Senscot Bulletin: 19-01-2006

Dear members and friends,

The consultant urologist has beautiful manners: “A PSA blood test will indicate the likelihood of cancer – if it’s high, we’ll do a biopsy – if there are cancer cells, it’s your call how we proceed. Some research indicates that surgery is no more effective than doing nothing – but if I myself had prostate cancer, I’d have it removed.” Alarmed, I ask the doctor why we’re discussing all this before even a blood test – he says patients should be aware of all possibilities – not sure I agree. On the way home, my car snaps its fan belt – disabling the water pump. This feels appropriate – a gesture of solidarity.
 Wake in the dark, frightened – like the primal fear of a child – recite childhood prayers – that’s what I do whenever the night-dread comes. There’s no sense to this, as I don’t really believe in a personal God – not for years. This response deeply embedded in my psyche. In the endgame of my life will I return to believe that a loving spirit watches over us? It would be comforting. It’s funny – I can’t remember falling out with God – or even if we did fall out. Seamus Heaney puts it like this: “There was a never a scene when I had it out with myself or with another. The loss occurred off stage. And yet I cannot disavow words like ‘Thanksgiving’ or ‘host’ or ‘communion bread’. They have an undying tremor and draw, like well water far down”

In England last week the “Local Community Sector Task Force” finally reported, with a call for investment of £50m per annum in micro-grants for small local groups. The contribution of local activists, embedded in the communities they serve, is increasingly appreciated in England, not least by politicians. When Gordon Brown becomes PM he will unleash a surge of support for the community sector, and in the slipstream some of this activity will inevitably come to Scotland. Currently the Scottish Executive doesn’t use the term ‘community sector’, partly because civil servants don’t know what it is. But the Labour administration knows what it is – that it stimulates local democracy – and they don’t like it. 

To try to address this Scottish deficit, the Development Trust Association Scotland (DTAS) is assembling a consortium of intermediary organisations which serve hundreds of community-based groups. They specifically do not intend to create a new organisation but aim to raise the profile of the ‘community agenda’ in Scotland. They are calling their initiative ‘Local People Leading (LPL): the campaign for strong and independent communities’. Senscot is supporting this initiative and we invite any individuals or organisations to register their support here

Everyone who receives this bulletin is counted as a member of the Senscot Network. Each year during January and February we invite readers to make a donation towards production costs. If your contribution is £25 or more, you may wish to be included (as an individual) in Senscot’s register of company members. Just let us know. This entitles you to vote at our AGM and to stand for election as a Director. Company member subscriptions are renewable annually. You can donate online here or send a cheque (and your address so we can send you a receipt) payable to Senscot, 54 Manor Place, Edinburgh, EH3 7EH.

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: 30 vacancies, incl. posts with: Carr-Gomm Scotland, Edinburgh Cyrenains, Bridges Programmes, Poverty Alliance, Positive Action in Housing,  Changeworks, Space Unlimited.

EVENTS:17 events, incl. ‘Sustaining Ecosystems’ CHE course starts Glasgow, 29 Jan; Crafting the Arts, Voluntary Arts Scotland’s 1st National Conference, 2-3 Feb, Edinburgh; Calyx Project community fun day, 4 Feb, Perth; Assist Social Capital networking evening, 22 Feb;

The Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition (SSEC) will be running the S2S Social Enterprise Trade Fair again this year. Put 26th April in your diary. See

Bethany’s yearly ‘Caring Christmas Trees’ campaign was flagged here last month. We’re told it’s been a great success: over 3,400 trees sold, over £40,000 raised for work with homeless and vulnerable people.

The 2003 Land Reform Act gives crofters the right to purchase the land they work even if the owner refuses. This law took effect for the first time last week when the 56,000 acre Galson estate in the North of Lewis was purchased by the residents – 2000 people in 22 villages and over 600 crofts. This means that over half the land in the Western Isles now rests in public or community ownership. Also Colin has been invited up to Skye to speak at the annual conference for Community Land Initiative workers organised by HIE on 6th/7th February (Agenda:
While the community land movement gathers momentum in the Highlands and Islands – lowland Scotland remains locked in the grip of municipal fiefdoms. The May elections could begin to shift this

First Port (FP) is a new Scottish Intermediary organisation aimed at the support of social entrepreneurs and their enterprises – particularly at the start-up level. It has been created with the intention of combining the Exchange part of Senscot with the Scotland UnLtd awards programme and, thanks to the support of Communities Scotland, is expected to become operational by April. The Executive Director of FP, Naomi Johnson, started on January 8th and will gradually become a kent face around the scene. The new company held its first formal board meeting on Wednesday 17th with Barry Ayre (Scotland UnLtd) being elected chair.

This week we profile a social enterprise set up by Fife Arts and Crafts Enterprise Training (FACET) in Glenrothes. BikeWorks, set up as a company limited by guarantee, offers a quality bike repair and maintenance service overseen by a qualified bike technician. It provides training and support to participants who can gain a nationally recognised qualification and a sense of pride in delivering a great service. Bike Works’ three key objectives are: getting people back on their bikes; helping those with mental health problems and disabilities learn new skills; and recycling old, unused bikes that would otherwise end up in Fife’s landfill sites. For more info’, see

Aung San Suu Kyi is Leader of the political opposition in Burma and is under permanent house arrest. She is the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. This quotation is from a piece by her called ‘Freedom from fear’:

“Saints, it has been said, are the sinners who go on trying. So free men are the oppressed who go on trying and who in the process make themselves fit to bear the responsibilities and to uphold the disciplines which will maintain a free society. Among the basic freedoms to which men aspire that their lives might be full and uncramped, freedom from fear stands out as both a means and an end. A people who would build a nation in which strong, democratic institutions are firmly established as a guarantee against state-induced power must first learn to liberate their own minds from apathy and fear.”

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 at Word Power, 43 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh. See: