Scotland has three times the UK rate of drug deaths (a weekly 20); because of my age, I mostly missed the drug culture – but my life has been impacted by our, even more damaging, relationship with alcohol.
Much of my adult social life was spent in the company of functioning alcoholics – heavy drinkers who believe that alcohol brings more to their life than it takes. This is not a criticism – I’d like to still be one of them – (just my evening half bottle of Rioja); but I lost control. I have also known several people whose lives were destroyed by alcohol; the moneyed middle-class last longer – more support; the working-class drunk is closer to free-fall. Regardless of background, it’s difficult not to conclude that some people have a deep inner impulse to destroy themselves.
I consider myself an alcoholic who has been sober for nearly 18 years. On 4th Sept 2001, I saw clearly that my appetite for life or for death were in fine balance. I am also clear that my ‘yes’ to life, came from a place in me – deeper than any conscious decision or ‘will power’. I’ve come to understand that our earliest experiences/relationships – set the basic ‘orientation’ of our lives. Someone gave the infant me my ‘yes’.
That our country has so much alcohol and drug addiction is very serious, because it indicates the general level of stress and unhappiness. Of course, we must help the unfortunates – but my priority is shifting to the support of children and families – the next generation.
Walking through the centre of Glasgow and Edinburgh – urban Scotland – it’s upsetting to see people begging – untended piles of ‘bedding’; we want to live in a society which looks after everyone. Last year, with an investment of £6.5m, Scottish Govt moved towards a ‘Housing First’ policy – which recognises that a safe and secure home is the best base for the recovery of the street homeless. It will take some time for this strategy to get up to speed and the decision of Glasgow Council to cut £2.6m from its homeless budget is premature; it will remove 100 of the critical temporary beds provided by charities; more sleeping rough.
On Tuesday this week (7th May), the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster (chaired by Perth MP, Pete Wishart – SNP) took evidence from several academic specialists; the committee’s remit is to try and understand why problematic drug use in Scotland is three times that of the rest of the UK – what are the unique ‘drivers’ in Scotland. A key consideration will be whether further devolution of drug legislation would enable Scottish Govt to better tackle the problem. Some written evidence received by the committee identifies trauma, and particularly adverse childhood experiences, as a driver of substance abuse.
Former Cabinet Secretary, Alex Neil (SNP MSP for Airdrie and Shotts) has written an article in the forthcoming issue of Scottish Left Review, criticising our parliament for being “not nearly ambitious or radical enough” – particularly with regard to tackling poverty; he calls for much more urgency in replacing the unfair Council Tax with a Land Tax and an income-based local services tax. Many Independence supporters, like myself, anticipate that the achievement of our autonomy will see the emergence of a new political force to the left of the SNP – less timid in the redistribution of wealth and the eradication of poverty.
Some years ago, I attended a seminar in London addressed by the Green MP, Caroline Lucas: although she seemed nervous, I was captivated by her transparent humanity – an almost spiritual presence. It’s no surprise, this week, to find her at the centre of a move to create a ‘compassion threshold’ for new UK legislation.
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” – Pema Chödrön
“Do you know what people really want? Everyone, I mean. Everybody in the world is thinking: I wish there was just one other person I could really talk to, who could really understand me, who’d be kind to me. That’s what people really want, if they’re telling the truth.” – Doris Lessing.
The 4th SE Reference Sub-Group (Sub-Group) will take place on Thursday 6th June at the Scottish Youth Theatre in Glasgow. The Sub-Group, hosted by Senscot, Social Firms Scotland and the Scottish Community Alliance, runs parallel to the Govt’s own Reference Group which meets next week (14th May) – see Agenda/Attendees. The Sub-Group has been set up specifically for frontline social enterprises and membership-led organisations to discuss and review the progress of the SE Action Plan – and feedback recommendations to Govt on lessons being learned and priorities for the next Action Plan. The previous three Sub-Groups have agreed a list of ’recommendations’ as well as carrying out its own SWOT Analysis. Our 4th meeting will focus, in particular, on what the priorities should be for the next Action Plan – what gaps continue to exist – and how they could/should be filled. A full agenda will be circulated next week. If you would like to come along, please email email@example.com.
NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website.
Scottish Govt has this week announced a new Investing in Communities Fund (£11m) – as part of the Empowering Communities Programme. Grants of up to £250k are available over three years to help community organisations tackle local challenges such as poverty, disadvantage and inequality. Closing date for applications is 14th June.
The contribution of volunteers across our SE community in Scotland is often both underestimated and under-valued. From governance to the delivery of services, volunteers help to keep countless organisations ticking over. In Scotland, it is estimated that 28% of adults and 52% of young people volunteer – contributing over £2bn to the Scottish economy. Scottish Govt has published a new volunteering framework – Volunteering for All – that seeks to provide a template for volunteering in Scotland over the coming decade.
The 5th John Pearce Memorial Lecture this year is on Tuesday 3rd Sept at Glasgow Caley. Béatrice Alain (Chantier de l’économie sociale in Quebec) will deliver the lecture on “Building an ecosystem for the creation and development of community-owned enterprises – The Quebec experience’. Register here.
Pockets and Prospects 2019 kicks off over the coming weeks – see link for info. The programme is a partnership between Senscot and Glasgow SEN, funded via SCA, and will again look at developing collaborative approaches to tackling loneliness and social isolation and aiming to mitigate against the effects of welfare reform. Six Community Anchor organisations and 20 Glasgow SEN members will participate.
Can You Help: A SEN member has been in touch looking for some advice on a VAT issue. They have received a grant to carry out environmental works within their local community. The contractor will be charging VAT – but as the ‘works’ being carried out are not deemed to be ‘commercial’, they have been informed that they will be unable to claim back the VAT. Any help or advice, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise that works across Argyll and Bute to help divert and re-use furniture and other household objects before they reach the waste stream. Lorn and Oban Re-use Initiative (LORI) was opened to the public in 2009 and acts as the trading arm of the GRAB Trust. In addition to diverting items from the waste stream, LORI also provides volunteer job and training opportunities for the long-term unemployed and community service offenders – as well as providing low cost furniture to the homeless to furnish new properties (at a 50% discount). Much of this activity is done in collaboration with public agencies across the Argyll area.