Senscot Bulletin: 15.12.17

Dear members and friends,
I got a real lift from attending the Social Enterprise Conference at Westerwood last week – meeting so many new, front-line enthusiasts; maybe the best such gathering I remember. Most of the new young people I met had that specific, exceptional quality; in each of them, the desire for personal wealth has been replaced by their own dream – to make something good happen. Nothing new in that of course – we all contain the potential to make the same choice – but being ‘surrounded’ by such people is a good feeling.

New ventures have always excited me – it can feel like creating the future; but the uncertainty is not for everyone – for every boat that floats, many sink without trace. The early stages for existing social/community enterprises – when minimal help would have most effect – is the weakest part of our sector’s eco-system. We haven’t learned how to get support – particularly access to smaller amounts of money via small, unsecured loans etc – to help shape new emerging ideas.

At the Conference, a new ‘Community Bond’ was launched to help create just such a loan fund – small amounts, unsecured and patient; funds collected from within our community and allocated at our discretion. I was convinced to participate by a ‘warning’ in the brochure. “This bond offer is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme……you should therefore only invest as much as you are prepared to lose.” Yes!! This told me that my money would be risked on impractical dreamers – whom the commercial lenders wouldn’t touch. Exactly what’s missing.



I thought Derek Mackay was impressive delivering his budget yesterday; by switching from a three to a five-band income tax system, he wrongfooted the Tories – won the headline debate. But the reality is that our economy is almost in recession; local authorities are in crisis; health care is increasingly rationed; a growing number of families can’t afford the basics – rent, heat, food; to get this budget through, he’ll need to find more for local govt. – to fund expected pay rises. People with the standard of living which I enjoy still have a bit of slack – this needs to transfer down to those in dire straits. The new progressive income tax bands move marginally in the right direction – but one penny is far too timid. The SNP is a cautious/prudent administration – no bad thing when dealing with budgets; but what if our times call for boldness. Here’s Brian Taylor’s take.



Every European country has a tier of local democracy, missing in Scotland – which we urgently need; the launch last week of Scottish Govt’s Local Governance Review made it clear – that’s not going to happen. Instead the whole issue has been couched in terms of how public services can be sustained – within continually shrinking budgets – how communities themselves can become full partners in this process. The absence of ‘the local state’ implies ad-hoc arrangements with a range of civil society and third sector organisations – a kind of ‘delegated authority status’, The weakness (and a strength) will be variability.



This week, a couple of former Facebook executives have surfaced to criticise the company, for creating “tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works”. Personally, I have no engagement with social media – probably feel a bit smug – but have never really been able to articulate my resistance. Ex-president Sean Parker said that Facebook’s ‘self-validation loop exploits a vulnerability in human psychology’. The main concern seems to be – that alongside deliberate misinformation – Facebook’s algorithms can be used to manipulate the behavior of large swathes of people – even influence elections.



Professor Stephen Hawking has already established his reputation as a warrior for the NHS in England; this week he re-joined the battle by adding his name to an ongoing legal action against Health Minister, Jeremy Hunt. The litigants want to prevent the introduction of accountable care organisations (ACOs), without full consultation and parliamentary approval. They believe that ACOs – a mechanism conceived in the USA – are being used to privatise the NHS. As non-NHS bodies, they are governed by company and contract law – but could be gave full responsibility for NHS and adult care services. I’ve no doubt Hawking is right.



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

JOBS: New Caledonian Woodlands, Scotland’s Social Way, Glasgow Wood Recycling, The Ballantrae Trust, Leith Community Crop in Pots, Rebuild

EVENTS: Leading Growth for Senior Leaders, 19 Dec; Family Festival, 21 Jan; Facilitation Training, 6 Feb; Social Entrepreneurship, Youth & Vocational Education Forum, 27 Mar

TENDERS: Practitioner Advice Service Evaluation – One Parent Families Scotland, Tillydrone Community Hub (7703) – Aberdeen City Council, Provision of Nursery Services – Robert Gordon University. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Last week’s SE Conference at the Westerwood seemed to go well – feedback forms out this week with full report due in early January. With 140 folk gathering from across the SE community, it provided an opportunity for grassroot SEs to discuss and explore a range of key issues. In addition to a catalogue of inspiring and entertaining presentations, there appeared a genuine desire to agree active measures where we can collaborate and support one another better. Although there is a lot of positivity about SE in Scotland, there is no avoiding the reality that the bulk of our sector is fragile. Following our feedback, we will explore with SENs and others, specific actions that can be taken to help build the resilience of our sector. Here’s a snapshot of the event’s social media activity – #SocEntConf17.



SCRT launched its first Community Bond Offer last week – with the target of raising £100k to establish the SEN Loan Fund (SLF). SLF will look to provide micro; unsecured; low cost and patient loans to SEN members. At a time when our sector need to show it is able to collaborate and support one another, this initiative is a perfect vehicle for demonstrating this support in a practical way. We understand that already there has been an encouraging level of uptake. Bonds are available at £50 for a single bond – repayable upon maturity. For more info’ on SLF and how to invest, email See Application Form.



Worth having a look at a newish arrival on the Scottish media scene – Broadcasting Scotland. Now established at new premises in Glasgow, Broadcasting Scotland describes itself as a “new broadcaster for Scotland, producing programmes from a Scottish perspective, targeting audiences, inside Scotland and beyond, producing a range of news and current affairs, music, comedy and chat programmes”. Worth keep an eye on its progress. £5 per month to subscribe.



The future of Hampden Park looks like it is in doubt. The iconic ‘home of Scottish football’ since 1903 – countless Scots will have their own special memories of the place – both good and bad – capturing some of the greatest moments of their sporting lives – as well as the most disastrous. This recent survey seems to suggest very mixed feelings about its future – and even that the SFA may have already made its mind up. Whatever the eventual outcome, the ‘Roar’ that made it famous across the globe was lost many years ago.



The twin disasters of Trump and Brexit suffered setbacks this week: the right-wing state of Alabama chose a Democrat for the US Senate: then our parliament asserted its sovereignty over the final Brexit deal. Not to get carried away – but dare we hope that the tide is turning against the populist right. Excellent piece in the Financial Times bemoaning the reduced quality of modern politicians. Brexit and Trump, it says, have turned a whole generation of young people to politics – including an unprecedented number of women; they’ll certainly have some mess to clear up.



This week’s bulletin profiles an Edinburgh-based social enterprise that provides support and opportunity for adults with learning difficulties and autism. Upmo (known as Upward Mobility till this month) has been combining tailored support services with an increasingly respected curriculum of creative workshops, educational activities and vocational programmes for over a decade. Students are encouraged to build confidence, use imagination and develop life skills through music, drama, art and other expressive and physical activities. Trainee placements are available as part of their growing work experience programme.



I have long been a fan of Margaret (Meg) Wheatley – inspirational writing about the human spirit. Her latest book – What Do We Choose to Be? – is a joyful hymn to the nobility and importance of local leadership in these chaotic times.


“It is possible, in this time of profound disruption, for leadership to be a noble profession that contributes to the common good. It is possible, as we face the fearful complexity of life-destroying problems, to experience recurring moments of grace and joy. It is possible, as leaders of organizations, communities, and families, to discover deep and abiding satisfaction in our work if we choose not to flee or withdraw from reality. It is possible to find a path of contribution and meaning if we turn our attention away from issues beyond our control and focus on the people around us who are yearning for good leadership and engage them in work that is within reach. It is possible to use our influence and power to create islands of sanity in the midst of a raging destructive sea.”


That’s all for this week.


Best wishes,




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