Senscot Bulletin: 12-01-2007

Dear members and friends,

It’s my habit to go to Spain for the festive break, but last year was cold so I stay put this time in my cosy cottage. On Hogmanay the weather is atrocious, but I’m snug in bed by nine – when the lights flicker and die. Powercut! What now? No heat! I light candles – pile logs on the stove – bed down in front of it. Miserable cold night – howling wind and draughts – log fires are fine if the central heating works.
 New Year’s morn, still no power – house severely cold. I move slowly like an old man – demoralised. Head off to find food and heat – nearest township is South Queensferry. I arrive during the ‘Loony Dook’ in freezing wind and rain, four hundred bampots bathe in the Forth – watched by thousands of us. The sheer exuberant lunacy cheers me up.
 Check into the Hawes Inn. My room looks onto the ramp where we would board the ferry when I was a lad – before the road bridge. Sunday runs in our wee Ford Popular – CSC 106 – tartan rugs – my dad singing cowboy songs. Looking over the water I give some thought to just what it is I’m doing here – what I’m after in this life – how quickly it passes. I would advise young people to give it a whirl – we vanish soon enough. The ‘Loony Dook’ is a good metaphor for life. To watch from the shore – or to jump in?

The Audit Commission (an independent body which makes sure public money is spent efficiently) has carried out an appraisal of the readiness of the third sector to undertake widespread public service delivery. The study was due to be published last month but Senscot has heard from someone ‘in the loop’ that the findings are not very complimentary and it has been dispatched to the long grass for a while. In recent times politicians and the sector leaders have colluded in overstating the capacity of the social enterprise sector. This does us no favours and could jeopardise our long-term work. Many of us can still remember how the hype of the 1970s and 80s held our movement back twenty years. I wrote a piece on the topic in last Friday’s Regeneration and Renewal:

Someone who agrees with my concern with the hype is Patrick Butler, editor of Society Guardian. In a recent piece called ‘Too much faith in third sector fizz’ he says, “Ministers should not underestimate the resistance of statutory authorities to the third sector. Service contracts at local level are the stuff of real politics: job losses, personal feuds, professional rivalry, turf wars, and budget squeezes.” 

Since the launch of Senscot in Jan 1999 there have been six ministers with the ‘communities’ portfolio: Wendy Alexander, Jackie Baillie, Iain Gray, Margaret Curran, Malcolm Chisholm and now Rhona Brankin. Don’t know anyone who knows our new minister, but the general murmuring in the press suggests that she hasn’t ‘set the heather on fire’. What is interesting is the letter from Jack McConnell setting out the priorities of her portfolio. The third sector/social enterprise agenda is still very low in Scottish political consciousness. Most discouraging.

Consultants EKOS have completed an evaluation for the Scottish Executive of the Futurebuilders Scotand Programme – but it has not yet been published. To an invited audience in December a presentation was made of key findings, which included high customer satisfaction with the Scottish Social Entrepreneurs Fund administered by Scotland UnLtd. This reflects a growing awareness of the benefits of supporting the efforts of ‘live wire’ individuals with ideas to improve their communities. Help at an early ‘pre-start-up’ stage is found to be particularly effective.

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but submit jobs and events and we’ll post them on our site. See This week: 

JOBS: 26 vacancies, incl. posts with: Changeworks, Space Unlimited, Caithness Heat and Power Ltd, Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Fairbridge, Shelter Scotland,

The Bridges Programmes are currently recruiting for their ‘training for work’ pilot with Glasgow city council which will commence early next year:

EVENTS:12 events, incl. ‘Sustaining Ecosystems’ CHE course starts Glasgow, 29 Jan; Social Added Value Information Session, Inverness, 14 Feb; ‘Enterprise lessons for Primary Care Trusts’, London, Feb 22;

The Women in Ethical Business awards, sponsored by Triodos Bank, celebrate the UK’s best female led ethical businesses. Top prize is a £2,500 business support package, and the entry deadline for entries is 31 Jan 2007.  

The Government’s decade-old ‘welfare-to-work’ is under tough review, with a promise to penalise long-term benefit claimants. Anti-poverty campaigners say its scope must include barriers such as skill levels, location and childcare, and issues of job retention and advancement once people are in work – or it could spell “even more severe poverty for Britain’s poorest families”.

Social Firms UK has announced that it is altering the definition of a Social Firm to ‘market-led businesses that are set up specifically to create employment for people disadvantaged in the labour market’. This moves away from the previous focus on creating employment opportunities for disabled people.

Just before Christmas we profiled Dalmuir Community Concierge Service, who tell us they are currently keen to recruit new Board members. See for info.

This week’s bulletin profiles Space Unlimited (SU), a unique initiative in Glasgow bringing young people together with businesses to solve real business problems. Groups of young people between the ages of 12 and 18 work with businesses looking for creative breakthroughs, exploring innovative solutions that will deliver fresh ideas to the business. Clients include British Nuclear Group. BP, Stagecoach, Falkirk Council, BBC and Oracle. Space Unlimited has been awarded £670,992 over five years by the Big Lottery Fund, which will help the organisation to become a sustainable social enterprise. For further info’, see

From ‘Reflexions’ by Max Ehrmann:
“Let me do my work each day; and if the darkened hours of despair overcome me, may I not forget the strength that comforted me in the desolation of other times. May I still remember the bright hours that found me walking over the silent hills of my childhood, or dreaming on the margin of the quiet river, when a light glowed within me.
Let me not follow the clamour of the world, but walk calmly in my path. Give me a few friends who will love me for what I am; and keep ever burning before my vagrant steps the kindly light of hope. And though age and infirmity overtake me, and I come not within sight of the castle of my dreams, teach me still to be thankful for life, and for time’s olden memories that are good and sweet; and may the evening’s twilight find me gentle still”  

That’s all for this week. Good luck with your adventures.

Best wishes.

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Laurence’s book, ‘You’ve Got To Laugh’ is available at Word Power, 43 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh. See: