Senscot Bulletin: 12.05.17

Dear members and friends,

Ever since I can remember, there’s been a rebel voice in my head which says –‘logic is misleading – things are not as they seem’.  For this reason, I’m probably less bothered than most by the present political turbulence; the voice says: ‘This is the just the way it is – old systems die and are replaced by new ones.’  In general, my personal philosophy moves towards a taoist ‘doing not doing’; increasingly I include the option – ‘what would happen if I do nothing?’
Current weather has me in the garden most days – an obscure prompting, ‘that if I could once understand the common clay of earth, I should understand everything’. Presently trying to outwit ‘convolvulus arvensis’ (field bindweed) – an aggressive twining/smothering weed which has invaded and conquered my flowerbeds.  This challenge illustrates for me the classic Buddhist dilemma – patient, non-violent co-existence or chemical weed killers – which I hate.
            My front garden overlooks the ‘common green’ of our hamlet – a neighbour’s boy, one year old Joseph, offers a regular distraction from my garden labours.  Assisting his early efforts to walk – I’m enchanted by a solemnity in his eyes which can only be ‘astonishment at the universe’; the smallness of the hand gripping my finger is almost scary – supernatural; aware again of an unfathomable respect for young children – for the ‘wonder’ they feel.  The gravity of this wee face, more touching than any humility, I regard as one of the bonds that holds the cosmos together; gives me great hope for all things.


I’m a keen admirer of Jeremy Corbyn – of both his politics and character; the overwhelming choice of Labour Party membership (twice) – he’s probably the most honest senior politician this country has produced – yet he is relentlessly vilified by the established vested interests of the UK media. Many readers, like myself, have been particularly skunnered by the Guardian’s betrayal of Corbyn. Interesting feature (too long) in the online Buzzfeed News, about the rise of the alternative-left British media; a small group of hyper-partisan media outlets which have quietly built enormous audiences on Facebook; – mostly in just two years – with relentlessly pro-Corbyn coverage; titles like the Canary, Evolve Politics, Another Angry Voice etc. This is largely a story about the power of Facebook to reach targeted audiences – how this is impacting on alternative journalism.


All credit to Ruth Davidson – a formidable politician who got her vote out – to such an extent that a Tory surge has reconfigured Scottish politics.  Ironically though, she’ll be an easier target for the SNP than Labour were – when they both voiced pretensions of social democracy; Davidson can’t avoid the fact that she is a wholly owned outpost of a right-wing Brexit govt. led by Theresa May.  As Iain Macwhirter writes (our best political commentator) “Ruth Davidson may be a breath of fresh air, but the Tory party remains a bastion of right wing halitosis”.  I’m going to wait till after the general election to check the health of Indyref 2.


Increasingly, scientific research confirms that people who endure adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) – like trauma, abuse, neglect etc – are much more likely to suffer physical or mental illness in later life.  This articleis about a film now on release called Resilience – which asserts that prolonged toxic stress in childhood can knock twenty years off your life. Because this is becoming predictable, it argues, it is preventable – if we respond urgently to young children showing signs of distress.  This piece in TFN says that 19 young people every day are let down by Scotland’s underfunded mental health services.


Holyrood’s Local Govt. and Communities Committee has put out a general call for new ideas on how to tackle homelessness.  ‘Build more social housing’ is an obvious and valid response – but I remember a blog from Big Issue co-founder Mel Young – which movingly distinguishes between being houseless and homeless – alluding to a psychological homelessness; when someone has no ‘sense of belonging’ to refer to – a roof alone doesn’t work. When Big Issue vendors numbered many hundreds of people sleeping rough across Scotland – the most striking statistic was that the overwhelming majority had suffered adverse childhood experiences – the damage still playing out in their lives. 


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Community Land Scotland, Loch Arthur Camphill Community, Mull and Iona Community Trust, Children Inc East Lothian, RAMH, Impact Arts (Projects) Ltd, Wasps Studios, Re-Union Canal Boats,
EVENTS: Carluke on the Run 2017, 21 May; Social Enterprise: Start-up Awareness, 24 May; Supporting Communities Through Social Enterprise: Bringing Your Ideas To Life, 1 Jun;
TENDERS: Recycling and Treatment of Kerbside Collected Co-mingled Organic Waste – North Lanarkshire Council; JCT 2016 Framework Agreement (FA) for Minor Works – South Lanarkshire Council; Provision of Fresh Fruit & Vegetables – Aberdeenshire Council and more. See Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Senscot’s AGM took place yesterday in Glasgow – with attendees hearing five forthright contributions on the opportunities and challenges presented by our SE Action Plan. All speakers welcomed the ambition of the Action Plan – and as a springboard for the next phase of SE development in Scotland. To do so, however, it must genuinely reach out to and bring benefit to those on the ‘frontline’ working in our most deprived areas and most disadvantaged members of our communities. There were also areas of specific concern – such as: Introduction of ‘Buy Social’ into Scotland; the cult of ‘leadership’; the make-up and role of ‘Reference Group’; Third Sector Division funding for ‘mission-led’ orgs; and the support infrastructure – is it convoluted and over-hyped? On the home front, welcome to John Halliday – our newest Board member – and a big thank you to John Findlay – who steps down after 7 years’ sterling service.


We are all aware how ongoing austerity budgets are reducing the level of public services – downsizing the public realm; but I suspect most of us assume these cutbacks are temporary – will soon return to normal – not so. The Tories have committed to reducing state expenditure from current 38% of GDP – to 36% by 2020 – this compares to Germany’s 44% and Denmark’s 50% etc. Polly Toynbee and David Walker have written a new book: “Dismembered; how the attack on the state harms us all”. I don’t expect much new – a left-prejudiced view of the direction the English have chosen for our democracy – the dire consequences; and if Toynbee’s true to form – it’ll all be Corbyn’s fault.


Community Enterprise, this year, celebrated 30 years of supporting and promoting social and community enterprise in Scotland – or, as they say, “30 years of Giving a Toss”. A great, recent example of the impact of its work has just seen around £10m in funding being committed to local community organisations – all supported by Community Enterprise’s own Development Team. These recent examples include a re-vitalised community centre in Stranraer; the re-opening of an art deco, community-owned cinema in Tranent; and the re-vitalisation of a community-controlled anchor organisation in the Broomhouse area of Edinburgh.


News this week of an initiative that could become an exemplar for community-led approaches to development in our local communities. Neilston Development Trust (NDT) has announced that it is to sell its share (28%) in the local wind-farm – raising approximately £2m – using the proceeds to establish a charitable fund. This Fund will invest locally to support facilities, services, jobs and other community activities. A few factors have influenced their decision – changes in oil/gas prices; costs of loans; loss of certain subsidies –  and NDT believes it has made the right move for the longer-term benefit of the community. As NDT states in its press release: “ The windfarm was not a risk free investment – but, by selling our share, funds are now guaranteed and available to support the sustainable development of our community”. See Herald story.


This week’s bulletin profiles a group of cafés run as social firms by the RNIB Scotland. Café Tiki has three outlets – in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Falkirk – that provide training and employment opportunities for local people with sight or hearing loss or other additional needs – helping them to learn new skills and find work. The three cafés are operated in partnership with a series of partners including Action on Hearing Loss Scotland; Glasgow City Council; and Forth Valley Sensory Centre. All cafes are fully accessible as well as free internet access.


This week Iain Macwhirter tweeted comment on Brexit by France’s new President Macron; I wonder if this is clear enough for Prime Minister May.


"Britain must understand that our interest is to have clear rules. So, if Britain wants to trade with Europe, it has to choose a model, such as the Swiss, Norwegian or Canadian. We have to accept that there will be losses – but it’s the British who will lose the most.  You cannot enjoy rights in Europe if you are not a member – otherwise it will fall apart.  Europe is what has enabled us since 1945, in an unprecedented way, to preserve peace, security, freedom and prosperity in our continent; the British are making a serious mistake over the long term…..  Both politically and financially, we now see British realignment and submission to the US.  What is going to happen is not ‘taking back control’: it’s servitude."


That’s all for this week.


Best wishes,




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