Senscot Bulletin: 16.10.09

Dear members and friends,

Occasionally I like to lunch up the town – preferably somewhere I’m a ‘kent face.’  The current ‘gang hut’ is a French place in Edinburgh’s West End – good quality and value – always gracious service from Ramon (Paris) Maria (Malaga) and Anushka (Krakov).  I relish the mix of cultures – everyone on our wee planet should be free to live where they wish.  I often think of the 1992 march for Scottish Democracy – William MacIlvanney speaking in the Meadows – saying with tremendous pride ‘‘Scottishness is no pedigree lineage – this is a mongrel tradition.’’  And the crowd breaking into cheers and applause which lasted on and on.
 Recently I got into a taxi, done up like a wee house on wheels; carpet, curtains, highland scenes on the folding seats, plastic flowers, air freshener.  Before we’ve gone the length of the street the driver is moaning about illegal immigrants; I don’t reply but his drivel gets more racist.  Suddenly I lose it – lean forward and tell him my wife and children are black – that he’s being offensive.  Glimpse my reflection in window – ferocious.  He shuts up – puts on a Neil Diamond tape.  I wish these situations didn’t upset me, but they do – conflict can make me feel sick; but some things, if you don’t confront them, just get worse.  Actually Neil Diamond lifted my mood – may get a CD – ‘‘Sweet Car-o-line’’.

The Trustee Savings Bank (TSB) was set up as a social enterprise in 1810 – by a minister, Henry Duncan, who was concerned about financial exclusion in Dumfriesshire – it prospered.  In 1985, TSB was demutualised and absorbed by Lloyds and, in the spirit of its founder, Trusts created to distribute 1% of the pre tax profits of Lloyds banking group.  There has been a messy announcement this week of an acrimonious breakdown of relationship between London and Scotland, endangering the future of the Foundation.  I wish we could turn the clock back – reclaim our mutuals back from the gambling houses.
Still on the subject of banking, Senscot has joined the Responsible Finance Campaign and Coalition which is gathering momentum across civil society in the UK.  The campaign’s four main tenets are about ensuring that our financial system operates for the benefit of all citizens regardless of wealth.  The Rev. Henry Duncan would understand.

If we are entering a period of cutbacks in public services (and this looks increasingly likely) an opportunity will arise to demonstrate the benefits of what the jargon calls ‘‘co-production.’’  People who are old, poor, unwell etc have worthwhile contributions to make to their communities.  Our ‘helping professions’ tend to objectify people.  The norm is patronising charity rather than dignified engagement.  There is enough human compassion to go around, if we can learn to mobilise the basic skills, energy and simple decency that we all have.  The ‘Expert Patient’ CIC is an example of the way to go. Edgar Cahn’s book ‘‘No More Throw-Away People’’ (Amazon) spells out this vision of the future.

Traditional economic theory teaches that, without legal restraints, natural resources (like fish stocks, common land etc) will be degraded by market forces.  The Nobel Prize for Economics has been awarded this year to Elinor Ostrom whose work challenges the conventional ‘‘tragedy of the commons’’ theory.  She argues that societies and groups regularly devise rules and enforcement mechanisms which prevent the degradation of nature.  ‘‘Active participation’’ by citizens, she says, is the most important feature of successful outcomes.

To produce this bulletin I read around a dozen columns each week, of analysis and comment on social policy – most of them English.  In my view, none of these pundits compares with Stephen Maxwell, who announced his retirement from SCVO last week.  His grasp of issues, and his clear sense of civil society’s place in the scheme of things, made Stephen’s column the one I most trusted.  In particular, I took inspiration from his fundamentalist stance on what community empowerment really means.  Scotland is not well served by analysts of social policy who passionately believe in the third sector.  He will be missed.  Here’s the tribute from Martin Sime – his long time colleague.

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: Almond Enterprises Ltd, Spruce Carpets, Church of Scotland, Penumbra, Princess Royal Trust, Lothian Centre for Integrated Living (LCiL), Health in Mind, East Fife Women’s Aid, Bethany Christian Trust, Hyzone, Scottish Churches Housing Action, Barnardo’s Scotland, North East Scotland Credit Union
EVENTS: Climate Change: Effective Communication, 20 Oct; Navigation to…Self Directed Support, 21 Oct; Marketing for Social Enterprise, 21 Oct; Business Acquisition: Getting Ready to Buy, 21 Oct; Funding Issues Conference, 27 Oct; Crafting The Arts: Voluntary Arts Scotland’s 2nd National Conference, 31 Oct;

NETWORKS NEWS:  Colin writes: Senscot is keen to ensure that LSEN members are aware of developments regarding the `single interface` in their area. This week we attended a meeting, hosted by the Coalition, with Voluntary Action Scotland (VAS), SCVO and Volunteer Development Scotland (VDS) to share views on how things were panning out at both a local and national level. We’re hoping to follow this up with discussions on how social enterprises can meaningfully engage with each local `interface`. We’ll keep you posted. For more Networks News, see

Senscot welcomes a new member of staff this week. Kim Wallace joins us as our new Networks Co-ordinator and will be working closely with Colin and Anna to support the activity of the 17 LSENs that currently exist. Kim was previously with SCVO and, most recently, was heavily involved in the Supporting Voluntary Action Programme. You can contact Kim at 

Senscot has teamed up with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) to explore the extent to which Housing Associations (RSLs) are working with other social enterprises in their communities, both as clients and suppliers. We hope that this exercise will lead to increasing opportunities for further collaborations. For more, see

Fashions come and go in the third sector – but the work of churches and faith communities soldiers on quietly among our very poorest citizens. `Enough for All` is the theme of this publication “12 Baskets”. See more

This week’s bulletin profiles a community development organisation based in South Uist that is in the process of transforming itself into a social enterprise. Cothrom, which means opportunity in Gaelic, has mainly been involved in the provision of training opportunities. More recently, it has developed a couple of businesses in an effort to generate its own income. These include a furniture shop and an all day childcare facility. For more, see

The TV evening news is so depressing that I rarely watch it now – but here’s a quote from Steven Pinker which says that we’re all becoming more civilised.  Pinker is an author and Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. 

‘‘Cruelty as entertainment – human sacrifice to indulge superstition – slavery as a laboursaving device – conquest as the mission statement of government – genocide as a means of acquiring real estate – torture and mutilation as routine punishment – the death penalty for misdemeanours and difference of opinion – assassination as the mechanism of political succession – rape as the spoils of war – pogroms as outlets of frustration – homicide as the major form of conflict resolution; all of these were unexceptionable features of life for most of human history.  But, today, they are rare to nonexistent in the West, far less common elsewhere than they used to be, concealed when they do occur, and widely condemned when they are brought to light.’’

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

Best wishes,

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