Senscot Bulletin: 12.07.13

Dear members and friends,

 I welcome the news that Canongate is reissuing William McIlvanney’s three Laidlaw novels.  Rather than the plots, I remember, the books for their examination of the soul of Glasgow and its people.  McIlvanney hails from Kilmarnock – as a convert to Glasgow he has always loved the city.  He made Laidlaw a cop because he wanted to write about someone with access to the city’s dark underbelly.  As a result he achieved for Glasgow what my old pal Raymond Chandler did for Los Angeles; gave it its fictional identity.
 The trilogy is credited as the forerunner of our flourishing ‘tartan noir’ output – but its scope is more ambitious – nuanced by McIlvanney’s specialism – the nature of Scottish identity.  It’s true there’s the detective, mean streets, acts of ruinous violence, mystery, chases etc; but Laidlaw’s interrogation of witnesses is secondary; his primary investigation is how we can live honourably in a godless world: ‘All we have is each other – and if we’re orphans – all we can honourably do is adopt one another; we share in everyone else, or we forego ourselves.’
 In spite of the inclusive values he lives by – Laidlaw is a solitary figure.  His wife gives up on him at the end of book 2 – his lover by the end of the third.  We leave him in a bedsit – a father by appointment only; not friendless, but backed into a corner.  Perhaps McIlvanney has a short story left in him; a few compassionate pages to rescue Jack Laidlaw.

Particularly in our work with The SENs – Senscot enjoys being part of Scotland’s SE community; but we also feel passionate about local empowerment.  The UK Party System churns out politicians who believe in ‘the fix’ (or they don’t get selected).  Every instinct in ‘the fixer mindset’ – resists democratic renewal; apart from possibly the Greens – none of the Scottish parties intends to ’empower’ communities – not really; too unpredictable – unfixable.  It’s mainly the vested interest of sitting politicians which prevents change.  But in spite of this blockage – the 21st century has already seen advances for the community sector.  Alex Walker from Findhorn captures this optimism in an excellent recent paper.  See,

From 878 interviews (72 in Scotland) SEUK has published a useful snapshot of our sector called ‘The People’s Business’.  I always feel that SEUK’s comment is unnecessarily diminished by hype – and again their estimate of 70,000 SEs is exaggerated.  Allowing 10% for Scotland – the estimate of 7,000 is too high; depending on how hard you look – you may find between 4/5 thousand.  But even allowing for SE UK’s habitual over enthusiasm – the report offers an encouraging picture – worth scanning it main findings.  Senscot has long argued that the social investment products offered by the govt’s Big Society Capital – are only of interest to around 10% of social enterprises; the report confirms this.  These are the 10% with a a viable business model – who can use any bank; so what is BSC for, exactly.  See, 

One of Senscot’s more fruitful news streams is Civil Society e-News – good staff journalists.  One of them, Tania Mason, has been investigating funding for ‘the Tory party’s favourite charity’ – ‘sweetheart’ deals for their old pal Martyn Rose at Big Society Network.  The shadow minister Gareth Thomas, is asking questions in the House – the level of arrogance which this episode reveals is quite extraordinary – friends of the govt. exempted from normal funding protocols.  See,

The Citizens Advice Bureaux (CABs) enjoy widespread respect in our communities; not explicitly a campaigning organisation – but not afraid to tell it as it is, on the front line.  Margaret Lynch, CEO of Citizens Advice Scotland said this week "Scottish CAB advisers, in just 3 months saw nearly 300 people who literally could not afford to feed themselves that day."  The survey below suggests that most families suffering food poverty rely on schools to feed the children.  See,

Alston Moor in Cumbria, with one SE for every 55 households, won the Social Enterprise Town award, I asked last week if anywhere in Scotland could beat this.  A reader wrote: "I notice that Alston Moor is a parish rather than a town, and if you are including parishes then Findhorn has a total population of 885 and 434 households and I am guessing that if you exclude small voluntary projects and micro-businesses with social aims but no asset lock as such and include only genuine organisations there are about one for every twenty five households.  There may be more but it’s quite an exercise to keep up with them all."  He sent a page (linked) explaining the Findhorn setup – which I found inspiring.  Surely this is the UKs most ‘social’ local economy.  See,

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  This week:
JOBS: Edinburgh University Students’ Association, Loganlea Miners Welfare Charitable Society, Kirknewton Community Development Trust, DTA Scotland, Forth Sector
EVENTS: Bruncheon! featuring The Sound of Muesli, 13 Jul; Sleepless ’til Seattle – illustrated adventure talk, 30 Aug; Social Capital World Forum 13, 4 Sep;
TENDERS: Govanhill Backcourt and Environmental Improvement Project in Glasgow and Supply of Befriending Services in Orkney. For more details, see

NETWORKS 1st: Kim writes:  The next Health SEN meeting on the 18th July will focus on The Public Bodies (Joint Working) Bill which was introduced by the Scottish Parliament on 28 May 2013. To help understand the bill and last year’s responses to the consultation by third sector organisations, we’ve invited Claire Stevens, Voluntary Health Scotland to lead the discussion on the transition of Health and Social Care Integration.  This is an opportunity for social enterprises to get a better understanding of where this legislation is leading us.  Social Enterprises, working in health, that are interested in attending the meeting should contact  For more Networks News, see

The mission of Senscot Legal – our wholly owned subsidiary – is to "provide affordable quality legal services’ for SEs and the Scottish third sector.  After only two years trading, the company has moved into profit (just); it has evolved a financial model that works – and will now seek to extend the service. As the dozen linked testimonials indicate – Karina MacRitchie is building a strong reputation around the networks. 

I always enjoy the Development Trust movement’s annual gathering – like our own ceilidh it’s for people doing the ‘grunt work’ – out in communities – where the rubber meets the road.  DTAS have now opened the booking for their event which is on 1st & 2nd September at the Westerwood Hotel & Conference Centre, Cumbernauld.  See,

A Dutch social enterprise – set up to produce mobile phones ethically – has received 10,000 pre-orders in one month.  Fairphone has tapped into widespread concern – that the production methods of the technology giants exploit both workers and the environment.  This kind of ‘disruptive’ SE will spread.  See,

Profile of the week is of Cantraybridge College near Inverness; a specialist facility where young people with physical and learning disabilities can learn the basic skills they require to live and work in the wider community.  The College believes that everyone has the right to learn, work and live in ways which are true to them; to extend the range of experiences available to students Cantraybridge operates an expanding range of social enterprises.  Good feel from the website.  See

Another Charles Bukowski gem.  The Laughing Heart.  If you’re a Tom Waits fan – the link is to him reading this very poem.
 "Your life is your life – don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.  Be on the watch.  There are ways out.  There is light somewhere. It may not be much light but it beats the darkness.  Be on the watch. The gods will offer chances.  Know them.  Take them.  You can’t beat death – but you can beat death in life – sometimes.  And the more often you learn to do it, the more light there will be.   Your life is your life.  Know it while you have it.  You are marvellous – the gods wait to delight in you."

That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,


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Senscot is a Company, registered in Scotland. Company Reg No. 278156: Scottish Charity No. SC 029210