Senscot Bulletin: 16.12.16

Dear members and friends,
Got Xmas cards away on Monday – forty four posted – four hand delivered to neighbours – I’m roughly a 50 card guy. For a spell between 1980 and 1990, my life became seriously disordered (drink and gambling mainly) – too chaotic to bother about Xmas. I appreciate being back with it again: addressing envelopes, composing greetings – a few minutes thinking of each person – an annual roll-call of friendships – it feels important to me.
            As part of this annual ritual, I find myself remembering people with whom I’d like to be exchanging cards but who are gone: I don’t only mean those who have died, but a whole range of great friends and colleagues who drifted (or marched) away. With the chance to do it all again – would we end up with a different bunch?  I once believed that we could measure ourselves by the calibre of those who measured themselves against us – but I’ve abandoned that; it’s only kindness that makes sense anymore.
            And I don’t just mean people who tweet to the world that they slept a night outside for the homeless – (followed by a photo opp. with the First Minster serving bacon rolls). I refer to ordinary people, doing stuff they will neither be paid for nor get credit for; day after day, this is what really keeps the world going round – in society, in communities, in neighbourhoods, in families. May the festive season find you with such loving people – and the laughter of (well behaved) children. Sometimes love is not named nor recognised – but it is love all the same.


Speaking after Angela Constance (Cab Sec for Communities, Social Security and Equalities) at the launch on Wednesday – Senscot’s Aidan Pia welcomed Scotland’s new Social Enterprise Strategy – thanking a remarkable range of contributors. During the drafting process, Senscot, along with many others, was concerned to protect the definition of SE in accordance with the ‘Voluntary Code of Practice’; while the adopted version is not our choice of words – we believe an acceptable compromise has been reached. Page 8 of the Strategy recognises ‘the Code’ as Scotland’s benchmark for SE – which is entirely compatible with sitting alongside a wider movement which includes a most encouraging rise in ‘socially responsible businesses’ (SRBs). This distinction is necessary for simple pragmatic reasons; as criteria of eligibility for fiscal benefits like tax relief, grant funding etc; and to enable the general public to distinguish between social enterprise (asset locked) and ‘socially responsible businesses’ – which allow private profit.


I watched the Scottish Budget announcement and debate on TV yesterday – underwhelming. Lots of tinkering – small amounts getting moved about – but no bold ideas. See Fraser of Allander’s initial response.  Pleased that our centralising Govt’s attempts to swipe £100m from Local Councils was rebuffed; a red face – but they deserved it. The SNP are two votes short – early next year they’ll need a deal – most likely with the Greens; Patrick Harvie wants to raise taxes for the better off – but the SNP wagon hugsthemiddle of the road. Third Sector budget maintained


Pleased to link to Andy Wightman’s important Stephen Maxwell Lecture (Dec 8) – offering comment and suggestions about the state of Scottish democracy. You may be aware that Wightman has vowed to defend a £750K defamation suit threatening his land reform blogsite. His rigorous research is a leading component of Scotland’s land reform movement; powerful landowners must not be allowed to bully him with their big money and flash lawyers. One of Wightman’s books reminds us: ‘The poor had no lawyers’ – but things have changed.


It is widely accepted that economies are ‘essentially’ about profit-making, self-interest and competition – must be free to grow without limit; but, in reality, economies have no essential nature – could just as easily be founded on the opposite values of compassion, co-operation, community and sufficiency. I enjoyed this article on the Open Democracy site by Julie Nelson – who has studied both Economics and Zen Buddhism: "Economic transformation is not about a gigantic battle between two opposing sets of principles; it’s about cultivating good wherever it emerges".


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Place 2 Be, TSI Moray, Scottish Rural Action, Port Edgar Watersports CIC, Bandrum Nursing Home, The Larder Cook School
EVENTS: "Ye Olde Toy Storey" (A Disnae Panto Glesga Style), 18 Dec; Retail resilience: Retail Finance, 31 Jan; Leading Growth for Senior Leaders, 23 Mar
TENDERS: Provision and Operation of a Community Recycling Centre – South Ayrshire Council, Volunteer Provision, Training and Management Service – Scottish Canals, Open Space Landscaping Maintenance – Maryhill Housing Association and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes: On Wednesday, we attended the launch of Scotland’s new SE Strategy – a co-production involving the SE Community and Scottish Govt. Senscot, along with Social Firms Scotland, was involved in initiating a sector-led Steering Group back in the autumn of 2014 – from which the SE Vision document emerged. The Strategy itself will be followed by a series of three-year Action Plans – first one due in March 2017 – designed to implement the Strategy over the coming decade. A key thread that runs through the document is the acknowledgement that – wherever possible – local services will be delivered locally and responsive to the needs of local communities. Senscot hopes to work with SENs, their members and other partners to ensure that this remains a priority.


A couple of weeks back, we featured an article by Douglas Robertson – ‘Groundhog Day? Explaining 50 years of failed renewal’ – which had been published in Bella Caledonia. This week we received a response to Douglas’ piece from Andy Milne (CEO of SURF – Scotland’s Regeneration Forum). Andy believes Douglas’ analysis is largely accurate – but with two main caveats.


This bulletin has regularly featured community shares offers and crowd-funding campaigns over the last year or so. The two such stories have come to our attention this week. First up, is Unity Grill in Ayr. Unity Grill is setting up a ‘social restaurant’ that will seek to address food poverty through community support and mutual assistance. Their crowd-funding campaign is looking to raise £5k. You can support their campaign here. The other story is from the community of Strontian in the West Highlands. This week they received support from the Scottish Land Fund to purchase a plot of land on which to build their owncommunity school. The funds for the school itself will come through a loan and their own community shares offer


Part of being 76 is keeping your eye open for the ‘final place’ you’d choose to live – perhaps as a ‘looked after’ person? Guardian columnist, Ian Jack, had sort of imagined Craigard House on his native Isle of Bute for this purpose: ‘a frail old gentleman with a telescope, gazing across the Firth of Clyde towards Largs’. This short, nostalgic piece, in Scottish Review, recounts the decline and imminent closure of Craigard House – and the depressing state of nursing homes in general. Cheer up – it’s Xmas!


The last bulletin of the year profiles a community enterprise that is based in one of Scotland’s hardest to reach communities – the Knoydart Peninsula. The Knoydart Foundation Shop is part of the Knoydart Foundation’s growing portfolio of enterprises that are set up to generate secondary income for re-investment in local people and the place. Fully renovated in 2014, the shop is now stocking a far wider range of products. Now on the back of a new website – with the ability to purchase online – they hope to emulate their sister enterprise the Knoydart Bunkhouse which has already ‘gifted back’ over £30k to the Foundation.


I intend to read further into the controversial life of journalist and critic AA Gill, who died on 10th December (Obituary). I wonder if the fact he was born in Edinburgh has anything to do with this stirring passage on Scottishness.


“Still, despite 400 years of patronage and propaganda, Scotland isn’t the heathery extension of England. It remains stubbornly and grimly, often amusingly, a different place. Its humour, its character, its stories, its expectations, how it gets married and celebrates, how it gets buried and sees in New Year, what it sings about and fights about, are all markedly, noticeable, fiercely different”. See full passage.


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,