Senscot Bulletin: 13.11.09

Dear members and friends,

 There’s a weekly feature in the Big Issue where someone sends a letter to their 16 year old self – this set me thinking – so here goes:  Dear Laurence – at 16, you’re too cocky to pay much notice – but here’s some advice from someone who walked your life before you.  First, never underestimate the importance of your family – because they’re the bedrock of who you are.  Equally, hold tight to your friends – they will make or break your happiness.  Find an occupation you love – master it – rewarding work is a great blessing.  Don’t be greedy for money – but disrespect for it is also an imbalance which causes misery.  Beware of ‘the drink’ – it may seem a warm and supportive friend, but from some of us it takes more than it gives.  When you encounter someone who tries to harm you, be determined but not bitter – remember that the vast majority of people are honest and kind.  In particular don’t be cynical about love – if you look around you will see its quiet heroism everywhere.
 With luck, Laurence, you’ll find a partner, to share your life – to grow old with.  But remember, some find fulfilment in solitude – that’s ok too.  Try to nurture strength of spirit – an inner cloister where you can steady yourself whenever things are going ‘pear shaped’.  Finally, follow your instincts. You’re young and fearless, so you’ll likely let rip at life. I certainly did. This means sometimes getting it wrong – but so does everyone – even the beancounters – so go for it. As Kenny Rogers says, “There’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done.”

Both Labour and the Tories told us this week that they want to decentralise the delivery of state services – devolve them to mutuals and communities.  As someone who spent my working life promoting this policy, I feel I’m allowed a rueful smile.  Do they really think it’s that simple?  In the late 1990s – based on the success of Bromley by Bow – Labour set up 250 healthy living centres.  Over 80% no longer exist.  Community empowerment cannot be delivered top down.  It needs to take root among local people – and this takes years. Labour Councils, all across Scotland’s central belt, all but wiped out a whole generation of community leadership – and they did it deliberately.  Now it seems their model is bankrupt. 

The Asset Transfer Unit (ATU) in England has estimated (independent survey) that around 1000 transfers are currently underway of local authority owned assets to Third Sector organisations. This number should translate in Scotland to around 100 – but it is very doubtful if anything like this has been achieved. This disparity reflects a different understanding of what community empowerment involves. Since Quirk, Whitehall has made a serious commitment to asset transfer. Scottish policy prioritises guidance notes on community engagement for local authority staff.

The Trade Union UNITE has alleged that city greed is creeping into the Third Sector – re-igniting the debate about how much the top guns in our big charities should be paid. Some entrepreneurs in the Social Enterprise world face to the Private Sector – aspiring to acquisitions and mergers and expanding emprises (with commensurate salaries). Other entrepreneurs face towards our poorest communities and citizens – attuned to the reality of deprivation. These are different worlds – a clash of cultures. The small Housing Association with 200 units, serving its own community, is taken over – then merged again into a major conglomerate with thousands of houses – the CEO now earns six figures but the community has lost its anchor organisation. Govt policy of course favours fewer, bigger ‘single interfaces’. 

I was in London this week visiting friends – so I went along to the Office of the Third Sector Seminar called: ‘Social Enterprise and Social and Economic Theory’ – I wanted to check out the vibe.  There were 50 participants – 24 universities, but none of them Scottish.   We take for granted the passion which normally attends gatherings of our sector – the chilling objectivity of academe and govt. took me by surprise.  But in spite of myself, I got engaged in concepts – like where social enterprise is located in relation to classic economic theory.  I was particularly impressed by a professor Ash Amin – seems the real thing – I bought his book.

Good article by George Monbiot in the Guardian this week about the demise of local newspapers – which he considers no great loss. Most of them, he argues, exist to amplify the voices of their proprietors and advertisers, and other powerful people with whom they wish to stay on good terms. They contribute to what is known in Mexico as caciquismo: the entrenched power of local elites. This is the real threat to democracy, he says, not the crumpling of the media empires of bigoted millionaires. See,

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but submit jobs and events and we’ll post them on our site. See This week: 
JOBS: Dance Ihayami, The Three Eyes Project, Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland, The Scottish Government, The Big Issue in Scotland, Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland, Community Enterprise, Bethany Christian Trust, Camphill Blair Drummond Trust, Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS Trust, Comas
EVENTS: The Laughter Show with Patrick Monahan & Guests, 14 Nov; Understanding Social Enterprise, 18 Nov; Ethical Enterprise Fair, 21 Nov; Financial Inclusion – Can You Afford Not to?, 18 Nov; Prove, Improve, Account, 25 Nov; Community Market, 28 Nov;

NETWORKS NEWS:  Colin writes: The Social Enterprise Ceilidh is now officially FULL! There is another great line up of speakers from social entrepreneurs Marie Marin (N. Ireland), Paul Smith (Stranraer) and Derek Marshall (Dundee) to the Scottish Government’s Geoff Pearson. The Dragons Den is full, as is Speed Trading and the Market Place. Thursday will see many roads leading to New Lanark; we look forward to seeing you all for another lively gathering! For more Networks News, see

Marie Marin (Employers in Childcare) is one of our guests at next week’s Ceilidh (An Audience with…). Marie is leading the Northern Irish part of the campaign to get the UK Govt to reconsider its proposals to scrap childcare vouchers from April 2011. Over 300,000 working parents currently benefit from this scheme. Support for the campaign is gathering pace across the UK but, so far, there has been little reaction in Scotland! Attached is a letter of support from a number of Labour MPs.  See

‘‘The peak-oilists sometimes sound like those extraordinary Christians with sandwich boards proclaiming that the end of world is nigh’’.  But Madeleine Bunting concludes – that in spite of deliberate evasion by vested interests – the world is indeed running out of oil.  Our present lifestyle is based on an illusion – but our political/economic systems seem unable to face reality. 

Over the years, the bulletin has profiled around 400 existing or emerging social enterprises in Scotland. Every now and then, we are sent ‘updates on progress’. Marie Campbell recently contacted us with an update on the East Camp Trust in Benbecula which was first featured in June 2004. Now renamed, Tagsa Uibhist (Gaelic name) is a thriving community owned and managed Social Economy Park that provides a whole range of services that bring social, recreational, economic and environmental benefit to the community of Benbecula and beyond. See Marie’s update, 

John Cheever`s Journals are so ‘truthful’ that it’s difficult to believe he intended them to be made public – but I’m grateful they were and visit them often. A new Cheever biography has been published but it runs to 770 pages – groan! Here’s a snippet from his journal for 1968:

“At eight o’clock, on All Hallow`s Eve, in the middle of a TV show of incredible vulgarity, the President of the US announces that we will stop bombing in Southeast Asia. He is tired. The face seems wasted, one might say corrupt. He uses the first person pronoun more often than I think is necessary and seems, through a massive egotism, to have damaged his ability to communicate. There is no jubilation to this announcement, but this may be because I am drunk.”

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

Best wishes,

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