Senscot Bulletin: 13.05.16

Dear members and friends,
One way I manage day to day anxiety – is to imagine the worst that could happen in any situation – how I’d cope; then I’m more relaxed.  This was the spirit in which I approached, this week, a new novel called ‘the Mandibles’ – about the USA with a totally collapsed economy.  It’s by Lionel Shriver, set in the future (2029-2047) looking at how quickly civil society unravels when there’s no money.  America becomes a brutal police state; everyone of working age has a chip embedded in their neck – every financial transaction is monitored – sounds grim.  I haven’t yet decided to read this book – but here’s Alan Massie’s review.  I need to determine that the ending offers some hope – my condition for any story.


            A post-apocalyptic tale which made a huge impression on me was ‘the Road’ by Cormac McCarthy (2006) – emotionally shattering.  Some unspecified cataclysm has destroyed all animal and plant life on our planet – a grey ash covers and pollutes everything; the few surviving humans are feral – civilisation has collapsed.  Through this ravaged landscape, a man and a boy move south – there privations sometimes so terrible as to make death preferable.  But the main message of McCarthy’s novel is one of redemption; that no matter how bad things can become – there will always be those who ‘carry the fire’ of humanity – that kindness and hope will always endure because they are deep within us.  I find it helpful to imagine the worst that could happen – but I must have a happy ending


The expectations which the SNP, and the Scottish public, have invested in Nicola Sturgeon personally are unrealistic and cruelly unfair; during this election, I looked with sadness at a woman exploited by her own extraordinary popularity and leadership. There is also the danger which long periods in high office pose to mental health – even the most stable personalities start to believe they’re ‘different’ from ordinary mortals – can walk on water. There’s lovely wee poem by Norman McCaig – ‘A Leader of Men’ – a very ‘Scottish’ put down. I have only respect and admiration for Nicola (and sympathy); I hope that by 2021 she can escape her ‘imprisonment’ for a more normal life – ‘out of the swell of the sea’.


On Saturday, ‘Good Morning Scotland’ featured an interview with Tricia Marwick – the retired speaker of our parliament.  Apparently she’s a working class girl – who didn’t go the university route – but I was most impressed with her command and commitment to the protocols of Holyrood – which are still evolving.  Marwick was very candid about the failure of the Parliament’s committees to adequately scrutinise legislation – having been intentionally rendered impotent by the majority SNP administrations.  She also deplores the needless nastiness of parliamentary exchanges.


The new Green MSP Andy Wightman has served his time as campaigner and activist in our civil society – particularly in the areas of land reform and local democracy, he is a pathfinder.  Bravely he has now entered the ‘showbiz’ arena of media politics where – if his patience holds – he is set to become a playmaker (informed, intelligent, articulate).  Wightman’s 2014 report ‘Renewing Local Democracy in Scotland’ could become the thrust of an early Green/SNP collaboration.


I pretty much got the election result I wanted – the SNP for independence, stiffened by the more radical Greens.  There are another 2 or 3 Greens I could name who would have improved our parliament – and the election of the likes of Cat Boyd and Jean Urquhart from RISE would have acknowledged their efforts to unite Scotland’s radical left.  This is Cat’s regular column in the National which speaks frankly of deep disappointment – but also of impressive resilience.

Several times, over the years, I’ve mentioned the village of Marinaleda, in Spain’s Andalucia; it runs on communist principles and I find its housing policy particularly inspiring. Anyone wishing to build themselves a house is provided with a generous plot – free; all building materials and specialist labour are also provided free by the Town Hall. You’ll be expected to pay a permanent monthly rent (currently 15 euros) and you can never sell your property for personal profit (asset locked). They regard a home as a place to live – the right of everyone – not a measure of escalating personal wealth.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: The Melting Pot, WorkingRite, The Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Impact Arts (Projects) Ltd, Stepping Stones for Families, Craigshill Good Neighbour Network, West Lothian Social Enterprise Network
EVENTS: Fundraising: Make it Happen, 18 May; Liveable Lives and Kinder Communities, 19 May; 2 Million Voices: Listening, Learning and Leading Change, 26 May; In Focus: Legacies, 8 Jun;
TENDERS: Evaluator required for heritage project – Culture NL Ltd, Sport & Leisure Provision – Stirling Council, Fresh Fruit and Veg Collaborative Framework – North Ayrshire Council, Provision of Catering Services – Crossreach and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes:  Between 10th – 16th July, the Homeless World Cup (HWC) will be taking place in George Square in Glasgow.  Senscot is working in partnership with HWC, to host a series of workshops – showcasing sport social enterprises and other community-based sports organisations and the contribution they make to local communities – not just in the area of sport but also on the wider social impact they bring to their respective communities. This programme will run alongside series of seminars hosted by HWC itself – both to be held in Glasgow City Chambers – during the week of the tournament. In an interview this week, Mel Young (HWC President) speaks of the impact that sport can make in changing people’s lives and how, in his new role as chair of sportscotland, he hopes to “ make politicians and government join the dots between sport and health and education. To build on a community programme that embraces participation for all, from the grassroots up”.


This Sunday (15th May), TEDxPortobello will be running its second event on the theme – ‘Find Us Here’ –
all about connecting to place, neighbours and communities. The TEDx model is a programme of local, self-organised events which focus on an interdisciplinary transfer of knowledge. Speakers this year include Mike Small (Editor of Bella Caledonia); Kenneth Hogg (Director for Local Govt and Communities at Scottish Govt); and Megan Davey (The Roslin Institute) amongst others. Tickets for the event sold out within 24 hours but live streaming is available from local venues or online. All details etc available on their website


In 2008, the last ferry services between the UK and Norway ceased (Newcastle to Stavanger). A reader brings out attention to an ambitious initiative to get the ferry link up and running again – but this time as a co-operative – a ‘people’s ferry service‘. On the topic of community initiatives, GlenWyvis Community Benefit Company has been in touch with an update on their community share offer for their community-owned distillery. They have reached £500k mark in just under three weeks and are now offering a ‘shares and rewards’ scheme to anyone living in the Inverness (IV) postcode area.


Social Investment Scotland (SIS) picked up a another gong last week in London at the Social Investment Awards for its Community Capital Fund – providing smaller and more affordable loans to 7 social enterprises from funds raised via 27 private investors. Congratulations all round. Alastair Davies (SIS CEO) also took the opportunity last week to offer a ‘snapshot’ of their work and the social investment scene in Scotland. Since 2001, SIS has made almost 300 social investments (around £50m) – with, interestingly, one third being made to organisations in the Highland and Islands area. Alastair also re-affirms SIS’s commitment to supporting the growth and development of ‘community-led solutions’.


This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise that is seeking to address some of the difficulties that families experience in explaining dementia to younger family members. The Ally Bally Bee Project is on a mission to create a personalised children’s book about dementia – in the hope of making such conversations a little easier. Dementia can create some very challenging situations for families and it can be difficult to know how much to explain to a child. Children may find it a relief to know a grandparent’s strange behaviour is part of an illness and not directed at them. The ‘personalised book’ is now going through a series of edits – with help from children’s book editors, dementia nurses, carers and families affected by dementia – and is expected to be ready for Christmas 2016.


The actress and singer Bette Midler tweeted this quote alongside a picture of a ranting Donald Trump; it’s from Joseph Heller’s epic 1961 novel Catch 22; Crunch.


“It was miraculous.  It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honour, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice.  Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all.  It merely required no character”


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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