Senscot Bulletin: 16.05.08

Dear members and friends,

There is to be a meeting on 23rd May to formally dissolve the Wester Hailes Rep Council in Edinburgh. Set up in 1981, it was for 20 years as good as anything of its kind – but all organisations run their term – that’s just the way of it. The hub of our activities in Wester Hailes was a cluster of rickety huts erected by the community around a magic adventure playground called `the Venchie`. Placing children’s play at the centre of our campus was inspired – The Venchie came to symbolise the hope and optimism of the community. Our activities generated so much local energy and enthusiasm that the Council just let us get on with it.
 Over the years, I’ve shared many stories with individuals whose lives were touched during that extraordinary wave of community flourishing. This is `Tina’s` story; “As a youngster in Wester Hailes, I was part of a wild bunch who kipped the school – we would go up the Venchie – Robert and Mhairi would let us sit in their hut – share a roll-up – a cup of tea. I was aware that they spoke to staff at the school about us – but you would never get turned away. It’s like there were some joined up people in the background who cared what happened to me – my first sense of what community means – a kind of safety net. Later I got kicked out the house – did a lot of daft things – for a while I slept rough. When I was 28, I started going to night classes – eventually got into Moray House – now I’m a youth worker. I often trace where I am now back to the Venchie.” We got some things right in Wester Hailes – like trying to include everyone. Some of the good stuff will be carried forward by folk like Tina – that’s just the way of it.
 (200 of these intros can be browsed here –

For informed and balanced analysis of Third Sector issues, Scotland is exceptionally well served by SCVO’s Stephen Maxwell through his weekly column in Third Force News. His piece last Friday – more heated than usual – was on the subject of Scottish government and COSLA’s lukewarm ‘Joint Commitment to Community Empowerment’. Maxwell expresses the disappointment, which many of us feel, that the SNP administration has ‘abandoned so casually’ the cause of decentralisation it championed in its manifesto: “The Governments failure to acknowledge that engagement in public sector led structures can never be a substitute for giving communities their own power to act.” As usual Stephen knows his stuff – chooses his words – the word ‘scathing’ comes to mind.

Highland and Lowland Scotland are very different in their attitudes and policies relating to the decentralisation of power to communities; both Highland Council and HIE have understood for years that community development only works when it comes from the people themselves. This is a central theme of Professor Mark Shucksmith’s report, published this week, on the ‘state of crofting’ which seeks to empower crofting communities through elected Local Crofting Boards. Local Boards would have the power to ensure that crofts were actually being worked and not serving as holiday homes for townies.

The sole purpose for creating the Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) was to take temporary control of Glasgow Council’s Housing stock so as to transfer it to a range of community owned housing associations across the city. It’s very difficult for ordinary citizens to understand why this has not happened. At the end of the day the whole episode comes down to whether Scotland is governed by the people we elect or whether the bureaucrats are in control. The GHA is the worst example I can recall of the hired help taking over the ship. It’s frightening how powerless citizens really are.

An estimated £40m will become available to the Third Sector in Scotland from dormant bank accounts. It will be distributed by the Lottery – Scottish Government is to host special consultations with the sector to decide how to allocate it. The question for me is how to get this windfall to our poorest communities in a way that will last. What if our 20 most needy communities got an endowment of £2m each to provide them with a `core` income of £100k per annum permanently – independent of the vagaries of Council funding. “Let democracy be the first philanthropy.”
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: 20 vacancies, incl. posts with: Cardiff Council, SMILE Assistance Services, Johnstone Castle Community Learning Centre, Barony Housing Association, Beulah Scotland, Andalus
EVENTS: 18 events Eat to the Beat 3, 6 Jun, Glasgow; Edinburgh Treefest and Woodmarket, 15 Jun, Edinburgh; Southside Festival, 28 Jun, Glasgow; Social Enterprise World Forum, 5 Sep, Edinburgh

NETWORK 1st: Colin writes:  Good news comes to us from Chick McKenna (Dumfries & Galloway Council). The Council is committing £45, 000 over the next 3 years to the Dumfries & Galloway SEN to drive opportunity down to its members to help the sector across the county to grow. The funding will ensure D&G SEN is able to maintain admin support, investigate and respond to the training needs of the members and their boards and run an annual conference in partnership with the LSEP. For more, see

Some news from the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition (SSEC). Following the highly successful `Community of Business` events, run in partnership with the Chambers of Commerce and local Social Enterprise Networks, the Coalition has produced a pamphlet celebrating how social enterprise works innovatively with the private sector. John Swinney will be launching the publication at a dinner in Edinburgh next week. Here’s the PDF,

The new Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) has opened – communities can now begin the application process to Rural Priorities. But on the Rural Gateway website Michael Johnston has posted a comment which ends “The whole scheme is a farcical con job which has bitterly disappointed me and frustrated any hope of real rural development”.

This week’s bulletin profiles an emerging social firm in Edinburgh, With People, whose vision is to create positive development and employment opportunities for physically and sensory disabled people. Using three core activities, the company provides Information Technology Services, Graphic Design and Accessibility Services. Each of the key business areas draws on the expertise of the employees to provide a leading edge, innovative and responsive business service. For more, see

Jeff Torrington, who has died aged 72, published only 2 books in his lifetime including Swing Hammer Swing which was hugely influential. James Kelman, who wrote the obituary in Tuesday’s Herald, says: “It is striking the affection with which Jeff is regarded, testament to the tremendous exuberance of his work. It derives from a confidence that reveals something of the best of us. Maybe we respond to that in his work.” Kelman, who was clearly a close friend, tells how Torrington was diagnosed with Parkinsons in his 40s but with the support of his wife Margaret continued working. “The launch of The Devil’s Carousel was held in Brendan McLaughlin’s Clutha Bar. Jeff was no longer able to perform readings in public but he and Margaret were there. It was a special night, with readings from his work by writer friends, of whom he had many. He was held in great esteem.”

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

Best wishes,

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