Senscot Bulletin: 17-08-2007

Dear members and friends,

I’ve always loved the company of books – even since my Enid Blyton days. At the Edinburgh Book Festival this week – watching the celebs – dreaming of being a famous author. But I got my chance last year – we printed 1000 copies of ‘You’ve Got To Laugh’ – still got 400 left – not great is it? In truth this doesn’t really bother me. It’s the act of writing which does it for me – a must do – like therapy. Getting the words down on the page – the ones which hide – stalking them, testing their fit. And when sometimes they come to you easily, it feels like the most amazing luck… But it would still be cool to be a ‘successful writer’.
 No publication serves Scottish writing as intelligently as the quarterly ‘Scottish Review of Books’; like Senscot it evokes an independent counter-culture. Unknown to me the current issue carries a mini-review of my book. Reading the words “a surprisingly winning effort” my mind jumps to Primary 4 at school – the joy of Miss Guthrie praising my essay. Are our grown up endeavours set so early – so simply?
 I’ve considered getting a big agent to advise me what to write – explain the markets – to punt my stuff – but that’s not for me. The need to write and the desire to be a ‘successful writer’ are quite different. Heard recently of an author who said that it took him 10 years to realise that he can’t write. Asked if that made him want to quit, he said “No way – by that time my reputation was secured”. 
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I believe it’s a good thing for Scotland that our 50 years of Labour rule has ended. The party had lost its momentum – appeared weary – a bit lost. They need to get back to basics – build again. The main reason for my support of the new government is their stated intention to spread power down to communities and citizens. Consultation papers will surface in the autumn with detailed proposals for initiatives like ‘budgets for community councils’ and a new idea called ‘enhanced empowerment status’. The Local People Leading  Campaign, which Senscot is part of, will keep you informed of developments. An important fact which is overlooked is that the political party which shows the most understanding and support for community empowerment is, by far, the Scottish Liberal Democrats. This speech by Nicol Stephen last October nails their colours to the mast. This is radical stuff!

I welcome the new national debate on the governance of Scotland – we need more independence as a nation but I’m open-minded about how far this should go. I like to think of democracy as tiers of autonomy. For me, the most urgent need is a new tier at the bottom, nearer citizens – at community level. My personal take on the issue of national autonomy has been influenced by a very negative experience as the Scottish Trustee of a London based charity. The arrogance of the metropolis to its regions (they include Scotland) is sair to bear. Anger from feeling insulted has influenced my judgement. I don’t feel this hostility towards Geordies for instance – it’s not Scotland v England. It’s the distortion of centralised power. I thought Allan Massie, the Scottish writer, made an interesting point in a recent interview:

As we await word from the Executive on initiatives to grow the social enterprise sector in Scotland, including the long awaited review of Social Investment Scotland, the Cabinet Office is now consulting on a new £10million risk capital investment fund for social enterprises. It is anticipated that government funds will be matched by business and individual investors. The fund will look to fill the gap at the critical stage of development between starting up and growing their business. For more, see

Good news for the development trust movement in Scotland. Four members have recently secured over £2 million between them from BIG’s Growing Community Assets investment programme. These include Sleat Community Trust in Skye being able to purchase the local filling station.  For more info’, see
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: 23 vacancies, incl. posts with: Impact Arts, EKOS,  Bethany Christian Trust, Edinburgh Cyrenians, Capital City Partnership, Social Firms Scotland, Spruce Carpets, Project Ability ,

EVENTS: 16 events, incl. PSP – A Model for Social Enterprise Procurement, Glasgow; 29 Aug; CEiS Social Enterprise Business Models Conference, Glasgow, 4 Sept; Healthy Glasgow: Our Business, Glasgow, 11 Sep; Trusts, Statutory & Foundations Special Interest Group, Glasgow, 19 Sept; Developing Social Enterprise, Perth, 19 Sept;

Congratulations to Leona McDermid who’s heading off in November to have a baby. In the meantime, she’s sent us info on the up and comming CEO post (maternity cover) with Social Firms Scotland.

The ‘Fit for purpose’ Conference continue to attract a lot of interest. If you want to reserve a place, get in now as they’re quickly filling up. On the same theme, Good Company magazine’s summer issue focuses on health and social enterprise. The magazine will be available from next week. Here’s a glimpse at their contents page.

A quick reminder that Senscot will be hosting exploratory meetings for innovators in the public sector. First one will be held on 4th October at Friend’s Meeting House, Edinburgh. We’ll have more details in the coming weeks. Here’s some background info.
This week’s bulletin profiles a thriving childcare social enterprise in Edinburgh. North Edinburgh Childcare was set up in 1997 by a group of local women campaigned over a number of years for the creation of a custom built childcare facility. Since then the organisation has gone from strength to strength and grown into the multi-stranded operation that provides pre-school care in the centre, out of school care for 180 children in 6 local primary schools and crèche services in the local area as well as throughout the city. A recent Care Commission report applauded the high standards set and maintained by the North Edinburgh Childcare.

I share William McIlvanney’s pride in Scotland’s legacy of egalitarianism (last week’s end bit), but some consider his view a tad romantic. Here’s a bucket of cold water from writer Ewan Morrison.
“The Scots love to see themselves as a downtrodden people who support their fellow oppressed. As ‘the common man’ with a proud socialist past – like red Clydeside. This made sense when Marxism was a vibrant force, when in revolutionary terms the project was not to reform society , but to bring its crisis to a head, to, as Trotsky said “make things worse before they can be made better”. But Marxism is dead and revelling in how downtrodden you are makes no sense now that there is no revolution to solve everything.
What happens then is that this negative thinking becomes pure resentment. A perversion of thought occurs when we find national pride in our failure and hate those who try make things better. A new movement for independent self-governance cannot be one that leads us, again, into the same old socialist crap.”

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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 See: