Senscot Bulletin: 18.03.16

Dear members and friends,


Someone called Tom Bower has written a ‘hatchet job’ biography of Tony Blair – no attempt at balance so not worth our time; but the reviews are once again aghast at the crassness of Blair’s obsession with getting rich.  Former new labour colleagues – Brown, Darling etc have no qualms about joining him as ‘arm candy’ for the wealth management industry.  I can remember when elected politicians – in what was known as the labour movement – would have been unable to comprehend these ‘defections to the enemy’.
In the third sector, hundreds of thousands of citizens go about our daily business without thought of wealth or even reward. The worlds super rich, also own the newspapers – so we need to remember that our values represent the majority; that the aberration is an ex British PM being paid £250k to speak to the Florida convention of the International Sanitary Supply Association.
Our attitude to money is personal and complicated – reflecting a basic outlook on life: those grateful to have ‘enough’ – those who will never know what enough means – always wanting more. Raymond Carver (a kindred spirit) sets out his stall in his poem ‘money’; a modest wish list – except for a joyful final flourish: “He knows a girl in Porto Alegre who’d love to see him in his own boat, sails full, turn into the harbour for her.  A fellow who could afford to come all the way to see her.  Just because he liked the sound of her laughter, and the way she swings her hair.”


The Tories have published plans to make the UK a social investment hub – whatever that means? As Harvey McGrath pointed out on his (remarkably honest) arrival as chair of Big Society Capital – the third sector needs ‘blended’ finance – only a small ‘subset’ is suited to commercial loans. This means that the Tory drive to marketise public services has turned to the growth of ‘for profit hybrid’ organisations which will pay dividends to investors. The latest ‘version’ of these are called ‘mission-led businesses’ and a Govt led study will try and make sense of legal and regulatory issues. The whole thing seems ‘back of an envelope’ – but we can all be confident that the PR will be good.


This week’s budget was the 4th within 12 months – our overmighty Chancellor enjoys political theatre. I neither understand nor believe the numbers on offer from the ‘conjuror’ – a disingenuous jumble – but media comment gradually helps. The plan to take all English schools under central govt. control needs no explanation however – right wing ideology with a sinister edge; this letter from yesterday’s Guardian nails it.  Here in Scotland we need a fundamental debate about what local govt. is for – devolution gives us the opportunity to put in place a radical vision for localism going forward – including a missing tier of democracy.


The speaker of Scotland’s Parliament, Tricia Marwick, has suggested that we need a ‘second house’ because our committee system doesn’t offer enough scrutiny of business. As someone who is out and about among services for young children – it is clear that the proposed ‘named person’ edict has not been sufficiently thought through – bad legislation. Tricia Marwick also believes in local tiers of democracy – “In a wide-ranging conversation with journalists and departing MSPs in Edinburgh, the presiding officer also said she favoured power being devolved to the most local level possible”.

Atul Gawande’s book ‘Being Mortal’ sits in my bedside pile of books – essential reading. It’s an inspirational and humane look at what it’s like to get old and die in our culture – and how the medical profession has got it wrong. A major report, on end of life care, just published by the BMA agrees with Gawande – that we sometimes treat the terminally ill after it stops doing them any good. As a society we need to talk about this.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Voluntary Sector Gateway West Lothian, Freespace, Place 2Be, The Ripple Project, Laggan Forest Trust (LFT), Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust,
EVENTS: Women of the Necropolis Heritage Walk, 20 Mar; Meet A Mentor for Women, 24 Mar; Coalfields Regeneration School – Open Event, 31 Mar; Social Capital World Forum, 9 Apr;
TENDERS: Independent Advocacy Services for Adults – The City of Edinburgh Council, Specialist Services and Sustainable Living Options for Adults with Complex Needs – Aberdeenshire Council, Dundee Joint Social Work Sensory Service – Dundee City Council.  Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.
The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes:  Food insecurity is increasingly at the heart of the debate about poverty and inequality in Scotland. A collaboration between Oxfam Scotland, the Poverty Alliance, Nourish, Child Poverty Action Group Scotland and Faith in the Community Scotland, is exploring the development of networking activity to help identify and challenge the causes of food insecurity, and to work together towards a more effective and sustainable response. The scope and scale of this proposed project has yet to be determined, but is likely to include Sharing Best Practice and Enhancing Evidence; Supporting Strong Local Networks; and Building a Movement for Change. They are keen to hear the views from a range of organisations across Scotland – including Community Food SEN members – and are inviting people to fill in this short questionnaire. Closing date – 24th March.


Another reportsuggests that in England, the independence of the third sector is being eroded by a hostile Tory Govt; this includes restrictions on the freedom to disagree with the Govt on policy issues. An independent third sector is one of the distinguishing marks of a free society. We are fortunate in Scotland that our Govt and regulator respect this.


I’m passionate about land reform – starting with a mandatory register of who owns Scotland. But the latest research of Andy Wightman and colleagues in to the Buccleuch Estate shows that passion is not enough; when faced with the practised evasion of sharp lawyers – patient, forensic research is required; well done guys. It will take decades of political campaigning to reform the ownership and use of Scotland’s land – but Lesley Riddoch believes that Wednesday’s Bill was a good start.
Borders-based social enterprise, Bookdonors, has recently launched its new website – providing an alternative to Amazon if you are looking to purchase books online. Bookdonors, set up in 2005, currently employs 32 staff and, in the last year, has been selling 8,000 books per week – helping to create a turnover of £1.4m and raising £200,000 for charities. The new site is offering 250,000 used books and 50,000 new titles for sale at the click of a button and now hopes to grow the business further and, at the same time, offer people across Scotland the opportunity to buy books ethically.


Following up on last week’s story about Biosphere Reserves – and some readers unfamiliarity with the term etc – we hear that Adventure Centre for Education (ACE), located in Scotland’s only biosphere reserve in Galloway and Southern Ayrshire, was hailed as a ‘social enterprise world leader’ by UNESCO at the Biosphere Reserves World Conference in Lima, Peru – see VIDEO. Assist Social Capital also launched its new OASIIS Platform – see


This week’s bulletin profiles a new social enterprise in Glasgow – StepUp Shoeshine CIC – that aims, through bringing a professional shoeshine service to business executives, to offer a novel approach to helping people back into employment. Working on the principle that well-polished shoes can create a lasting impression in the same way as a firm handshake; an open smile; or a smart suit, StepUp Shoeshine enables jobless people to offer its Shoeshining services to professional clients – and, at the same time, offer ethical training, jobs and a stronger future for their shoe valeters.


“Among the rich you will never find a really generous man even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.” G.K. ChestertonA Miscellany of Men

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”  F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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Senscot is a Company, registered in Scotland. Company Reg No. 278156: Scottish Charity No. SC 029210