Senscot Bulletin: 10.07.15

Dear members and friends,

                I moved to this country cottage exactly 10 years ago this month – a hamlet with a church and 4 other houses – sitting on the edge of a great wood. My house is opposite the church – which stands on the site of a noted monastery – dated from 675 when scholars say St. Wilfred founded a cell here. There’s an attractive graveyard – ancient yew trees – ancient stones, including Celtic cross shafts. It’s a picturesque spot – with a real feel of the continuity of passing centuries. I’ll stay here as long as I’m physically able.


            10 years ago, when I first arrived, I was concerned about the isolation – living here I’ve learned to trust my aloneness. Albert Einstein said, “I live in the solitude which is painful in youth – but delicious in the years of maturity. Being, each day, face to face with oneself has an almost religious quality; learning how little is really essential for a good life; learning to belong to oneself ”.


                Winter or summer, at least one evening a week – a man parks his car near my cottage – and carrying a rucksack heads into the woods for the night. He’s about 40 – bearded – and always alone . I sometimes imagine him bedding down – his wee tent – maybe a view across the Forth to Fife: then darkness – and only the sounds of the creatures of the night. There’s something elemental about this man’s solitude -which brings to mind Wilfred, in the 7th century – alone in this same wood. "….. and there is nothing new under the sun”.
I was delighted this week that the Greek referendum rejected further ruinous austerity. Those of us who don’t understand global economics can only choose the commentators we trust; I’m comfortable with George Monbiot – familiar with his prejudices. Monbiot’s position is that world financial systems are controlled by an elite – whose utopian fantasy of market fundamentalism is inherently incompatible with democracy. He traces here the long tradition of human welfare being subordinated to financial power.
At an event in Glasgow on August 29 2015 – the ‘Scottish Left Project’ will launch its electoral challenge for 2016. Participation is still a bit fluid – but in recent weeks a new left alliance has agreed to host the launch and to take a road show around the country. Many observers will scoff that such an arrangement will soon unravel – but Scotland needs a strong opposition party left of the SNP – so I wish them well. The link sketches the beginning of the Left Project’s policy platform.
I had direct involvement with the old (MSC) work programmes – particularly the Community Programme and its potential as a vehicle for community development. It’s welcome news that, by 2017, Scotland will gain devolved responsibility to put in place our own work support provision; and that an advisory group is to be established – chaired by Prof. Alan McGregor of Glasgow Yooni – to oversee public consultation. This is a real opportunity to return employment support for the more disadvantaged to local community agencies.
Interesting article from the Wuppertal Institute – Germany’s leading energy and environment research agency – on a revolution going on in their energy sector. Following a wave of privatisations in the early 1990s – the electrical power supply of many municipalities in Germany has been returned to public hands. This ‘re-municipalisation’ has been overwhelmingly successful; (81% of consumers prefer the new systems – 26% prefer the previous corporate providers). This brief summary of the study explains.
As I hoped – Peter Kelly and colleague from the Poverty Alliance have responded to the piece by Martin Sime (SCVO) about foodbanks – all in the spirit of friendly debate. The difference of opinion seems to come down to the role of the state in addressing poverty – and the limits of charitable activity. Do we regard an adequate income – sufficient to live with dignity – as a basic human right – or is it acceptable that the needy depend on charity. It is a question we all need to answer within ourselves – because it is only with our compliance that the welfare state will be eroded.
Scotland’s Community Council legislation is a real mess; when introduced in 1973, as a responsibility of local authorities, they didn’t want it – so it has never been properly implemented. The current dispute in East Renfrewshire is indicative of confusion and acrimony across the country. Holyrood should acknowledge and sort this mess.
NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Blantyre Volunteer Ltd, Show Racism the Red Card, Kilmartin Museum, RAMH, Remade in Edinburgh, SURF, Church of Scotland, Unity Enterprise, Blake Stevenson Ltd
EVENTS: REHIS Elementary Food Hygiene, 24 Jul; Aberdeen EU Funds Masterclass, 31 Jul; Social Enterprise Work and Wellbeing Conference and Exhibition, 24 Sep; Art of Participatory Leadership, 02 Oct
TENDERS: Provision of Business Support Services Consultancy Framework – North Ayrshire Council, EFM1022-AP Waste Management Services – APUC Limited, British Sign Language Video Production – Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, Evaluation of the Future Starts Pilot – The Prince’s Trust and more.
The SENs Weekly Update; Kim writes: Recently, we gauged interest in establishing a new Employability SEN. We have been heartened by the level of interest shown and have now set a date for its inaugural meeting – Wed, 5th August in Glasgow (10.30 start) – venue still to be confirmed but we will confirm this by next week. The Employability SEN will be jointly facilitated by Social Firms Scotland and ourselves, with the first meeting looking to scope out the role, remit and aims of the SEN. The timing is opportune in view of a number of emerging issues in relation to employability – most notably with Scottish Govt currently seeking views on how to replace existing employment programmes in 2017 (see above) ; as well as, more immediately, the impact of the new EU Structural Funds. The intention is to create a strong collective voice and focal point for social firms and community-based SEs. Like other SENs, the discussions and direction of the Employability SEN will be driven by its members. If you would like to attend on 5th, contact
Following the initial EU Funding Masterclass in Glasgow a couple of weeks back, the second ‘masterclass’ will be taking place in Aberdeen on Friday, 31st July at Home Comforts, 9 East Terrace, Union Sq, Aberdeen (10.30 -1pm). To book your place, see here. The intention of these seminars is to share some of the core information before much of the EU programmes are “open for business”. There is a level of detail about various ‘strategic packages’ which we consider important as: a) this is how ESF and ERDF Programmes will be delivered; and b) potential applications will need to fit into these packages to have a chance of securing funding. Further ‘masterclasses’ will be held later in the summer. Further dates soon. See EU update.
Last week, the SENs Newsletter carried a story about the BIG Lottery launching the new Corporate Social Venturing (CSV) Initiative – with £500k at up to £50k a time available to organisations with innovative ideas that could improve the lives of young people who have had experience of the care system; or people affected by dementia. The CSV Fund is money being invested by the charity – the Life Changes Trust – and based on a model developed down south by Big Issue Invest. What was striking in their blurb was the use of the term ‘social business’. A briefing session this week confirmed that this fund, being administered by our Lottery, is also open to commercial organisations – "where a defined and appropriate percentage of profit is reinvested". Many folk, including Senscot, have had concerns about the more casual approach to SE by many down south and its creep northwards. Initiatives like this look like the thin end of the wedge.
This week’s bulletin profiles a CCSEN member, Ala Mairi, that is providing a showcase for the work of artisans in rural Scotland and Pakistan. Ala Mairi works with women’s welfare centres in Rawalpindi and helps connect them with the wider world of fashion, and allows them to use their dressmaking skills to earn a sustainable income. All the artisans that Ala Mairi works with are independent, small-scale, and true to the rich traditions of Scottish and Pakistani craftsmanship. The Ala Mairi network sees themselves not just as designers but as a vehicle that can both foster and preserve such skills.
Thomas Piketty – and 4 other leading economists – wrote an open letter this week to Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. This is an extract.


"In the 1950s, Europe was founded on the forgiveness of past debts, notably Germany’s, which generated a massive contribution to post-war economic growth and peace. Today we need to restructure and reduce Greek debt, give the economy breathing room to recover, and allow Greece to pay off a reduced burden of debt over a long period of time. Now is the time for a humane rethink of the punitive and failed program of austerity of recent years and to agree to a major reduction of Greece’s debts in conjunction with much needed reforms in Greece.
To Chancellor Merkel our message is clear; we urge you to take this vital action of leadership for Greece and Germany, and also for the world. History will remember you for your actions this week. We expect and count on you to provide the bold and generous steps towards Greece that will serve Europe for generations to come".


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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