Senscot Bulletin: 14.10.16

Dear members and friends,
Returning from a visit to the USA – a friend this week expressed his surprise at the visibility of street begging over there; I’m reminded of my own impression some years ago – that the poor in the USA seemed ‘further away’ – banished by everyone else.  I observed a widespread fear of poverty – expressed in a ferocity towards the most downtrodden; so that street people (particularly African Americans) seemed deeply defeated in their very humanity.  Through work, over the years, I’ve had some contact with individuals surviving on Scotland’s streets. Most rough sleepers I met had endured horrendous childhoods – were in the throes of terminal self-destruction – yet I never encountered the levels of personal desolation I saw in the USA.
            After the last war – when Labour enacted universal healthcare and social security – millions of British families were lifted out of fear; my whole life has been advanced and protected in our social democracy.  Now though, voices from the south tell us that our social contract is no longer affordable; urge us to weed out the ‘shirkers’ and ‘foreigners’ among us; these voices have a different vision for our society – closer to the rugged individualism of ‘the American dream’.


            But I want to live in a society that cares for all: “It’s coming yet for a’ that – that man to man the world o’er – shall brothers be for a’ that”.  I enjoy the conceit that we Scots have an enhanced ownership of social democracy – will not surrender it lightly; the next few years will surely test how true this is.


At its autumn conference today, the SNP knows that, politically, it’s virtually untouchable in Scotland; the likely capture of Glasgow next May would make it game, set and match; but even as an enthusiastic supporter of this administration – I consider it pedestrian – like our football team. I agree Sturgeon and Swinney, could command a substantial fee – in the manner of Billy Bremner and Dave McKay; but without a Denis Law or Kenny Dalglish or Joe Jordan – nothing dramatic is going to happen. Voter turnout at the recent Glasgow council by election was 24%; can folk really not see that the absence of local activity entrenches mediocrity up the line. Our great politicians and footballers came out of a passion, experienced as youngsters, at community level; Scotland has a missing tier of connectedness to the local – the emergent.


While the SNP consolidates its role as the Scottish establishment – so inevitably a counterculture takes shape…. shadowing the SNP conference at the moment, is a fringe gathering, nearby at the Glasgow Science Centre; 40 of Scotland’s most innovative organisation – opinion formers like Lesley Riddoch, Andy Wightman, Gerry Hassan, Robin McAlpine etc – 17 fringe meetings. See Robin McAlpine’s Guardian piece.


Although an enthusiastic supporter of Scottish independence – I have never thought of myself as a ‘nationalist’ – a term I associate with the kind of xenophobic nastiness now spilling from Teresa May’s administration.  I agree with Kevin Pringle that the SNP’s very name has these unfortunate connotations – that they must somehow distance themselves from Rudd’s nationalism.  Mhairi Black’s reaction to Rudd’s speech is more vehement than my own – but she may be right – this kind of bigotry needs to be stamped on.  An open letter to the PM, from 300 artists and academics, is now available for the public to sign.


Barcelona has radical plans to reclaim the city from cars – mainly by converting 60% of traffic streets into citizen spaces – ‘to fill our city with life’.  The change will be structured in ‘superblocks’ – comprising 9 existing blocks of the city grid.  Vehicular traffic will be restricted to the perimeter of these, with internal streets for residents only.  Each of the superblocks – 400 metres square – will house between 5000 and 6000 people – like a small town.  Major cycling and public transport expansion is planned – reducing car use by 20% over 2 years.  This article cheered me up.


The 14th Kilbrandon Lecture will be given this year in Glasgow on 23rd November by Prof Guy Standing of London Yooni.  He will note that 220,000 children in Scotland live in poverty – because globally, all 20th century welfare systems – tax credits, living wage etc – have failed miserably.  Standing will argue that to achieve its aims – any income distribution system of the future will need to incorporate some form of universal basic income (UBI).


USA election campaign becomes increasingly unsavoury – Private Eye cover nails it


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Assist Social Capital CIC, Ideas for Ears, Cothrom Ltd Colintraive & Glendaruel Development Trust, Pass IT On, Social Enterprise Academy, Community Justice Scotland
EVENTS: Free Negotiation Skills Workshop, 25 Oct; New Rights, New Resources and Revenues 26 Oct; Free community shares training – Dundee, 15 Nov; Glasgow Soup Crowdfunding Dinner, 17 Nov;
TENDERS: Fife Employability Pathway: Poverty & Social Inclusion Challenge Fund Framework, Advocacy Service – Aberdeenshire Council, Ind. Advocacy Service – Moray Council, Grass Sports Pitch Maintenance Framework – Fife Council and more. Join Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes: “Keep it local; Strength in numbers” is the working title of Senscot’s national event this year. It takes place at the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh on Wed 23rd November – and is being run in partnership with Social Firms Scotland, Community Enterprise and the Scottish Community Alliance. As the title suggests, the focus is on collaborative working (between SENs and individual SEs) and the specific contribution of community-based enterprises in delivering services locally. As well as keynote speakers (from Italy and England) and a plenary session hosted by Lesley Riddoch, the day will also include a series of breakout sessions on areas of opportunity for community-based SEs working in partnership with others. A drinks reception and dinner will follow in the evening. Places allocated on a first come, first served basis. To book, see booking form and draft programme.


I, long ago, stopped bothering about Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) – a busted flush.  But I still enjoy reading fresh insights into what’s wrong with them.


Two thousand medieval churches in England have fewer than 10 worshippers – 8000 more can barely muster 20; the historic church opposite my cottage averages 15 for its Sunday morning service.  This excellent article by Simon Jenkins concludes that as long as these local churches are seen as shrines belonging to a tiny minority of the community – they won’t be able to survive as buildings.  Struggling local churches, he says, could be secularised, – vested in the local community trust or the like; become community assets like parks and gardens; there’s really no alternative.


Last week, we mentioned that Crisis Counselling was celebrating its 20th anniversary – having provided support and guidance counselling to over 40,000 individuals during this period. To mark the occasion, they have produced a short video – promoting their new Eco-Pod.


This weeks’ bulletin profiles a venture in the east end of Glasgow looking to address food inequalities. The East Ate (TEA) operates a range of projects that hope to change the way local people eat, grow and think about food in Bridgeton and surrounding areas. They approach each project with a social and environmental awareness, aiming to create engaging opportunities for local people to re-connect with food and one another. Specific projects include TEATIME! – a monthly ‘pay-what-you-feel’ community dinner run in collaboration with Glasgow NE Foodbank; and Café De Luxe – a pop-up café, a collective memory foodbank & inter-generational skill sharing.


It is unclear to what extent, or for how long, Charles Bukowski lived as a vagrant alcoholic; it hardly matters as he wrote about ‘the low life’ with complete conviction; as in ‘How is Your Heart’:


“During my worst times – on the park benches – in the jails or living with bums – I always had this certain contentment – I wouldn’t call it happiness – it was more of an inner balance that settled for whatever was occurring and it helped in the factories and when relationships went wrong with the girls. It helped through the wars and the hangovers – the back alley fights – the hospitals. To awaken in a cheap room in a strange city and pull up the shade – this was the craziest kind of contentment – and to walk across the floor to an old dresser with a cracked mirror – see myself, ugly, grinning at it all. What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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