Senscot Bulletin: 12.08.16

Dear members and friends,

Because I hear and walk badly – I appear generally more decrepit than I am. In company I can struggle to follow the conversation – struggle to get out of a chair; sometimes the sense of being compelled to play an ‘old man’ part not belonging to me. Although not as doddery as I appear, it’s true that the arrangements of ordinary living take ever more effort, patience, willpower. There have apparently been ‘civilisations’ which expected their aged to wander off into a snowdrift – vanish forever. Thankfully I still feel some distance from ‘the end’ – but I sometimes wonder how coercive this practice was. My sense is that most old people know when they’ve had enough – that it’s their relatives who cling on. 

            In the external world, I continue to be absorbed by the impact of Jeremy Corbyn on British politics. The Labour leader openly admires the street movements of Latin America; were he to leave Britain, he says, it would be for Evo Morales’ Bolivia. Awareness spreads that this is a man with a project more long term than an election victory; parliamentary success would be nice but not essential; they’re building a social movement. In this Sunday Herald piece, Iain MacWhirter makes a good case that Corbyn has already transformed our politics. His 10 pledges (now endorsed by challenger, Owen Smith) consign the Blair years to history. The outrage of the establishment media towards Corbyn stems from the realisation that the 30 year Thatcherite consensus is now unravelling. These are hopeful times.


Earlier this year, the much respected Al Jazeera channel carried an online feature about starkly divided educational opportunity in Scotland The article used Freedom of Information requests to Glasgow University and Polmont Young Offenders Institution – to reveal that in some parts of Glasgow a child is more likely to end up in prison than university; these actual numbers from actual places are dramatic. Unequal access to higher education is hard evidence of the deep inequality which shames Scotland. Our political leaders are right to identify ‘closing the attainment gap’ as our country’s top priority; I wish I was convinced that the task has been measured; that someone knows what to do. Over 80% of our MSPs are university graduates – how many of them have even walked the meaner streets of our cities, let alone survived there.


Still on education, the Tories announced their intention last week to introduce measures (in England) to widen the attainment gap, by bringing back the 11 plus and grammar schools. Paul Mason (grammar schoolboy) writes a revealing piece saying that by mid-century half existing jobs will be susceptible to automation; that the type of person typically produced by uniformed, coercive schooling will be ill-equipped for coming technological turbulence.


If Corbyn is confirmed as Labour leader; if his ‘pledges’ morph into a popular manifesto; if Scottish Labour joins the Corbyn uprising – then our political landscape would shift. Alex Salmond enjoyed attacking New Labour from the left – but Corbyn is way left of SNP. With even Theresa May saying that taxation is the price we pay to live in a civilised society – the SNP may want to nudge the tiller to port. I know there are lots of ‘ifs’ here – but the point is the extraordinary and exciting potential for change.


In the 1960s I bought Leonard Cohen’s first LP – I can still remember some of the lyrics of ‘Suzanne’: But he was too free a spirit for my then view of the world – we parted; in recent years his voice has again caught my interest – as an old guy reflecting on life. Cohen was in the news recently for a short letter he wrote to his one-time muse, Marianne Ihlen (So Long Marianne). He wrote frankly about her impending death – and his own, not far behind. I find it remarkable that his letter is considered remarkable – simply because it speaks directly of death. Reluctance to speak of death is the major taboo of our times. Here’s Albert Camus’ take.


The USA weekly online mag YES reports an emerging campaign to persuade Americans to BankBlack. Partly in response to recent police shooting of black men and boys – opening savings accounts in African American owned banks and credit unions is seen as a way of expressing solidarity with black communities. One senses the immense latent power of ‘solidarity banking’. The third sector in Scotland has long aspired to create financial institutions owned by and serving the social economy. Pauline Hinchion of SCRT comments:

“One of SCRT’s primary goals has been to see if we, as a sector, could pool our money. This could lead to far greater social impact when we use it to show solidarity with others and reinvest it in our communities.”


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

JOBS: The Church of Scotland, Clydesdale Community Initiatives, Inverkip Community Initiative, Kingdom Housing Association, GalGael Trust, Tailor Ed Foundation, The Larder West Lothian

EVENTS: Stories of Origin: Annemarie Murland: Exhibition, 20 Aug; The Scottish Land Reform Conference 2016 – What Next for Land Reform, 23 Sep; Scottish Rural Parliament 2016, 08 Oct;

TENDERS: Electrical testing and associated works – Clydesdale Housing Association Ltd; Collection, Reuse, Recycling, Treatment and Disposal of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment – Glasgow City Council…and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes: Over the autumn, Scottish Govt will be publishing a 10 year strategy for social enterprise in Scotland. The strategy will have been co-produced with the sector itself – building on the Vision 2025 document published last year. The strategy will identify priorities, initiatives and timescales that can help SE make an increasing contribution to local communities across Scotland. An important element in this will obviously come from the role of local Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs) – who have a ‘supporting social enterprise’ function within their core remit. Earlier this year, Scottish Govt commissioned an evaluation of TSIs – a move welcomed particularly by those SENs not currently supported by their TSI. This process, we understand, is coming to an end and its findings are eagerly awaited – both in clarifying their role in supporting SE locally as well as their ongoing relationship with local SENs.


Bulletin reader, Brian McLeod (from Skerray), writes to tell us of a book he has recently had published –

Where I eat my Bread – Stories of In-migration to the Highlands and Islands ”. The book is a compilation of stories from migrants or immigrants – demonstrating how they bring new ideas, energy and cultural vitality to any community. Brian has recorded a series of stories over the past year and as he says, “migration is an ordinary enough event but there are some extraordinary stories in this collection”. Brian’s book is available at Waterstone’s (Inverness) as well as via Amazon. Here’s a review.


Since Big Society Capital’s (BSC) launch in the 2011, this bulletin has wasted enough column inches bemoaning its irrelevance to our sector; a recent report confirms that 74% of charities and SEs seem to agree – which is hardly surprising. The question now becomes – ‘what can be done about this’ – and the answer is ‘not a lot’. The Tory Govt. is quite content that its ‘social bank’ regards the third sector as just another asset class for the money markets. If they don’t want loans, invent vague terms like ‘profit with purpose’ – promote private companies wearing a social figleaf. Thankfully BSC’s impact in Scotland in minimal.


‘Profit with purpose’ is also the strapline of the Social Stock Exchange (SSX) which announced this week that it is opening a branch in Glasgow. SSX, launched down south in 2013, is a Big Society Capital initiative. Pauline Hinchion (SCRT) met with them recently. Here’s Pauline’s take on the SSX. One of the its current members, Oikocredit, is hosting investor meetings on Thurs 8th Sept in Edinburgh. Oikocredit is an international co-operative that provides loans and other investments to microfinance institutions, co-ops and fairtrade orgs in developing countries. For more info, contact


This week’s bulletin re-visits an organisation first ‘profiled’ back in 2009. Giraffe Trading, based in Perth, is a subsidiary of the charity CheckIn Works and offers a range of different training and work development streams for people experiencing long-term and enduring disabilities. Back in 2009, Giraffe was operating two social enterprises in Perth. Today this number has increased to six – which include two city centre cafes, an outside catering and food production kitchen, lunch club and two garden centres and a wholesale plant nursery. All their ventures are designed to provide vocational training, work experience and lifeskills support


I find the writings of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh a constant source of comfort;

This links to pages of quotations from his books:

“When you are a young person, you are like a young river, and you meet many rocks, many obstacles and difficulties on your way. You hurry to get past these obstacles and get to the ocean. But as the river moves down through the fields, it becomes larger and calmer and it can enjoy the reflection of the sky. It’s wonderful. You will arrive at the sea anyway so enjoy the journey. Enjoy the sunshine, the sunset, the moon, the birds, the trees, and the many beauties along the way. Taste every moment of your daily life.”

That’s all for this week.

Best wishes,


Subscribe to this bulletin: