Senscot Bulletin: 10.02.17

Dear members and friends,
If we all live with an imagined, composite hero – my own was influenced by the fictional Swedish detective Kurt Wallander – clever, courageous, relentless but an existential mess; at once hero and everyman. His creator, Henning Mankell, was diagnosed with multiple cancers in January 2014 and died almost two years later in October 2015. His writings during his final period are collected in a book – Quicksand – (out in paperback); it takes the form of 47 short reflections – a mixture of detailed memoir and social comment.
            Mankell was an unusually ‘serious’ man. He believed that for most humans – every day is a fight just to survive; that the minority of us who enjoy the privilege of time and health – have a moral responsibility to ‘get involved’: to tackle disease and starvation with all available means; these values shaped the pattern of his mature years. While he’ll be remembered for his contribution to ‘Scandic noir’ – Mankell’s true passion was the stage: time spent with the beloved theatre in Mozambique which he founded and funded.
            At the end of Quicksand – as he awaits the outcome of his ‘chemo’ – Mankell wonders what single incident brought the greatest happiness in his life: he chooses the final curtain of a 1992 theatrical production in Maputo, Africa. Been asking myself the same question – but finding that comparisons don’t really work – one kind of happiness is different from another. I got it down, though, to a short list of three incidents – each work related – which in itself says something about me. Now I’m pondering what it says.


The period of Senscot’s annual invitation for financial donations from readers wishing to contribute to the cost of producing this bulletin is reaching the halfway stage. Traditionally, around 100 individuals (70 so far) give an average of £25 to become full company members. Senscot’s board is elected by and is accountable to these members. We also invite donations from individuals (donors) or organisations (associate members) who simply want to support what we do (amounts between £5 and £500). To join or donate, see members page.


I enjoyed the video of Ken Clarke’s impassioned speech against Brexit in the Commons – and this candid follow-up interview in the Times. Having served on the cabinets of three PMs – Clarke is hardly a natural rebel – which adds weight to his critique of the present lot. His wing of the Tory Party was once the majority, he says, but the Party and the country is now run by the hardcore right wing – because ministers are terrified of them. They ‘did for’ Cameron and control May. He believes it’s absurd that the 16 million people who voted ‘remain’ have lost the right to parliamentary representation. Yes, Ken, people who live in Scotland are well aware of this absurdity.


Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett wrote ‘The Spirit Level’ – the classic text on the dire implications for any society of gross inequality; their recent Guardian piece revisits this subject. Referencing the Resolution Foundation’s forecasts, they warn that austerity is leading to the biggest rise in inequality since that seen under Thatcher in the 1980s. But it’s on the consequences of inequality that they are most eloquent – the decline of trust and community life – the rise of crime and violence. It’s not inevitable, they say – it’s driven by politics and policy – but there’s little sign of the urgency required.


There is no better example of the corporate sector ripping off the UK taxpayer than the PFI financing of public works; this outrageous arrangement was the gift of Gordon Brown and friends to bankers – for which they eventually received sweetheart directorships. The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) created by SNP (in spite of grand talk) is not much better. Good piece by Rob Edwards in the Ferret about a new report urging our Govt to set aside capital funds to create a Scottish National Investment Bank to fund future projects.


“Our opposition to racism and sexism and our support of equality before the law are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons”. One of the highlights of my week was Speaker Bercow’s declaration that he would withhold from President Trump the ‘earned honour’ of addressing the Houses of Parliament. Not many realised that the Speaker had such power – or Bercow such backbone; I have no doubt that the swaggering right wing of the Tory Party are now plotting his destruction.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Bruntsfield Community Greengrocers – Digin, Daisy Drop In, Firstport, Creative Carbon Scotland, Mull and Iona Community Trust, Pilton Community Health Project, The Larder Cook School
EVENTS: February Retreat, 13 Feb; Aberfoyle Trail Race 2017, 18 Feb; Leading Growth for Aspiring Leaders, 23 Feb; Getting Private Sector contracts – A Third Sector perspective, 23 Feb;
TENDERS: Education and Health & Social Care Transport Framework Agreement – The City of Edinburgh Council; Specialist Children Services – Pre and Post Bereavement Services – NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde; Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Senscot supports 5 Thematic SENs – Health; Community Food; Sport; Culture and Creative; and Employability (supported by Social Firms Scotland) – over 400 SEs actively engaged. The last year has seen a focus on specific priority areas: health & social care integration, self-directed support, sport for change, tourism, food poverty etc. This approach will continue in the year ahead – but we are also looking to delve deeper. We have put together a short survey for Thematic SENs members to let us know the issues you would like to focus on at future meetings. These could be on existing activities or issues you are focusing on – or something else you’d like to explore through the exchange of learning and experiences with other SEN members. If you could take 5 mins to complete the survey – it would be greatly appreciated.


Yesterday, the SE Strategy was debated in Parliament. As part of debate, Angela Constance announced a £1m package of ‘early actions’ in advance of the impending SE Action Plan. More on these next week.


Odd story from Stirling this week. Officials at Stirling Council had recommended awarding a 25-year contract to SLM Limited – a leisure management company – based down south – that provides services to 60 other local authorities across the UK. The existing contract is delivered by Active Stirling – an ‘arms-length organisation’ (ALEO) – but one that works closely with many community-based enterprises to deliver services. At a time when Scottish Govt is actively encouraging opportunities for SEs and third sector organisations to play a greater role in the delivery of public services – it seemed an odd decision. Last night, however, this recommendation was dramatically overturned. Hard to say if this was in response to local pressure or internal Council politics. Nevertheless, on the surface, it appears welcome news.


Visitors to Senscot’s website show a steady interest in ‘definitions’ of social enterprise – one of the most popular is ‘Social enterprise and its impacts’ – a 2011 discussion paper by Alan Kay which builds from the philosophy of our movement. “SE is not just a business with some social objectives but can be regarded as an alternative way of using business methods in order to change local and global communities for the better”. Alan’s paper emphasises the ‘cultural impact’ of SE.


Every now and again George Monbiot comes up with a ‘gem’ – such as this Wednesday’s Guardian column; an uplifting piece about restoration of community life. He’s not talking about ‘substituting’ but ‘complementing’ state provision – with the spontaneous, generous, sprawling sphere of citizen participation which this bulletin tries to report. Monbiot obviously believes, as I do, that the revitalisation of our communities has the power to reshape our democracy and our politics. A Monbiot gem.


This week’s bulletin profiles a new venture in South Uist that aims to promote the island and its people across the globe. Uist Gifts was formed in 2016 and is slowly but surely building up its range of gifts and clothing. This is the latest venture that the community has embarked upon following the community land buy-out in 2006. The local community – via Storas Uibhist – is intent on regenerating the local economy, to reverse decline and depopulation, to reduce dependency while remaining aware of the environmental needs, culture and history of the islands. Uist Gifts is another contribution in achieving these objectives.


Terry Waite was captured by Hezbollah in 1987 and imprisoned for 5 years in Beirut; he has republished his account ‘Taken on Trust’ with new reflections. The effect of his traumatic removal from ‘normal’ family life is explored in this Telegraph piece by Peter Stanford.


“Time takes on new meaning when you’re deprived of natural light, freedom of movement and companionship. I spent days sitting on the floor in total darkness with no books, no papers, nothing……. Come up too quickly and you’ll get the bends, that what I was told before my return home. I initially found the emotional exchange with my family too much. I’d get up in the middle of the night and have a meal by myself. But it was just as hard for them. It took a trained listener to help us recognise that life had moved on for all of us in the time I was away……. I rather like growing old because you’re not so intimidated by situations that probably did in the past. And you get a bus pass.”


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