Senscot Bulletin: 14.11.14

Dear members and friends,

 The first volume of Alan Johnstone’s memoirs, This Boy, won prizes – made him a literary star; I’m enjoying book two: Please Mister Postman.  This Boy, told of his dad’s desertion, his mother’s death when he’s 13, his 16 year old sister Linda’s heroic achievement in getting them a house – making it a home.  Episode two which takes us from leaving school up to the 1980s – is not as ‘dramatic’ as the first – but, again, it is beautifully written.  AJs style is understated and self-deprecating; never tries to convince you – just tells lots of wee, close up stories – lets you decide.  What comes across is not ideology – but personal values – the development of his political consciousness.
 Important for me is AJs depiction of working class life in the 60s and 70s – a time when, the Unions provided pathways for anyone of ability to reach high political office.  At present the number of former manual workers serving as MPs – has fallen to 4% (The Tories have 2 – the Lib Dems 1).  This is not ‘modern’ democracy.
 But I feel very positive about the present political climate; social media animates an increasingly informed and effective citizenry; we Scots in particular have ‘our dander up’ – things are jumpin’ – its great – we hardly know what’s coming next.  As for AJ himself?  Struggling Labour desperately need his homespun cred for the May election.  But he’d be daft to return to the kitchen; he’s 63 now – knows his limitations – enjoys his constituency role – nice wee media career developing.  Besides he’s got a third book to write. See,

The SNP has done much over the years to advance the cause of independence – for which it should be praised.  But it has shown itself in govt. to be surprisingly reluctant to pass power down to communities – for which it must be increasingly challenged.  Centralisation of power has increased under the SNP – and its so called community empowerment bill fools no-one; making no attempt to address the substantive issues raised by COSLA’s commission for strengthening local democracy –  It would be appropriate for the half dozen Scottish groups – concerned about our missing tier of local democracy – to come together into a joint campaign. The most passionate writing on this subject just now is from Lesley Riddoch; I commend her Scotsman piece -suggesting that the current Scottish situation flaunts social justice.  See,

As you read this, Senscot’s annual gathering and Ceilidh will be folding its tents; the amount of effort involved in organising this for 140 delegates is daunting – so I can only imagine the logistics for 400 – at the Rural Parliament (RP) last week.  Heroic.  In spite of this, rural Scotland, along with the community sector in general – needs an annual gathering of this scale – to get their issues into public consciousness.  The chair of the RP, John Hutchison closed the event with a call to the govt. for a national conversation on local democratic renewal – as a first step towards a radical reform of local govt.  On past form, this will be ignored.  See,

Ipsos Mori did some recent research in England – on the gap between public perceptions and reality; it’s depressing how closely these gaps follow the distortions promulgated by the right wing tabloids.  The public think: benefit fraud is 34 times greater than it is: that 24% of citizens are Muslims (5%): that teenage pregnancy is 25 times higher than it is – etc.  Here are the top 10 we get wrong.  See,

As a frustrated ‘yes’ voter – I’ve been trying to get my head round the new ‘Campaign for Scottish Home Rule’ – and where it sits on the landscape.  I like the look of its Steering Group – and its Home Rule Manifesto will certainly be looking for more than the Smith Commission is able to propose.  I particularly like the Campaign’s three core principals.  In this Bella Caledonia piece, Jennifer Dempsie shares her thoughts.  See,  

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: RAMH, Glasgow Wood Recycling, Victim Support Scotland, Scottish Huntingdon’s Association, Greener Leith, Remade in Edinburgh
EVENTS: Aberdeen Impact Awards, 25 Nov; Pre-Start Leadership, 4 Dec; Engaging Communities on Energy and Climate Change, 9 Dec; Cinderella at Ecole Enterprise, 10 Dec;
TENDERS: Provision of Care at Home, Moray Council; Digital Video Media Framework, Scottish Enterprise; Provision of Occupational Health, Physiotherapy and Employee Counselling Services, Fife Council and more;

The SENs Weekly Update; Kim writes: Yesterday, we hosted our 10th SE Conference and Ceilidh – our biggest yet – with over 140 delegates. This year’s event provided an opportunity to reflect back on the last 10 years and also to look forward with an interactive and lively session on the future SE Strategy for Scotland. Congratulations to Bruce Gunn (Deliver Next Day Personally) – scooping both the Dragons Den and the Audience Prizes.  We’ll have more information next week.  For more SENs News, see

The Fife Diet Project, originally founded to focus people on issues around food sovereignty, has a practical arm – the Seed Truck – which travels around Scotland providing practical and engaging workshops on growing and producing your own food.  They are now looking at how to continue this project as a longer term initiative. To help them judge the need/market for this, they’re putting out a survey. They are keen to get the view of those interested in community run gardens, community food projects, allotments, Development Trusts and community land groups. For more info and links for survey, see

REMINDER: The Melting Pot hosts its second Social Entrepreneurs’ Chat Show next Wednesday – 19th November (4.45-6.45pm). On the couch this time will be Frankie Hodge (Recycle Fife); Marian MacDonald (The Engine Shed); and Simon Turner (The Crags Community Sports Centre). The Show will be filmed in front of a live studio audience – with the three social entrepreneurs candidly sharing their personal stories. To book your place, see

The current consultation on a SE Strategy for Scotland ends today – Friday 14th Nov. We will still be accepting any last minute submissions over the next few days. After that, it will be a process of writing up our findings. If you would still like to contribute your thoughts, see

This week’s bulletin profiles a community enterprise that was a finalist in the Rural Innovator Awards at last week’s inaugural Scottish Rural Parliament event in Oban. The Jura Community Store is owned and run by the community of Jura.  It is the island’s only Shop & Post Office. The Store was bought by Jura Community Development Trust in 2013 after a successful application through Scottish Govt’s Community Right to Buy. The BIG Lottery and Highlands and Island Enterprise have shown their support with funding for a dedicated development worker – with all profits going to support and develop the shop as well as other community projects. See,

It was sad to hear, this week, that Send It, the Aberdeen-based social firm and SEN member, is to close after 45 years. This follows following the decision by Aberdeen City Council to cut its funding. See more,
I love ‘Wild Geese’ by Mary Oliver; her love of solitude – immersion in nature – unadorned language. When I feel wobbly, this poem helps me reconnect with my place in ‘the family of things’.
You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,


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Senscot is a Company, registered in Scotland. Company Reg No. 278156: Scottish Charity No. SC 029210