Senscot Bulletin: 12.07.19

Dear members and friends,

I love July; the number of folks on holiday eases the pressure at work; Wimbledon on TV and then the Open golf; even some sunshine. But most of all, I love my garden in July – bursting with life and perfumes and birdsong and buzzing insects. I don’t really understand the power of these gardening feelings; it’s not about growing food; I’ve no interest in a “proper” gardener making it spectacular; it’s entirely a personal, hands-dirty encounter – between myself, soil, plant life and lots of squabbling birds. Another factor at play, I’ll call ‘the intelligence of the life force’ – which often overrules my decisions; but in general, the garden is my domain, my dream-view of the world: puts me in a good mood.

My body is now 79 years old – bits wearing out; I still have appetite for the physicality of gardening, but ‘adjustments’ become necessary. My favourite book is the Tao te Ching of Lao Tsu: I find his ‘doing not doing’ (wei wu wei) one of the most compelling paradoxes in philosophy: “Studying and learning daily you grow larger. Following the Way daily you shrink. You get smaller and smaller. So, you arrive at not doing. You do nothing and nothing’s not done”.  ‘Do nothing’ does not mean that we actually do nothing: I think it’s about recognising that everything we need is right in front of us – it’s about seeing what’s there – but differently: seeing that the garden, and my life generally, need less and less tampering from me.


Rural and Islands Housing Funds of £30 million – launched in 2016 – promised to deliver 600 affordable homes by 2021; so far 27 have been completed. Our fear must be, that this dismal underperformance (reported by the Ferret) is reflected across other departments of Scottish Govt.; that austerity has leaked purpose and energy from our public sector. A new book charts the first twenty years of our Parliament, in 77 interviews. Veteran MSP Alex Neil says that Holyrood has not attracted enough independently minded people – that backbench MSPs are mostly ‘nodding heads’ – lacking ‘backbone.’


Although I feel no inclination to engage with social media (generational?) I love its untamed, maverick nature – that it must gradually challenge the control of the billionaire press barons. But this George Monbiot piece, argues that this has not happened – that social media is still manipulated by the media empires.


Citizen’s assemblies, and other forms of ‘mini publics’, can be effective mechanisms for exploring wide consensus – but only if they are considered impartial – particularly from political parties. The launch of Scotland’s proposed assembly was badly managed – too much loose, uninformed comment. Oliver Escobar, (quoted here) understands how to do these things properly. We should give this thing a chance.


I’m the grandson of Italian (economic) immigrants, who came to Scotland in the 1920s – welcomed to make our lives here. This is the ‘ministerial forward’ to a govt. discussion paper – explaining that Scotland has different population needs to the rest of the UK – and needs to manage our own immigration policies.


I take the ‘sanctity of life’ very seriously – but believe with Mr Richard Selley from Perth, that the Scottish Govt. should introduce ‘safe and compassionate legislation’ to allow assisted dying. We leave ‘end of life’ decisions to our doctors; when will out society become ‘grown-up’ enough to make them ourselves.


In his book, ‘It Takes a Lifetime to be Yourself’, Prof. David Donnison reflected on ‘living your dying’:

“I do not want to see death as an enemy coming to me. I want to go to meet my death, not morbidly but in cooperation with the needs of my body and spirit… For each of us our death will be unique. When the time comes, let us meet it with courage and a bit of style”

Both David and his wife Kay Carmichael supported assisted dying: the book’s final chapter, ‘The End’:

“Kay (84) acquired a drug used by the Swiss enterprises that help people to end their lives; when the time came, she drank the draught she had prepared. I sat beside her holding her hand. With grace and gallantry, looking beautiful, she ceased breathing in four minutes”

David (92) himself died in April 2018 – we can assume his own end was no less ‘stylish’.

Over the past two years, we’ve been producing a series of Senscot Briefings, each showcasing the achievements of social enterprise in tackling various social issues in Scotland, such as Dementia, Sport for Change, and Community Tourism. Over the next year, we’ll be moving away from this format and will instead tailor each of our forthcoming publications to the topic. Today, we’re publishing a Factsheet to encourage social enterprises to engage with VisitScotland’s latest themed year: Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters (YCW2020). Themed years are a way for organisations across Scotland to benefit from a shared, international marketing platform which aims to celebrate Scotland’s achievements and increase visitor spend. SEN members can get involved with YCW2020 by hosting events, joining online conversations and forming partnerships with other organisations to celebrate Scotland’s unique shores. Find out more about how to get involved by reading our guide.

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website.

Frontline News: After years of meticulous planning, including a significant amount of input from SEN member Forth Pilgrim, the ‘Fife Pilgrim Way’ officially opened earlier this month. The 64-mile walking route takes in many of Fife’s historical sites, following the route that thousands of people travelled in Medieval times to venerate the shrines of St Margaret in Dunfermline and St Andrew in St Andrews. Read the full story here.

Elsewhere, Health SEN member Talking Mats is hosting a day of learning and sharing to celebrate 21 years of helping people with communication needs. The day will see interactive sessions aimed at licensed trainers, as well as an informal afternoon to network and enjoy a slice of cake with some familiar faces! See details.


SEN members can be boosted by new research which shows that members of the public overwhelmingly trust social enterprises to deliver public services in the UK. The YouGov poll found that 84% of people were already aware that public bodies, including local authorities and NHS boards, regularly subcontract services to other businesses. Crucially, when people were asked who they wanted to deliver these services, 9 out of 10 respondents indicated they would choose social enterprises over private businesses. It’s clear that the public want to see a fairer distribution of public contracts going forward – here’s hoping public bodies in Scotland take research like this into serious consideration. Read the full article here.


A few funding and investment opportunities for SEN members have popped up recently, catering for all shapes and sizes. Firstport’s Social Innovation Competition 2019 is now open for applications. The theme of this year’s competition is individuals affected by disability, with three prizes of £5000 plus support available to the winners. Earlier this week, Social Investment Scotland launched two funding challenges, worth a total of £3.3m. The Step Up challenge will provide financial support ranging from £10,000 up to £100,000, while the Scale Up challenge is aimed at organisations looking for investment between £100,000 and £1m. At the other end of the scale, The Robertson Trust’s new Wee Grants for Wee Groups pilot will offer support packages of between £500 to £2000.


As part of our work exploring the role that community cafés play in social enterprise activity, and following on from last month’s Aberdeen discussion, we hosted a session in partnership with GSEN this week exploring the issues and challenges that social enterprises face in both delivering and resourcing community café activity. There’s a clear appetite to promote valuable learning across the SENs in terms of what has and hasn’t worked. One more session in partnership with Scottish Borders Social Enterprise Chambers later this month and the publication on community cafes will be well underway! For more info contact


This week’s bulletin profiles a social venture set up by two graduates of Edinburgh University who both had experience of volunteering with charities and social enterprises during their student days. On the back of this experience, they established the Social Stories Club which believes that the best way for people to learn about social change is through story-telling The Social Stories Club creates socially-conscious gift boxes that seek to tell stories of the social change being made by the products in the gift boxes. Their core products include the Classic KaleidoBox or – for the business community – the Corporate KaleidoBox.