Senscot Bulletin: 15.07.16

Dear members and friends,

Each year, second week in July, I watched the Open Golf Championship on TV – but no more – Sky has captured it. In his final TV interview in 1994 – the playwright, Dennis Potter said that no one person was as responsible for the pollution of the British Press and public life – as Rupert Murdoch; I won’t give Sky my money. But my protest is not only personal to him – the marketization of everything means that people with money, and those without, lead increasingly separate lives; such inequality is not good for democracy.


A well-functioning democracy doesn’t need perfect equality – not possible; but it does require that citizens share a certain amount of common life – are bonded by common experiences; people of different backgrounds and social groupings bumping up against each other in everyday life; learning how to abide and negotiate their differences; coming to recognise and care for the common good. Sport – once a great medium for bringing people together like this – is being undermined by naked commercial interests.


The BBC covered the Open for 60 years – ‘public broadcasting’ which honoured the nation’s sporting ‘crown jewels’ in football, cricket, rugby, golf etc; commentators like David Coleman, John Arlott, Bill McLaren, Peter Alliss – who set the bar high. Over the past twenty years, this cherished public realm has been progressively ‘enclosed’ behind a paywall of privatisation – and diminished. Successive sporting bodies have flogged our sporting heritage to the highest bidder; they may discover that they were trustees of national assets which markets do not honour – money cannot replace.
Some say he had no alternative, but David Cameron took a reckless gamble with the Brexit referendum – and lost; it is fitting that he resigned. Theresa May brings new energy and a new approach – which will take time to unfold. I was impressed by her initial remarks as PM – her explicit disassociation from the concerns of the ‘privileged few’. The extent of her ‘team changes’ implies bold intent, but surprisingly little is known about the new UK leader – about her core political philosophy. By far the best research I’ve read is in this extensive profile published by the Financial Times Magazine in July 2014 – it tips her as Cameron’s successor.


The speed of political events causes us to lose our bearings – to look for navigational points: this recent Jeremy Corbyn moment. A very hostile BBC interviewer was trying to convince him how stressed he should be feeling ; I was struck, steadied, by his calm response; real stress, he said, is when you have a family to feed and no money. In the middle of political turmoil this week, Citizens Advice Scotland  released its report ‘Living at the Sharp End’ – which makes clear that elements of our social security system are compromised – and that certain groups in our country now experience extreme poverty – destitution. I was reminded of singer Susan Boyle’s account of when she lived on a weekly £30: “There is an abject poverty in the UK which I think is hidden”. When all the hullabaloo has settled down we need to remind ourselves that politics should be about preventing the cruelty of extreme human need. Food and fuel poverty should not be tolerated in our country.


Over a period of many years, the Scotland Committee of the Big Lottery Fund has created first rate funding streams; particularly in the acquisition and ownership of land and assets they have provided national leadership – years ahead of local authority thinking. This Wednesday (13 July) saw the launch of their amended Community Assets programme, outlined in this circular; I like the idea of very early introductory conversations between new projects and Fund staff (before paperwork) and subsequent technical assistance from ‘capital mentors’ for projects going forward.


One of the most effective tools available to local people for the development of any community is the ownership of their own newspaper; in my own direct experience this should receive the highest priority. Am Paiper which serves Benbecula and the Western Isles, was founded in 1976 and is celebrating its 40th birthday (same year as the, fond remembered, Wester Hailes Sentinel). Its format is a monthly print edition with a continuous online news service. This gives the community a focus and a voice which is highly valued around the Islands; a worthy exemplar.


We recently mentioned a facility in Ottawa, Canada – a permanent home for people who once lived on the streets – where inveterate alcoholics are given a measured glass of wine at hourly intervals. This bold idea caught my attention and I found this further piece researched by Linda Pressly for the BBC. The basic idea is to stabilise the craziness in the lives alcoholics caused by the daily search for alcohol – so that attention can be given to their very real health and addiction problems. A moving article about a brave intervention.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Hwupenyu Health & Wellbeing Project SCIO, Community Energy Scotland, Healthy n Happy Community Development Trust, Fife Forum, VOCAL, Pain Concern, Impact Arts (Projects) Ltd,
EVENTS: Creative Writing For Fearties, 23 July; In Focus: Membership & Friends, 28 Jul;
Drama Queens: Play Reading For Pleasure, 28 July; Women’s Heritage Bike Ride, 13 Aug;
TENDERS: Auchenback Active Limited / Barrhead HA Consultancy Tender, Poverty & Social Inclusion Operation – Glasgow City Council, Provision and Operation of a Community Recycling Centre – South Ayrshire Council and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter

The SENs Weekly Update
:  There’s been a real buzz in Glasgow city centre this week for the Homeless World Cup (HWC). We’re delighted to have been involved hosting in partnership with the HWC 3 workshops that have attracted almost 150 attendees – we’ve also managed to catch a few games including Scotland’s men 4-0 victory against Norway at lunchtime on Tuesday – Women’s team doing well, could they maybe reach the final, even win? As well as our workshops the Homeless World Cup have hosted a series of lunchtime seminars – at Monday’s session we heard from Honey Thaljieh, co-founder of  the women’s football team in Palestine and the first woman in the Middle East to obtain a FIFA Master and to become employed by FIFA. Honey broke through all social and political barriers and became a role model to women and girls throughout the Arab world – truly inspiring stuff. Sport really is a powerful tool for positive change. See more.


There’s a bunch of English institutions which keep an office in Scotland in the manner of a colonial outpost – in denial that this is a separate country: British Council, NESTA, Royal Society for the Arts etc… I can think of a dozen. I would like them to either operate through a sister organisation with Scottish governance – or leave Scotland entirely – because London directed policy distorts our social and cultural autonomy. To contradict myself however – the NESTA‘New Radicals 2016’ batch is worth a look; 50 change-makers from around the UK – active at the front line – inspiring.


Some of the massive charities which dominate the third sector – have more in common with commercial corporations than with the values of local empowerment and sustainability. But that does not mean that local communities should be slow to respond when a major economic opportunity presents itself. It was announced this week that the East Lochaber and Laggan Community Trust has been created in an effort to buy the Rio Tinto estate – at 125,000 acres it would be Scotland’s biggest community buyout. This piece in The Press and Journal details 5 public meetings to be held next week in village halls – the support of local residents is now paramount; it’s great that our communities increasingly dare to think like this.


This week’s bulletin profiles a community enterprise at the entrance to the world famous Findhorn eco-village. The Phoenix Shop and Cafe has been in operation for over 20 years – starting off as a specialist new age shop. Over the years it has evolved into a thriving community owned business, an award winning Food Store, full service Apothecary and Bookstore. The café (formerly known as the Blue Angel) is open all year round and has both inside seating and a popular outside garden terrace area. The café also functions as an evening café/bar for events at the adjoining Universal Hall.

A quote from ‘Ill Fares the Land’ by historian the late Tony Judt:
“In short, the practical need for strong states and interventionist governments is beyond dispute. But no one is ‘re-thinking’ the state. There remains a reluctance to defend the public sector on grounds of collective interest or principle. It is striking that in European elections following the financial meltdown, social democratic parties consistently did badly; notwithstanding the collapse of the market, they proved conspicuously unable to rise to the occasion.  If it is to be taken seriously again, the Left must find its voice….. But it will no longer suffice to identify the shortcomings of ‘the system’ and then retreat, indifferent to consequences. The irresponsible rhetorical grandstanding of decades past did not serve the Left well.”


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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