Senscot Bulletin: 10.06.16

Dear members and friends,
            Our society holds that there is something not quite right about growing old, somehow shameful – and yet this final phase of my life feels no less meaningful and creative than any of the others.  The ‘life task’ is different now: making peace with the knowledge that ‘the end is nigh’; but the capacities which make us ‘human’: feeling, sharing, friendship, creativity etc. are not diminished by the years – and most of us grow in honesty and acceptance. Sometimes it feels to me now that everything is doubly precious: a flower, a baby, the continual surprises of daily life; the unrealised potential of what’s to come. The marginalisation of our old people is against the natural order of things – diminishes both them and the community at large.
            Muhammed Ali’s life made a big impression on me – but not as a great boxer or showman – not even his civil rights heroism in ‘apartheid America’.  It’s the later years I think of – face frozen in the mask of Parkinson’s, body trembling, stumbling speech – when he continued to make public appearances of great dignity and bravery – a beacon of hope for oppressed people around the world.  George Foreman said of Ali: “there is something magnificent about his presence” and something of this aura came over, even on TV.  Mandela had it, the Dali Lama, Pope Francis seems to.  I think of it as a deeply spiritual quality; familiar in old people who have lived with honesty and courage; now arrived at peace and acceptance and laughter.


Jon Snow (Channel 4 News) strikes me as a fundamentally honest chap – and he speaks for me when he calls the ‘euroref’ “the worse tempered, most abusive, most boring campaign” he can remember.  My problem is that I feel remote from it all; from the Tory party leadership battle; from the English public school/officer class, fighting for an illusory world that’s long gone.  The deciding theme looks to be immigration – and whilst we mustn’t pretend there’s no issue, the Scots generally regard migrants as a plus;  euroref strikes me as a particularily English torment. If the ‘Remains’ win by the margin of the Scottish vote – the Union will come under further pressure. Alex Salmond’s take.


Switzerland has a more advanced system of popular democracy than the UK – so that suggested changes to the federal constitution, which gather 100,000 signatures in 18 months, go to referendum.  Last Sunday, a proposal to introduce a Universal Basic Income (UBI) was rejected by Swiss voters by 77% to 23%.  No political party backed the proposal and its defeat was no surprise; but this will not dampen the enthusiasm of basic income activists across Europe – who believe that future technological societies will require some form of UBI to replace employment.


Our first minister and SNP govt. must be commended and supported in their efforts to close the ‘attainment gap’ in education between the children of low-income and better-off households.  The attached research summary from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation identifies 5 key points –  the second of which is dramatic: “Parental socio-economic background has more influence on attainment than the school attended”.  This is what we seem afraid to talk about in Scotland – the rump of alienated families, mostly poor, who see schooling as a foreign culture of little relevance to their children’s future. This will take generations to shift – we need to appreciate just how far from us some poor people are.


This week saw the launch of a new, online, not-for-profit magazine – dedicated to telling inspiring stories that need to be heard; at least one-a-day – Monday to Saturday.  Their website informs that the pilot will be funded from a personal legacy – but they face the same challenge as the rest of 21st century media – how to find quality journalism.  We wish the optimists at Positively Scotland the best of luck with their venture.  Here’s an early piece they posted on Scottish social enterprises; that’s what they are of course.

Some of the most principled individuals I’ve known over the years were members of the Communist Party; they ‘had’ something.  I’m too remote from that organisation to know its story – but I’ve just read that as of 2014 – it has 917 members across the UK.  A Fife councilor, Willie Clarke, believed to be Britain’s last elected communist, has retired from office aged 80.  West Fife was, of course, the constituency of Britain’s last community MP Willie Gallagher, who served from 1935 – 1950.  Clarke, who lives in Ballingry, said last week that it was time to call it a day.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Turning Point Scotland, Impact Arts (Projects) Ltd, Resonate Arts House, Art n Mind – The Makers Gallery & Bistro, The Pitstop, Impact Business Leaders, Remade in Edinburgh, CHAP
EVENTS: Volunteer Management Training, 14 Jun; Advanced Facilitation Training, 15 Jun; Building Inclusive Growth, 16 Jun; West End Women’s Heritage Walk, 19 Jun;
TENDERS: Community Asset Research – Big Lottery Fund, Heritage Trail and Active Travel Study of the North Isles – Orkney Islands Council, Baseline Community Capacity and Community Support Information – Cairngorms National Park Authority and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.
The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes:  SE Representatives are working with Scottish Govt to co-produce a ‘SE Strategy for Scotland’ for the next 10 years – where SE is an important partner in our economy, in local communities, in civic society, in public services – in creating of a fairer and more inclusive Scotland. This builds on theSE Vision 2025 (Feb 2015). A series of Roundtables involving the wider third sector as well as the public and private sectors are taking place during this month covering a range of topics including employability, social investment and business support. In addition to this an interactive website has been developed to collect and prioritise views of social enterprises in an open and democratic way – this is your opportunity to contribute your ideas, views and get involved in discussion forums. The hashtag to use on social media is #sestrategy.


Edinburgh City Council has consented to yet another mega hotel (£65m), on an important site earmarked for the Central Library; a citizen, Grant Buttars, has posted a brief but effective complaint on Bella Caledonia. In allowing commerce and tourism to drive planning decisions, he says that the Council is destroying the essence of Edinburgh – which attracts visitors in the first place.  He blames the remoteness of Scotland’s local democracy – urges us to “shed some light on the murky places where these decisions are made”.


The Community Ownership Support Service (COSS) helps both local groups and public bodies in the transfer of buildings and land assets.  Announcing this week continued funding of £350k – the new Communities Secretary Angela Constance said “Every area has a building or land that could be transformed – if local people are supported to take control of the project”.


The Robertson Trust (along with sportscotland, Scottish Government and the Sport for Change Network) is exploring how sport and physical activity is being used to benefit individuals and communities across Scotland.  This could include a wide range of physical activity, including dance, outdoor activities and walking.  The research will help to – better understand how organisations are currently using sport and physical activity; identify how sport and physical activity might be better supported going forward; demonstrate the real difference that sport and physical activity can make. The important survey for organisations using sport or physical activity approaches in Scotland.  The survey will take 10 minutes to complete.


This week’s bulletin profiles a new news magazine set up to inform, engage and involve all communities living in Highland Perthshire. The Heartlander is produced by Highland Perthshire Media Ltd and operates as a social enterprise. It was launched in July 2015 and was initially distributed to all 7,500 homes and businesses with the aim of demonstrating its potential as a generator of ideas and community involvement. The full, paid-for edition of the magazine is now in local shops and newsagents (£1.25) and in a digital format for subscribers at £15 per annum. Based in Pitlochry, the Heartlander has been supported by the Carnegie Foundation, Co-ops UK and the Ellis Campbell Charitable Foundation. They believe their ‘model’ could also be adopted by other communities in Scotland no longer served by a truly local source of news and comment


In April 1967 Muhammad Ali refused USA army induction saying "I aint got no quarrel with those Vietcong"


"Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over…….  The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years."


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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