Senscot Bulletin: 12.11.10

Dear members and friends,

On Wednesday, I’m booked into St John’s hospital (Livingston) for an operation; they’ve got a new piece of kit called a green light laser which, I’m told, will vaporise a new irrigation channel through my enlarged prostate. The thing I’m most scared of is the general anaesthetic – in case I don`t wake up – which is silly really – `cos you wouldn’t even know. The procedure itself, I`m assured, is routine these days – keyhole surgery – home next day. But my pal Shona, who’s a staff nurse, begs to differ – says I`m too casual about it – that getting chunks cut off the prostate is not trivial – can have nasty consequences. “But sometimes I have difficulty peeing” I say. “Maybe that’s preferable to peeing every time you cough.” She says. “That`s not funny,” I smile – but she doesn`t smile back – so when in doubt consult Google. Now I know all about benign prostate hyperplasia and transurethral resection – but I wish I didn’t – too much information – more to worry about.
 Some years ago I watched a televised `Audience with Billy Connolly` where he did a skit lampooning incontinence pants. I remember thinking, no – that`s too cruel, he’s overreached himself this time; but it worked – like the rest of the audience, I was sore laughing. Connolly`s instinct is right – humour is a great human release; though I’ll need to be careful for a while – laughing too much can cause wee accidents.

Lesley Riddoch, the broadcaster – along with politicians Alex Neil (SNP) and Johann Lamont (Labour) were speaking at the annual gathering of the GWS Forum on Friday; I went along to find out which of them understands the importance of community-owned housing associations – as `anchor` organisations for community empowerment. Lesley Riddoch gets it totally – a true zealot of Localism – ( I’m sure we’ll hear more from her in our movement). But neither of the politicians has really embraced local empowerment – not enough to go out on a limb for it. Whether Labour or SNP win the Scottish election in May won’t much effect the decentralisation of power – change will need to come from the bottom up. Some aspects of the community sector are flourishing, but there is a lack of cohesion. It might be time to convene a formal community sector alliance – to draw the movement together. Here’s Lesley Riddoch giving it laldy.

Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett`s book “The Spirit Level” argued that the more unequal the society, the more unhappy, disturbed and violent it is. It’s no surprise that the free market Right reacted angrily to this message and has sought to undermine its credibility. In this week’s New Statesman, Wilkinson and Pickett respond to their critics. Well worth a read – revealing stats.

News this week that SIS and Triodos are teaming up to offer a new one-stop, loan package for third sector organisations looking to purchase property. The package would see Triodos lending up to 70 per cent of the value of a property and SIS providing the additional 30 per cent. This new initiative will initially have up to £5million available. For more, see

Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Harry Burns, gave this speech recently in which he says that low levels of social capital is as much a factor in short life expectancy in poor areas of Scotland as diet, smoking etc. He calls his remedy the Assets Approach – promoting community networks that can provide caring and empowerment. Assist Social Capital, along with Senscot, has been lobbying Scottish Govt for years about this but hasn’t been able to find any civil servants who understand the concept. Scotland lags way behind the rest of Europe in the use of social capital theory in shaping policy.

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See . This week: 
JOBS: Glasgow Homelessness Network, Advocacy Matters (Greater Glasgow), Izzy’s Promise, Garvald Edinburgh, Advocacy Matters, Route 81 Youth Project Ltd, Argyll & Bute Social Enterprise Network EVENTS: Compassionate Living Fayre Edinburgh, 20 Nov; EVOLVE workshops, 23 Nov; Follow the Thread Storytelling Session, 26 Nov; The Write Way to the Wild Woman, 27 Nov;
TENDERS: Short Break and Respite Services for Adults – Bearsden, UK-Edinburgh: apparatus for sound, video-recording and reproduction, Business Support to the Enterprising Third Sector

NETWORKS 1st:  Colin writes: The first of three Govt contracts to support the Third Sector in Scotland was advertised this week. This first contract (worth up £3m over two years) is seeking a contractor to market and deliver business support and development services. They are looking for consortia bids with a closing date of 16th Dec 2010. Whilst best value is clearly a key criterion, it would have been good to have a similarly unequivocal commitment to the principle of community/social and environmental factors in the decision-making process. The awarding of this contract (along with the other two) will have a huge bearing on the sector’s ability to mature and grow over the coming years. See details, If you’re interested in getting the PQQ (Pre-qualification questionnaire), contact
For more Networks News, see

Community RECYCLING Network Scotland (CRNS), this week, has undergone a bit of a makeover. As well as launching their new website, they have also adopted a new name – Community RESOURCES Network Scotland (but still CRNS). A slight but significant change but one that better reflects the wide variety of resource management activities that their members deliver. As Pauline Hinchion (CEO) says, “We’re not just about recycling; we’re also about re-use, waste prevention, education & awareness. It builds on our belief that there are benefits to communities if they become more resource efficient, and that communities have a big role to play in a strong resource economy.” For more, see

Next week in Westminster, a Private Members Bill will be tabled, titled "Public Services (Social Enterprise and Social Value)". If successful (most aren`t), this bill should make it easier for social enterprises in England to secure contracts to deliver frontline services with an additional social or environmental return. See here Whilst this approach may be as much to do with the UK Govt`s desire to reduce the role of the state, our approach in Scotland has been to call on the future Scottish Govt to make Community Benefit Clauses the norm in public sector procurement practice. This is one of the three key points in our Coalition’s recently published Manifesto. See here,

The process of innovation – how people come up with original ideas – has always interested me. A reader sent this quote from a book called “The Natural History of Ideas” by Steven Johnson. It feels real to me. “Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down; but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies, frequent coffee houses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle, re-invent.”

This week’s bulletin profiles an emerging social enterprise located in the Leith area of Edinburgh. Greenworks, originally supported by Firstport, provides environmental and salvaged building and landscape supplies for trade and public customers. Amongst the services Greenworks offers are the provision of the green materials, tools, practical skills and workshop space to mobilise others to take on their own projects – from furniture repair/remake to larger scale sustainable construction and landscape projects. For more, see

To celebrate Norman McCaig`s centenary, his pals Aly Bain and Billy Connolly went fishing in his beloved Assynt (Monday BBC 2). I thought the programme beautifully captured the spirit of the man and his work. I’ve chosen Norman’s poem `Small Boy` which Seamus Heaney read in tribute.
“He picked up a pebble and threw it into the sea. And another, and another. He couldn`t stop. He wasn`t trying to fill the sea. He wasn`t trying to empty the beach. He was just throwing away, nothing else but, like a kitten playing, he was practising for the future when there`ll be so many things he`ll want to throw away if only his fingers will unclench and let them go.”

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

Best wishes,


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