Senscot Bulletin: 19.08.16

Dear members and friends,

            I’m an admirer of Richard Holloway (former bishop) who, as writer and commentator illuminates the Scottish firmament on subjects social, artistic, religious etc; I’m enjoying his latest book – ‘a little history of religion’. I already know – from the intelligent interviews he conducts on Sunday mornings (Radio Scotland) – that I am comfortable with his brand of tolerant agnosticism.  Like him I am a former Christian, without rancour – as long as you don’t bother others – what you believe is your business.
            In more or less chronological order – travelling across the globe and millennia – Holloway’s book charts the growth and decline of the major religious traditions; in a remarkably even handed way – he is just as authoritative on Islam as Anglicanism. It struck me as a text aimed at senior school students – which irked until I realised that was exactly what I wanted: a sweep, in 240 pages, across all the religions I know so little about – and how they are linked. (I now know the difference between a Sunni and a Shia Muslim?)
            Throughout his wee book, Holloway maintains a parallel search in which I have particular interest: what is it in the human psyche which makes us hanker after religion in the first place. Of an evening, I often ‘surprise a hunger in myself to be more serious’; this feels like a need for harmony – for sanctuary – for a grandeur beyond normal human experience. I suspect that this is an innate longing – part of our humanity – and that simply removing religion from our lives doesn’t end it. 


My genuine respect for Andy Murray continues to grow – but I got totally hacked off with the incessant overblown hysteria around team GB’s medal count (£5.5m per medal). This is an aspect of modern life that I find difficult – that it’s no longer considered ignorant to boast – to exaggerate our talents beyond the truth. It worries that this turbo-marketing culture, particularly in England, is infecting bits of our SE community; certain private sector behaviours can compromise SEs claim to be ‘a different way’. On Wednesday I saw this video of Jeremy Corbyn sitting on the floor of the London/Newcastle train, when there weren’t enough seats. I continue to be inspired by this man’s extraordinary ‘ordinariness’ – and I’m not alone with 84% of Labour constituencies now backing him. Is it possible that the UK is beginning to turn off from all this overblown marketing and Trump Tower vulgarity?  


Apart from central govt – the most important funder of the third sector is the Big Lottery; but according to NCVO and other English infrastructure orgs. – proposed policy changes threaten its independence from govt. Scotland is well served by the Lottery – but are certain Scotland Committee funds ultimately subject to London policy directives? We would do well to be aware of these proposed changes down south. Here’s commentfrom BIG Scotland. I noticed that NCVO specifically advised the Cabinet Office to make clear, that its use of the term ‘civil society orgs’ does not include “mission–led businesses that are primarily profit making orgs which do not reinvest the majority of their surpluses into their social mission”. Pleased about that.


When she retired, Holyrood speaker Tricia Marwick warned the Scottish people that our parliamentary committee system was rendered ineffective by SNP over-dominance. The SNP was not returned this time with an overall majority – so it was worrying to read this week that the committee system could now be compromised by senior ministers placing their aides on their scrutinising committee. This looks shoddy.


My interest in Iceland started with the detective stories of Ardnaldur Indridason – and sort of carried on. This small North Atlantic Island is to hold elections in October at which the ultra-democratic Pirate party is expected to gain its first taste of power (at or near the top of the polls). Its platform includes direct democracy (using technology), greater govt. transparency, and a totally new constitution. The party was started four years ago by a small group of activists and hackers and stands for “fundamental system change”.

Last Sunday’s Herald carried this piece by Rob Edwards and Karen Goodwin – claiming that it is still too easy for the super-rich to buy and manage great chunks of Scotland – and no questions asked. Our absurdly outdated feudal system of land ownership means that in parts of Scotland rural projects are frozen – and whole communities are denied access to their own natural assets. The article refers to a dossier – compiled by Global Justice Now – which alleges landowners’ links to the ‘darker side of global capitalism’.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: The Church of Scotland, Crossreach, Impact Arts (Projects) Ltd, Clydesdale Community Initiatives, Faith In The Community, Inverkip Community Initiative, Kingdom Housing Association, Paws for Progress
EVENTS: Back to Blairgowrie TMSA Concert: 50 years of history in one night!, 27 Aug; DTA Scotland Annual Conference & AGM, 04 Sep; The Scottish Land Reform Conference 2016,23 Sep; For those interested in advancing local democracy, there will be a meeting in Edinburgh this Wednesday 24 August 3.30-5.0 pm; 4 speakers, including Lesley Riddoch, will ask ‘Can Scots run their own communities
TENDERS: Governance Review – Clackmannanshire Third Sector Interface; Domestic Abuse Service 2016 – South Lanarkshire Council; Social Media – East Dunbartonshire Council and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.
The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes:  For the last 11 years, Senscot has hosted a SE Conference and Ceilidh in November of each year. The first event took place at New Lanark in 2005 and eventually moved to the Westerwood in Cumbernauld in 2012 – in an effort to accommodate more folk. The primary objective of the Conference and Ceilidh has always been to bring together grassroots social enterprises to make connections with each other and share their respective stories – and, importantly, include a strong social element. The time has come, in our view, to refresh things. We still intend holding a national event in November but this time in collaboration with others – Community Enterprise; Social Firms Scotland; and the Scottish Community Alliance. We`ll have more details over the coming weeks.


We recently did a piece introducing ‘Scotland the Bread’ – which starts as a project of scientists and nutritionists to rediscover and grow ancient and highly nutritious Scottish wheat grains. The second half of the enterprise is to inspire communities around Scotland to get baking real bread again. The latest example of this to surface is the Gorbals Loaf – product of the High Rise Bakery – in the kitchen of 39 Waddell Court, Gorbals. Twice weekly, local residents and a team of volunteers bake together; not only is the reputation of their artisan loaves spreading – but its proving an effective community building exercise.


Pro-independence, Kevin McKenna, has a column in the National urging Nicola Sturgeon to set a date for Indy Ref2. I am also a solid yes voter – and must agree with McKenna’s view that it’s hard to imagine a better set of circumstances, than we have at present, for announcing a second indy campaign; but I’m wondering why I don’t feel that vibe in the general population. McKenna’s reading is that, whether Nicola likes it or not, the battle for independence is underway again; he wants the SNP’s October conference to commit to the timing of the referendum.


Some of George Monbiot’s rants are too extreme or obscure for me; his recent conversion to veganism sounded messianic. But there is no more fearless warrior for exposing how ‘big business’ threatens democracy – the dirty tricks of Britain’s many privileged elites. Here he unpicks how the grouse shooting fraternity manipulates Govt and the media – whilst causing extensive environmental damage – including killing raptors like Golden Eagles. I didn’t realise that we taxpayers actually subsidise grouse moors – how did they manage that!


This week’s bulletin profiles a new Aberdeen-based theatre company social enterprise, operating as a social enterprise, that provides a range of groups for young people, using a variety of different drama techniques in order to develop their practical abilities, as well as their overall confidence and provide a social environment to make friends and have fun. Shazam Theatre Company is run by experienced and trained professionals, who strive to produce high quality teaching and performance and operates two musical theatre groups – one for adults and another for young people. Shazam has also been short-listed in two categories for the up-and-coming SE Awards Scotland.


Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895 – 1986) was in the Indian tradition of spiritual teacher and holy man – but he was also a devastating critic of all forms of organised religion.


“I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect… Truth cannot be organised; nor should any organisation be formed to lead or coerce people along any particular path… Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it… Being religious then implies a dedication to investigating what is true; without motive, without purpose, without any belief or religion, without any authority whatsoever; true religion is the pathless search for Truth.”


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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