Senscot Bulletin: 10.03.17

Dear members and friends,

At a recent 80th birthday party – one of my former golf mates is remembering my ‘hole in one’ on the short first at Kilspindie – 20 years ago. His dramatization bears little resemblance to what happened – but the listeners are enjoying his version – so I just smile. I reflect again, that the fragments of our personal history which might survive, will be the bits which make the best stories – drama, humour, tragedy etc – and why not? Some try to pre-empt this by publishing their ‘official’ biography – but I can’t see the point in pretending – that any life is a coherent narrative with a beginning, middle and end. Remembered incidents are all subjective – which ones do we record – my clearest memories, sadly, are regrets.
            An arrogant attitude to money and possessions caused me early problems; a gradual respect – the acceptance that I must take care to have some; problems with alcohol led to the realisation that I must never have any. Not coinciding with a ‘life companion’ is a regret; telling myself that I ‘chose’ independence is not convincing. Work has been the most consistent approximation of joy in my life – the opportunity to find and follow our ‘bliss’ is a great privilege. But these are just practical observations along the way; the overall meaning and purpose of humankind’s earthly journey is, I believe, beyond the comprehension of even the wisest. The great Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, had a great line: “The deepest words of the wise man teach us the same as the whistle of the wind".


Senscot’s annual invitation for contributions to the cost of producing this bulletin – has now closed. We would thank all individuals (120) and organisations (28) who have offered their support – donating £7,000.  Your ongoing support is very much appreciated. Here’s the list of Members and Associates for 2017.  Please check – so that we haven’t missed your name out. Thanks again!


I never joined the SNP – for the reasons Kevin McKenna sets out in his Saturday column: it is the party of ‘business’ pretending to be left wing.  However, when any governing party gets it right, that should be acknowledged; I believe passing £120 million spending power directly to head teachers in deprived communities, through the Pupil Equity Fund (PEF), is one of the boldest, most radical educational strategies I can remember.  As trustee of a Scottish charity, in direct conversation with these schools, I can testify from close-up the impetus this move has already given to the front line – new hope and determination.  The only cloud is that some Councils will be trying every dirty trick to get a grip of PEF; this Herald piece suggests a move by Glasgow City Council to wangle ‘approval rights’ over decisions made by head teachers.  The kiss of death – mustn’t be allowed to happen. 


The Bella Caledonia monthly print mag. – in Saturday’s National – carried an interesting chat between Hugh McDonald and Tom Devine – about Scotland’s long and enduring bonds with Europe – cultural, economic, spiritual, historical, and political.  Brexit has all the anguish, financial chaos and emotional turbulence of the end of a love affair; Sir Tom wonders if the upset will be enough for an indy ref victory.  “The Scottish Govt. has an awful choice – a referendum which they might not win – or not calling it and suffering the consequences – increasingly ‘boxed in’ by Westminster”. Alex Massie, in the Spectator, thinks the case for a new indyref is becoming unanswerable.


Not everyone realises, that in Scandic countries like Norway, Finland and Sweden, a summary of every citizen’s tax return is in the public domain; a transparency which I believe is fundamental to social democracy.  The wealthy, of course, will employ accountants to devise complicated tax avoidance – but let’s make it all public – who contributes to our way of life – who sends their money offshore.  In particular, anyone elected to public office must be subjected to extra scrutiny – to prevent bribery and corruption – the corporate world’s distortion of democracy. 


 NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Gairloch And Loch Ewe Action Forum, Out of the Blue Arts and Education Trust, Maybole Community Council, Freedom Bakery, Music in Hospitals, Victim Support Scotland,
EVENTS: Life science for good: speeding the convergence of profit and impact, 13 Mar; Glasgow Soup Crowdfunding Event, 23 Mar; Understanding and Working in Complexity, 15/16 Jun;
TENDERS: Provision of Close Cleaning – East Renfrewshire Council; Grounds Maintenance Term Contract 2017 – 2021 – West Highland Housing Association; Managed Print Service – River Clyde Homes; Commercial Cleaning Programs, Halls of Residences – Heriot Watt University and more.  Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Senscot’s work with the 5 Thematic SENs over the last year has focussed on specific priority areas: health & social care integration; self-directed support; sport for change; tourism; food poverty etc. This year we’re looking to delve deeper – asking members (via a short ‘tick list’) to inform us of other issues we should be addressing at future meetings. Interesting results so far. We’ll be working with partners to support developments relating to these issues over the next 12 months. This is your final opportunity to input. If you could take 2 mins to complete the ‘tick list’ – it would be greatly appreciated.


NEW JOB: Since 2015, Senscot, in partnership with Social Firms Scotland, hosts a Partnership and Procurement Service – providing practical support to SEs in identifying and responding effectively to emerging tender and other business opportunities through the development of partnerships and consortia. Our partnership is now being extended to include the Scottish Community Alliance and Co-operative Development Scotland and – as part of Scottish Govt’s early actions – we are in the process of setting up the Partnership and Procurement Hub (P&P Hub). To lead this work, we are inviting applications for a new post as P&P Hub Manager. To apply, see application pack. Closing date is Friday 31st March 2017.


From the Local People Leading briefing I learn about ‘Nurture Development’ – who like Senscot, promote inclusive, bottom up, community driven change; particularly the ABCD approach (Asset Based community development). In this blog, Managing Director, Cormac Russell discusses what Beveridge’s vision for the welfare state miscalculated; then his own expression of future welfare provision ‘an extension of us, not a replacement for us’ gave me great encouragement to read; a celebration of ‘the commons’ and the neighbourhood networks that underpinned people’s lives for generations. Austerity drives a return to sanity.


I keep my eye on the continual expansion of the ‘gig economy – trying to discern its long term implications for the shape of our own society. We must accept that the independence and flexibility of being quasi self-employed suits the lifestyles of lots of people; but zero hours’ contracts are mostly imposed and the subsequent loss of employee benefits and tax revenues place a burden on the state. The UK govt. awaits a report from RSA (Royal Society of the Arts) and Wednesday’s budget hiked National Insurance for the self- employed. This report from the McKinsey Global Institute, interviewed 8000 respondents – gives some idea of the degree of choice in the gig economy.


This free, six-part event series caught my attention partly ‘cos it’s difficult to categorise.  ‘Amidst’, a civic volunteer-led project, invites participants to ‘step out of our bubbles to foster better conversations; fusing shared reflection and practice – exploring how we can create more courageous and empathic connections to bring about lasting change’.  Registration open for a Tuesday 18th April start – Edinburgh, 5.45pm – 8pm.


This week’s bulletin profiles a café in Edinburgh’s old town that provides a nurturing training environment for young persons to gain confidence and employability skills. The Old School Café (OSC) is run by the charity, Canongate Youth – and all profits are directed back to the charity. As well as serving a range of coffee, cakes and light lunches – all prepared by young people and volunteers – OSC also has a games room attached to the café which houses 2 pool tables, a table tennis table, table hockey, and a big collection of games. They also have several rooms available for conferences, and meetings – and can provide specialist catering for groups as well as outside catering if required.


Last Thursday in Glasgow – coffee upstairs in Waterstones, Argyll Street – spy and buy a copy of Kathleen Jamie’s 2015 poetry collection, The Bonniest Companie – this poem’s called Soledades (Solitudes).


“Having lost my copy of Machado’s Soledades, I search the garden. It’s March, blustery, daffodils nod, and already blossom’s sprigging on next door’s pear. I’ve a hunch I left the book by the old railway sleeper that serves as a bench, and further, that the same breeze as makes the frogspawn quiver in our sandpit-turned-pond, as flaps the laundry, has snatched the book away. And sure enough, it’s there, tossed beneath the beech hedge and open at a particular page, as though the breeze, riffling through, has spotted his own name among the master’s lines: ‘The deepest words of the wise man teach us the same as the whistle of the wind’……”


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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