Senscot Bulletin: 15.03.19

I recollect an interview (2005) with the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho; he said: “for me, life and football are very different matters; generally, I’m fairly tolerant, but football brings out my prejudiced side.”. He wasn’t apologising – but asserting the importance of regularly connecting with the child in ourselves – spontaneous and emotional – watching two teams kick a ball around a pitch. Being a Hibs supporter is not all fun, but I think I’ve always felt sorry for those whose childhood did not include the magical ‘attachment’ to a football team: all the agony and ecstasy.

            Some recent incidents, of individuals behaving badly at football matches, have the press calling for punitive measures – I think disproportionate. The old church opposite my cottage has been unlocked 24/7 throughout living memory; last year three teenagers stayed overnight – beer and cannabis were found – now the building is locked. I think this is an overreaction; we can’t allow a few miscreants to shape our world – not even violent football hooligans.

            To live together as a society, we need to respect each other’s differences – grown-ups know this. Imagine a sold-out cup tie – tens of thousands – two passionately opposed groups, locked in combat for 90 mins; taunting each other – roars of outrage and frustration – of joy and triumph. Then we all return home to reality – the dozen who misbehave feel stupid, hungover. For me, football crowds are a great metaphor for the common sense and resilience of our people: such that even Brexit won’t manage to divide us; well, not for long.



Old guys, like Michael Heseltine and Kenneth Clarke, remind us that ‘public service’ was once a noble calling: this week’s Commons’ debates, again, expose the superficiality of the present political class: the naked self-interest of a dozen caucuses – squirming tacticians posturing as statesmen and women. Our political system has failed us – and we need to pause and reset the whole process – a long pause – to bring the electorate back in. In Algeria recently, when 82 year old President Bouteflika aspired to a fifth term of office, an estimated one million citizens took to the streets to tell him ‘no’. When our Govt and legislature become dysfunctional – we go to the country – it’s not rocket science.



For some time, Scottish Govt and Cosla have been conducting a public consultation called Democracy Matters – which will eventually feed into proposed legislation on Scottish Local Governance; it is expected that within the next few weeks, civil servants will share their interim findings – to focus further public consultation. This paper, from the Electoral Reform Society Scotland, emerges from their own considerable consultations; it proposes that a new ‘permissive’ layer of elected ‘development councils’ should be available to any community that meets certain standards. There are similarities to proposals from both Commonweal and the Scottish Community Alliance: locally variable – rather than an imposed template.



There’s a biography doing the rounds called ‘Dangerous Hero: Corbyn’s Ruthless Plot for Power’; this is a review by political commentator, Peter Oborne, who has never made a secret of his Tory sympathies – but is a proper journalist with standards. Oborne says the book is not only intellectually dishonest but is a farrago of falsehoods and unsupported insinuations – in order to portray Corbyn as a ruthless Marxist and anti-Semite, hell-bent on destroying Western liberal values. The review ends: “the warm reception for Tom Bower’s ugly hatchet job, on the Leader of the Opposition, suggests that something has gone badly wrong with British public life.” Really?!


I’m reading ‘The Little Virtues’ – a book of essays by the Italian writer and sometime communist activist, Natalia Ginzburg (1916 – 1991); deceptively simple style – but all the heft of a fully formed moral and intellectual compass. Here she suggests what we should teach our children.


“I think they should be taught not the little virtues but the great ones. Not thrift but generosity and an indifference to money; not caution but courage and a contempt for danger; not shrewdness but frankness and a love of truth; not tact but love for one’s neighbour and self-denial; not a desire for success but a desire to be and to know.”

Senscot – along with other member-led organisations and support agencies – is part of a Working Group exploring the best approach to ‘raising the profile’ of social enterprise (SE) across Scotland. The objective is to try and find an approach that has genuine buy-in across the sector; is locally-led – yet ties in with a national campaign that has a clear and consistent message. Whilst we all wish to – and should – present SE in a positive light – highlighting the significant contribution it makes in a range of policy areas – it is equally important not to overstate or overhype the SE model. However, hyperbole often gets in the way of reality.

Since January, Senscot is aware of half a dozen social enterprises (4 SEN members) that regrettably have been forced to cease trading. There is a challenging environment out there – particularly at a local level – and nobody should be under the illusion that there will not be ‘casualties’ along the way. However, with our SE Strategy and a ‘refreshed’ Action Plan due next year, we need to be asking ourselves (intermediaries, support agencies and Scottish Govt) if we could be doing more to help those facing difficulties – and if the support and resources could be channelled in a more effective and fairer way?

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website.

Monday saw the launch of SPRING Social Prescribing Project – a partnership between Scottish Communities for Health and Wellbeing (SCHW) and Healthy Living Centre Alliance (Northern Ireland). The partnership sees 30 community-led health organisations coming together to deliver Social Prescribing (SP) services across Scotland and Northern Ireland. An earlier Senscot Briefing – Social Prescribing – the role of social enterprise – highlighted SEN members’ work in this area. Also, this Community Health Exchange (CHEX) Briefing Paper explores the role SP can play in redefining health and social care models in Scotland.



Last week we highlighted P4P’s newly-published Procurement Briefing Note – a guide for third sector organisations interested in securing public contracts through collaboration. This week, P4P announced that, through its collaboration with Morrison Construction, two SEN members – Edinburgh Community Food and Forth Valley Community Focus – have both secured work via Morrison’s supply chain. See Press Release.



Still on the theme of collaboration, the Parliament hosted an event on Tuesday promoting the work on a new Credit Union consortium. The consortium, supported by the Carnegie UK Trust, includes five Credit Unions – seeking to increase the number of employers offering credit union membership to staff as a workplace benefit – and support their staff to start saving or borrow in a way which is hassle-free, directly from their wages. Evidence shows that such an approach helps reduce money-related stress, and contributes to higher levels of employee engagement, retention and productivity. This initiative is part of ongoing Carnegie work to improve access for lowest income households to fair, sustainable, not-for-profit and affordable credit.



Two rounds of funding awards out last week – with SEN members amongst the beneficiaries. Scottish Govt and Cosla’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund sees over £20m going to 18 community regeneration projects across the country – including Govanhill Baths Community Trust and Montrose Playhouse Project. Also another tranche, from the Robertson Trust, sees 26 organisations sharing circa £500k – under the themes of: Care and Wellbeing; Strengthening Communities; and Realising Potential. Congratulations all round.



This week’s bulletin profiles an Aberdeen-based social enterprise that uses a wide range extreme sports experiences as a vehicle to enable people to make positive changes to their lives. Transition Extreme (TX), established in 2005, is housed in an imposing hangar on Aberdeen’s beach front. TX’s impressive facilities include one of the biggest skateparks in Scotland, several indoor climbing walls, an outdoor rope adventure course, as well as a café and function space. In addition, TX has developed a comprehensive portfolio of structured community and youth programmes around these core activities – making it one of the most effective youth organisations in the area. TX is particularly proud of the fact that 25% of its current staff are former participants in their programmes.