment. For more, see

For all the pieces I’ve written about the professionalisation of community work – its increasing irrelevance to ordinary people – no one does it better than Tom Leonard in his poem The Liaison Co-ordinator.  For the sake of our many readers south of the border – I’ve appended my translation.
‘Efturryd geenuz iz speel/ iboot whut wuz right/ nwhut wuz rang/ boot this nthat/ nthi next thing/ a sayzty thi bloke/ nwhut izzit yi caw yir joab jimmy/ am a liaison co-ordinator/ hi sayz oh good ah sayz/ a liaison co-ordinator/ jist whut this erria needs/ whut wi aw thi unimploymint/ inaw thi bevvyin/ nthi boayz runnin amock nthi hoossyz fawnty bits/ nthi wummin n tranquilisers/ it last thiv sent uz/ a liaison co-ordinator.  Sumdy wia digree/ in f*ck knows whut/ getn pyd fur no known whut thi f*ck ti day way it.’ See full poem and Laurence`s translation

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

Best wishes,

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