Senscot Bulletin: 11.12.15

Dear members and friends,


            William McIlvanney, who died on Saturday, made a big impression on me – both his books and as a person.  Although he loved Scotland – and wrote of Glasgow and its people better than any – I don’t think of him as a ‘Scottish writer’; he dared to tackle the ‘big’ themes – universal and eternal.  He wrote of life’s anguish and absurdity; his heroes were the ordinary people who are normally ignored – surviving with dignity and decency; and the recurrent celebration of our interdependence: “all we have is each other – we share in everyone else, or we forego ourselves.”


            At the 2014 Edinburgh book festival, I went to a talk by McIlvanney in the sold out big tent.  I don’t remember the occasion for a single thing he said – but rather for the remarkable affection of the audience; we were there to pay tribute – and it was more than simple admiration for his writing.  The great man himself was painfully thin – other intimations of frailty – but his warmth and humility commanded the podium; the absence of ego is so attractive; the sense of someone loved for who he is.  It struck me that were Scotland an independent republic – he would be a natural for president.


            Of an afternoon, many years ago, I happened upon McIlvanney sitting alone in Edinburgh’s Café Royal – he had a glass of whisky and was writing in a wee book.  That image of ‘the writer’ stays with me to this day.  It’s sad to think that he will no longer be among us taking notes.


While still deliberating over aspects of its new ‘funding offer’ – I am much encouraged by the direction of travel of our BIG Lottery Fund. Regular readers will be aware that Senscot is a passionate advocate of bottom up, community-led activity – and this appears to be central to the new approaches outlined. The language being used is increasingly about the involvement and leadership of the people living in Scotland’s neediest communities. The Lottery will know better than any of us, those pockets of Scotland that are stone cold – where communities have not yet got their act together. I hope a specific initiative can be devised to help such areas get started; sort of ‘jump leads’. Early next year, the important asset ownership grants will be relaunched – alongside the new Scottish Land Fund. I`m also a fan of the ongoing Awards for All programme – great reach.


Senscot has long held that Social Investment is an illusion – propagated by people who lend money for profit – and only rarely matches the needs of SEs.  Someone has sent us a blog from the Huffington Post – which not only agrees with our line – but understands far more about impact investment than I ever will.  The blogger and CEO of the US Social Enterprise Alliance, Kevin Lynch, asks: “Do you sincerely believe that Goldman Sachs cares more about social impact than financial returns; what happens to impact when push comes to shove?”  Nuff said.


I live within sight of the Forth Bridges – the closure of the road bridge has diverted the daily flow of around 70,000 vehicles from our area. It has never been so easy to get about – but the local economy is suffering. It transpires that in 2010 the decision was made that the road bridge would last until the opening of the replacement crossing next year. The politicians gambled and lost – and the temporary repairs don’t sound like the work of a few weeks. The pressure to save money will cause wrong decisions – it’s inevitable.


The Government of Finland anticipates that around 45,000 asylum seekers will arrive there during 2015/16; this is an interesting piece about an initiative called Startup Refugees.  Two private entrepreneurs have funded hundreds of students to interview and map the skills of all the new arrivals – with a view to getting them into work asap.  Many of the refugees will have been well established in their own country – will be well placed to set up their own companies.  The idea is that each refugee will be given a startup grant of 1,000 euros – to use for whatever they want.  There is considerable international interest in this initiative.


The mainstream media just tells lies about them – so it’s difficult to gauge the level of support in Scotland for hard left socialist politics.  The left wing electoral alliance called RISE met in Glasgow last Saturday (300 of them) for a marathon session of debate and voting; they adopted a particularly courageous leadership structure. I read Cat Boyd’s column in the National and it would not surprise me if she enjoys widespread support.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Social Enterprise Academy, Stepping Stones for Families, New Caledonian Woodlands, NatCen/ Scottish Government, Queensferry Sports and Community Hub, RAMH, The Pitstop.
EVENTS: Out of the Blue Xmas Arts Market + Open Studios, Music Fayre & DJs, 12th Dec; Aladdin, 20th Dec; Media Training – Edinburgh, 21st Dec.  
TENDERS: : Business Consultancy Framework – Scottish Borders Council, Framework Agreement for the Provision of Specialist Business Support – Falkirk Council, Arts and Wellbeing Service Model – NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes:  Senscot has been supporting Thematic SENs since 2010. Today there are 5 – Health; Sport; Cultural; Community Food and, most recently in partnership with Social Firms Scotland, Employability – with over 300 SEs are currently engaged. Unlike many local SENs, the thematic SENs are not separately constituted and also have Roundtables that bring together strategic partners from public and other national agencies. After 5 years, the time was right to review this activity – to reflect the changing landscape for the SE community in Scotland. This review is now just about complete and we will have news of our ‘refreshed’ approach in the new year. Things will not be changing too radically but, we hope, that it will see better use of the resources we have available; greater connectedness with key partners; more joined up activity between the SENs – all leading to a model of support for thematic SENs that is more in keeping with the challenges and opportunities that will be presenting themselves over the coming years.


Some years ago – for reasons I cannot fathom – the British Council took to the promotion of social enterprise.  The problem is that they were very late arrivals on the landscape – never really caught up; it’s difficult to work out what their role is.  The same goes for their new 50 page report – ‘SE in the UK: developing a thriving social enterprise sector’. What is this report for?  The occasional reference to Scottish activity give the impression that the writer has never visited; so far off the pace it’s an embarrassment. 


Plans are afoot to open Scotland’s first social enterprise supermarket. Glasgow-based social enterprise, Locavore, is looking to go head to head with the main supermarkets. To begin to change the food system for the better they believe they need to become a bigger part of it and have plans to take on a 1000 square metre premises in a prominent location in Glasgow to launch their first big store. To help them on their way, they are running a crowdfunding campaign with a target of £15k. So far, they’ve reached £14k. You can help them on their way here. See more on Locavore’s Big Plan


Following on from the John Pearce Inaugural Lecture in October, Cam Donaldson and Alan Kay (from Glasgow Caley) write to inform us that a website has now been created for the Social Enterprise Collection (Scotland). If you or your organisation has any archive material that could be added to the Collection, please contact University Archivist, Carole McCallum at


This week’s bulletin profiles Peace of Mind – a collaboration between the charity, Scottish Personal Assistant Employers’ Network (SPAEN) and Respite Now CIC which provides a great example of how social enterprises can engage in Self Directed Support – and has been the subject of quite a bit of interest amongst Health SEN members. Peace of Mind offers a range of supports and services to people with 10 or less hours of self-directed support per week as well as looking to match Personal Assistants (PAs) to potential PA employers. It currently covers North, South and East Ayrshire but hopes to be able to extend the service to other parts of Scotland in due course.


Erich Fromm (1900-1980) was a social psychologist and humanist philosopher who concluded that love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.

“A person who has not been completely alienated, who has remained sensitive and able to feel, who has not lost the sense of dignity, who is not yet "for sale", who can still suffer over the suffering of others, who has not acquired fully the having mode of existence – briefly, a person who has remained a person and not become a thing – cannot help feeling lonely, powerless, isolated in present-day society. He cannot help doubting himself and his own convictions, if not his sanity."



That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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