Senscot Bulletin: 10-02-2006

Dear members and friends,

My wee cottage is isolated – off the road – no street lighting.  My friends respect my sober solitude – no one visits after dark; so bit apprehensive last night with knock on door at 8pm.  He was about 45 – medium build – with scary face.  ‘I’m looking for a cup of tea,’ he says.  ‘You’ve interrupted my supper’ I reply; fear makes me gruff.  ‘I’m sorry sir,’ he says.  I hesitate – then close the door – mind racing. He could be a dangerous fugitive – I should bolt the door.  More likely a hungry tramp who’ll sleep rough and cold tonight – I should give him some food.  I do nothing – just sit there spooked – hoping he doesn’t return – he doesn’t.
 But I’ve been thinking today about how I’ve changed.  When I was young I would have fed that man at my table – heard his story – encouraged him to amend his life.  I thought I knew God then – fancied myself as a priest – saving souls.  Now I think each of us must be our own priest – that other people’s redemption is none of my business.  But I should have given him a cup of tea – we can’t just detach.  John Burnside puts it beautifully in his poem ‘History’: ‘but this is the problem: how to be alive in all this gazed – upon and cherished world and do no harm……… patient; afraid; but still through everything attentive to the irredeemable.’

Poet John Burnside (above) comes from Dunfermline, Scotland’s ancient proud capital. This morning I wake to the news that its citizens have chucked the Labour Party out of what was one of its safest heartlands. Scottish Politics is ‘hodden doon’ by an arrogant Labour state which unashamedly obstructs community action on local issues. But the people have spoken. Local people on local issues. Isn’t democracy marvellous! From my cottage, I can see across the Forth to bright sunshine over west Fife. Up the Pars!

The arrival of the ‘new’ Tories has given welcome impetus to the national debate in the UK about core values. These comments by think tank Demos try to differentiate the positions:

I recently attended a social work case conference held essentially to decide whether a 6 year old girl is ‘safe’ living with her mother.  After 2½ hours 22 weary care workers failed to reach a decision.  What I observed was a dysfunctional process which has lost its way – and which has failed its workforce.  To me, an outsider, it was obvious that someone should have clear responsibility to make these different decisions – and get on with it.  The ‘system’ should explicitly understand that some of these decisions will be wrong.  I believe that recommendations published in Willy Roe’s Social Work Review this week will start to address the poor morale of these undervalued public servants.

Such was the influence of Maggie Thatcher that it is still unacceptable in the UK to talk about the widening gap between the rich and the poor – as though this is inevitable.  New Labour studiously blanks the debate about inequality because all research shows that more and more wealth is being concentrated in the hands of the rich.  Recent research by Danny Dorling the social geographer focuses on the inequalities between place in the UK – how where you’re from determines where you’re going.  He says that this is back to 1930 levels – and getting worse.

Can we thank everyone who has responded to last week’s questionnaire – research etc. So far, there have been over 100 responses. Senscot will be collating the info’ and submitting a report to Communities Scotland. With luck, the Executive will use these findings as they formulate the forthcoming Social Enterprise Strategy. For those who still wish to submit their views, the closing date is 17th Feb. The questionnaire is available online:

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but submit jobs ( or events ( and we’ll post them on our site. This week:

JOBS: 38 vacancies, incl. posts with: Social Firms Scotland, Community Health Shop Ltd, Young Possil Futures, Gorebridge Health & Regeneration Project, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Right Track (Scotland).

EVENTS: ‘Imagine Community Planning that Works’, workshops, Glasg. 15 and 28 Feb, Ed. 22 Feb; ‘Developing Social Enterprise’, SEE event, Edinburgh, 22 Feb; ‘Jobs in a Green Economy: Opportunities and Challenges’, Perth, 24 Feb; 

SPECIAL OFFER: The Albion Trust will soon have some office accommodation available at
Norton Park in Edinburgh:


Next week sees two Local Social Enterprise Network meetings. The Edinburgh Network meets at 3pm on Thursday 16th Feb:  Also on the 16th, is the 1st Glasgow meeting: Later in the month a new Thematic Network – Mining-related social enterprises – holds its 1st meeting on 28th February at Blair Castle, Culross. For more info, contact or see

The Senscot weekly bulletin is a free service but at the beginning of each year – for 4 weeks – we invite donations from appreciative readers to fund ‘new work.’  Last year – people donated £4,699.  So far 43 people have contributed £2,701.  Thanks to all who have donated.

I think that there is an important ongoing debate for the third sector about the appropriate levels of remuneration for senior management.  Some think that to attract the best people, our salaries should match the private sector.  Others argue that our sector exists to promote social justice and that salary levels should be pegged.  I am of this latter view: that we should try to recruit people who are prepared to ‘be’ the changes they want to see in the world.  Here’s an ad for the Chief Executive of UnLtd (circa £100k):

This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise in Argyll and Bute providing flexible training packages designed to meet the needs of the local workforce. Argyll Training was formed in 1991 and now operates from a number of locations covering not only the Argyll and Bute area but also Renfrewshire and Lochaber. Since amalgamating with Grand Met Trust in Argyll, Argyll Training has grown to become one of the major accredited training providers in the area securing a range of contracts with public agencies as well as with a series of local employers. For further info’, see

We can accept something as ‘true’ all our lives without its meaning penetrating to that deep part of us which makes our decisions.  Then a moment can occur when we suddenly ‘realise’ a familiar truth and this can transform our lives.  Viktor Frankl writes of such a moment:
 ‘A thought transfixed me: For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers.  The truth – that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire.  Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: the salvation of man is through love and in love.'(From’ Man’s Search for Meaning’)

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

Best wishes,

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