Senscot Bulletin: 10.01.20

Dear members and friends,

I expected, after the holiday, to be over the trauma of the general election – but I’m still mostly ‘shut down’. Of Labour’s demolition, I was in denial – saw only what I wanted to see; the overblown manifesto for a ‘good society’ had my backing, but was unelectable – certainly in England. They elected a far right, austerity government without opposition; unscrupulous, unfair, ruthless; I feel furious disgust.

When life’s events get too much for us, we all need a place we can go, in our heads, which transcends the normal physical realm. Under stress, I visit the ancient Chinese philosophers like Lao Tzu who conjured the deep wisdom of ‘The Way’: The Tao is not about any god or religion – but explores the pattern and substance of all that exists naturally – how we can best live in harmony with the world. A core Taoist understanding is that we ‘let go’ – allow life to take its course – ‘go with the flow’: “at this moment, allow everything to be as it is”. Following the election, I wrote this maxim on ‘post-it’ notes – beside my bed – in the car…. It captures where I find myself just now: ‘hors de combat’ – out of action.

It becomes increasingly obvious, that the most pragmatic political route to a ‘good society’ is now Scottish independence; the main barrier to which is simply our collective exhaustion. My brain knows I need to get back in the fray – the Tao says it’s okay to watch and wait for a while – let things settle.


The street-mess from festive celebrations is cleared, but I hope the argument now raging in Edinburgh continues to build. Last week, Edinburgh city centre was transformed into a huge commercial space, where residents were told they needed tickets to have guests visit their homes. Good piece in the FT, calling this a new ‘enclosure of the commons’ – warning of the dangers of excluding citizens from city centres. I especially liked Mike Small’s diatribe in the Sunday National; “If ‘People make Glasgow’ – ‘Money makes Edinburgh’”. The city has been bought and sold.” The citizens of Edinburgh need to inform their Councillors, that cities like New York do not commercialise their public space. Only free events can be mounted.


Just before the holiday, the head of Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), Niven Rennie, spoke to the media about rates of violent crime. He said that the scientific evidence remains unequivocal – criminal violence is directly linked to poverty – to childhood neglect and trauma – to alcohol and drug abuse; jailing record numbers is not the best use of resources – but, he says, the primary instinct to punish is deep in the Scottish psyche (Calvinism?) For fifteen years, the VRU has pioneered more effective engagement with offenders – but politicians and the media still lapse into populist, hardline rhetoric – which significantly hinders progress.


For a long time, I didn’t believe that such a unionist newspaper as the Herald could launch a pro-independence title like the National – so I kept away.  But recently I’ve become a keen fan of the Sunday National – quality journalism, links with the Ferret, Bella Caledonia etc.  This week, editor Richard Walker explained the Herald/National relationship.


Alison Evison, Labour councillor and president of COSLA, is a principled politician we’ll hear more about.  In December, she called for a second independence referendum – and this week she spoke urgently of the crisis facing Scottish Council budgets – as cracks appear at the heart of our communities.


While I have several translations of the Tao Te Ching, the version I use is by Ursula Le Guin – Lao Tzu’s magic seems best captured by a female voice.  This from her introduction:

“I wanted a book of ‘the Way’ accessible to a present-day, unwise, unpowerful, and perhaps unmale reader, not seeking esoteric secrets, but listening for a voice that speaks to the soul.  I would like that reader to see why people have loved the book for twenty-five hundred years.  It is the most lovable of all the great religious texts, funny, keen, kind, modest, indestructibly outrageous, and inexhaustibly refreshing.  Of all the deep springs, this is the purest water.  To me, it is also the deepest spring.”

Over the past few years, SEN members have increasingly referred to various forms of community café activity taking place within their social enterprise. Given this rise in the number of SEN members involved in operating community cafés, Senscot published a Social Enterprise and Community Café Briefing in August 2019. Building on this, Senscot and Social Firms Scotland are now launching a series of Information Sheets – informed by contributions from SEN members with direct experience of running community cafés. These Information Sheets are designed to facilitate peer-to- peer learning across the SENs, providing invaluable, hands-on advice – in the hope of smoothing out any bumps in the road ahead – and look at different scenarios. Scenario 1 – looks at using an external provider to operate the café; and Scenario 2 – looks at operating the café in-house both as a means of providing employability opportunities – as well as acting as a hub within the local community.

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

Late in November 2019, Community Energy Scotland, Scottish Community Alliance, DTA Scotland and Scottish Communities Climate Action Network hosted a Conference in Edinburgh on the theme of Community Action on Climate Emergency. One of the outcomes of the conference has been a ‘Communities Call for Climate Action’ – which not only calls for more action from both local and national govt, but also believes that community groups across Scotland have a key role to play in tackling the climate crisis. You can sign the pledge at the link above. In the same vein, CRNS recently produced this report as well as a  series of videos on the work of their own members in this field.


Scottish Govt is consulting on the replacement of European Structural Funds (ESF) post EU-Exit and how any replacement funding vehicle could best meet the needs of citizens, businesses and communities. SFS/Senscot would like to consult with members on this, and if there is sufficient interest, run a short, focused feedback session.  Please let us know if you would be interested in attending


With Scottish Govt gaining new powers for social security benefits, they are keen to promote and support the take up of these benefits. In doing so, they are aware of their reliance on the experience, expertise, and extensive networks of the many organisations currently providing benefit support and advice; their need for updated materials and training; and who will want to do their own work to promote the take-up of Scottish benefits. To assist, two new funds have been launched to support this activity.


 Job of the Week: CFINE is now recruiting for a new Chief Executive – see job details – another one of the ‘old guard’, Dave Simmers stepping down at the end of March. Dave has been an outstanding champion for social enterprise not just in the North East – but throughout Scotland. We all wish him well in his retirement


 Frontline News: Grassmarket Community Project celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Part of their celebrations include a Burns Night Dinner Dance Fundraiser on 31st Jan. See full details.

Good story about how the Scottish Land Fund is supporting an increasing number of local people in rural areas who are stepping up to run their local shop as a community venture.

Feeding the City is a fully funded programme supporting sustainable food start-ups across all of the UK. Impact Hub Inverness is hosting an ‘ideas generation’ event at the Melting Pot in Edinburgh on 30th Jan.


This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise, based in Dunblane, that supports individuals and organisations across Scotland more accessible and effective for people with hearing loss. Ideas for Ears takes a grass-roots approach and is run by people with hearing loss. They seek to help organisations to make their products, services and facilities more accessible, desirable and effective for people with hearing loss. In doing so, their activities help to remove barriers and to reduce the numbers of people experiencing communication disadvantage or discrimination. This enables greater equality, diversity and inclusion and promotes higher levels of participation, well-being and independence.