Senscot Bulletin: 16-03-2007

Dear members and friends,

Letter arrives from prostate biopsy service. Quick glance – dreaded word ‘unfortunately’ leaps out. Shut my eyes to prepare. What it actually says is “Unfortunately your biopsies have returned as inconclusive and therefore we have to repeat them.” (Groan.) it says they will get back to me in two months – which is miles away – so I’ve blanked the whole thing. I’ve got this sort of ‘dark room’ where I banish stuff which I don’t want to deal with. Over the years you can imagine how crowded it must be.
 Chatting with friends last week – recounting childhood memories of ‘doing wrong’ – when, to my surprise, this story pops out. It’s 1949 – at boarding school, aged nine. A summer afternoon – no money for juice and crisps. My housemaster keeps a box of change in his bedroom desk for evening ‘tuck shop’. I creep in and nick two bob. After the first time it gets easier – before long the box is noticeably emptying. Then, on one of my raids, the bed recess curtain draws back – caught! I recall that I burst out crying – that the master was surprisingly kind. It’s interesting that this story was ‘blanked’ for fifty odd years – now resurfaces to remind me that I was confirmed a thief by the age of nine. I can live with this – but fearful what may pop out of my ‘dark room’ next.

The official line is still that the Social Enterprise Strategy is due out this month, but I’m beginning to ‘hae ma doots’. Further postponement would bring administrative gridlock – damaging credibility and morale. In one way and another, UK citizens invest 40% of GDP in our state apparatus. If the way our Executive deals with the business of the Third sector is a reflection of its general performance, it’s not good enough. The stutterings of the past seven years, which have left us so far behind the English sector, make it clear that we are seen as low priority by our elected leaders. They simply do not recognise the importance of what we do. The third sector in Scotland encompasses thousands of organisations and touches most of the population. We need to ask ourselves why we are so easily ignored.

Reading very good book called ‘Thatcher and Sons’ by Simon Jenkins, which sets out compellingly how the UK has become more centralized than any other mature democracy. The book calls for a revolutionary transfer of power down to communities. “Democracy is a bargain struck between personal and group autonomy and the authority of the state. But it is a bargain, not a subjugation. Active democracy has to be based on tiers of autonomy, on people trusting people who trust other people, on a hierarchy of trust.” Jenkins is one of our finest commentators – one of a handful journalists who make the political climate. This splendid page is the last in the book:  Senscot along with DTAS and others, is promoting a campaign called Local People Leading.

The remote village of Glenelg (pop. 240) is ‘over the sea from Skye’ and its economy depends on attracting 14,000 cars a year to its ancient and romantic 500 yard ferry crossing to the island. With a £60K grant form the Lottery, the local community has brought the ferry and secured its economic future by creating a new social enterprise. Sounds a good story:

Aidan and I attended the announcement on Tuesday of the membership of the new devolved committee for the Big Lottery Fund in Scotland. It’s three years since applications were invited for these positions – why does everything which involves government takes so long? The BLF in Scotland distributes £1m per week. This committee will greatly influence the shape of the Third Sector landscape in our wee country. See committee members list:

14 days left of our annual appeal. Next week we’ll post update list of company members. Donate online at or send a cheque (and address so we can send you a receipt) payable to Senscot, 54 Manor Place, Edinburgh, EH3 7EH. Thanks for your support.

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but submit jobs and events and we’ll post them on our site. See This week: 

JOBS: 35 vacancies, incl. posts with: Food For Thought Glasgow, Children in Scotland, Castlemilk Environment Trust, Almond Enterprises, Greencity Wholefoods, The Hidden Gardens.

EVENTS: 11 events, incl. Glasgow; Social Audit Master Class (2-day course), Girvan 21-22 March; Getting Better Value… Social Firms Scotland and Aberdeen Social Enterprise Network, Aberdeen, 26 March.

Scottish Urban Regeneration Forum (SURF) is holding an event – Scottish Election Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament this coming Thursday, March 22:

The Rural Development Small Awards fund, is undersubscribed. Community groups can gain up to £5000 (no match-funding required!),

Competition for FREE exhibition stands at S2S:

It is expected that Gordon Brown will announce his decision on the allocation of the unclaimed assets money in his forthcoming budget. Meanwhile this week, the Commission on Unclaimed Assets chaired by Sir Ronald Cohen, issued its final blueprint for the Social Investment Bank they are championing. In total they are asking for £330m.

Senscot is often asked to recommend social enterprises offering IT services, including building websites. We had a strong response last week.  Social enterprises can publicise their services here at Intra-Trading:

My book, ‘You’ve got Laugh’ is now available on Amazon, but without any readers’ comments. Can I ask any fans who read it to go to the site and insert your review? (Only if you liked it.). You’ll need an Amazon password to get in.

This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise in Perth and Kinross that seeks to meet the needs of disadvantaged members of their community through a range of social enterprise activities. Launchpad Training and Enterprise provides a range of services that include the Perth Furniture Project, an Accredited Training Centre and Re-cycles. New social enterprises planned in the near future include the Ski and Snowboard Project, a Carpet Recycling Project and, in the longer term, a community based interactive web sites. As well as providing valuable local services, the social enterprises are seen as key vehicles for providing employment and work opportunities for local people. For more info, see

Read a wee book called ‘The meaning of life’ by Terry Eagleton, which I enjoyed – surprisingly light touch for a philosopher. “It’s not good enough to say you get meaning from asphyxiating dormice”. I agree with this main point: that the meaning of life needs to be more than what an individual makes of it; more a matter of living in a certain way – an ethical construct which involves treating others as you want them to treat you, caring for those close to us, helping strangers, thinking long term. He ends by offering the model of a jazz band – individuals freely expressing themselves within a collective endeavour. This page is worth reading:

That’s all for this week. Good luck with your adventures.

Best wishes.

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Laurence’s book, ‘You’ve Got To Laugh’ is available at Word Power, 43 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh. See: