Senscot Bulletin: 20-04-2007

Dear members and friends,

Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ is a deceptively simple story but something keeps drawing me back to it. An impoverished old Cuban fisherman called Santiago – after 84 days without any luck, catches a giant fish. After a titanic struggle lasting 2 ½ days, he ties it to his skiff – but loses it the next day in an equally heroic combat with the voracious sharks of the Caribbean. This humble, barely-literate old man summons such extraordinary reserves of courage and resistance that, at an indefinable point, the story changes from a particular adventure to something more constant and universal. It becomes a parable of the human condition – which shows the human spirit at its best.
 When, at last, Santiago beaches his boat, only the skeleton of the giant Marlin remains. Stumbling and falling – on the point of collapse from exhaustion – he drags the mast towards his shack, through the sleeping village. The write Mario Vargas Llosa, who considers this to be Hemingway’s greatest story, comments: “What the reader feels at this moment is difficult to describe, as is always the case with the mysterious messages that great works convey. Perhaps, ‘mercy’, ‘compassion’, ‘humanity’ are the words that come closest to this feeling.” Yes – it’s the story’s theme of compassion which attracts me. How ordinary folk – in facing life’s suffering with bravery and dignity – can achieve moral greatness – even though we might be defeated.

In Scotland, two entirely different approaches to community empowerment are practised. Since the 1970s, when Highland and Islands Development Board was fostering community co-operatives – the North of our country has built an international reputation for assisting local communities develop the resources and competence to exercise leadership. Simultaneously, in Central Scotland, successive Labour administrations have intentionally suppressed independent local initiatives in favour of top-down municipalism. I was astonished to read in Labour’s new manifesto a complete u-turn – not only the acknowledgement that they do it better in the north – but the explicit proposal that they extend their good practice south. Such is Labour’s grip, that it is very difficult to meet anyone in the Scottish Executive who is comfortable with local people leading change – or who even understands it. Let us hope the new administration realises that there’s a chunk of Scotland where they do understand. 

All the political parties have now published their Manifestos and we have posted a digest of the ‘social enterprise bits’ – courtesy of Jon Molyneux of the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition and Matt Jarratt of Social Firms Scotland. It is really quite dramatic how our fledgling sector has advanced in political consciousness since the last elections. Form you own conclusion which of the parties ‘gets’ what we’re trying to do. A long and short digest:

You may be aware that Senscot and Scotland UnLtd have formed a new joint initiative called First Port which will act as a first port of call for new and aspiring social entrepreneurs and their enterprises. Pat, who set up the Senscot Exchange, has moved over to the new company, which will also deliver the UnLtd awards in Scotland. The chair of First Port’s Board is Barry Ayre and its Executive Director is Naomi Johnson. They are now looking to recruit a new Office Manager.

Well-researched piece in the Financial Times on the phenomenon of social enterprises from a private sector perspective. Typically, business people see our movement being driven by mega rich philanthropists: “There’s a wall of money and nothing to do with it. There is way too much to give away intergenerationally and a limit to how much art and real estate you can buy.” I found it interesting to see “how others see us.”  FT has good writers. .

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: 29 vacancies, incl. posts with: Almond Enterprises Ltd, ENABLE Glasgow, Nadair Trust & Nadair Support Services, Edinburgh Cyrenians, Wood RecyclAbility Ltd.

EVENTS: 15 events, incl. Social Enterprise Academy 2 day Learning Journey on social enterprise, 24 and 25 April, Glasgow; Community care for Glasgow, All Party Question Time, 27 April, Glasgow; Strathmore and the Glens Community Market, Blairgowrie, 28 April; East Lothian SEN event, 1 May, Dirleton; Community Cohesion & the Equality Agenda for the 21st Century, SECC, 24 May;

Re-Union is seeking inspirational crew – a project manager and a boat fitter – to join the staff team as a result of an award from the Big Lottery Fund:

Social Economy Scotland invites entries for a new award to celebrate success in raising the profile of social enterprise. ‘Raising the Profile’ deadline: 1 May 2007:

Received a couple of updates from the Scottish delegation in Long Beach, California attending the Social Enterprise Alliance Conference. Seems they’re having a great time – and the conference is quite interesting too. We’ll have a fuller update on their return. Here’s a bit of background.

David Miliband, when he was at DCLG, was keen a mustard on the transfer of public assets to community organisations, but his successor Ruth Kelly is more cautious. She referred the matter for consideration by the Quirk Review which issued a briefing note last week, saying that the main barriers to asset transfer are “cultural or based on inaccurate perceptions”. I think this means that councils don’t want to do it. Would you believe it? 

Local social enterprise networks (LSENs), which Colin supports, continue to multiply and there are now in excess of 200 businesses spread across 15 networks. The core idea is peer-to-peer support for front line practitioners, so if this appeals, we can link you to any activity in your area. The pattern emerging is that LSENs are winning modest financial support locally – typically from the social economy partnership, as in Argyll & Bute, Aberdeen and Fife. Find out more: visit Stand 11 at S2S next Thursday, or

This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise in Aberdeen that provides a graphic design service to the voluntary and community sector in the North East. GREC Graphic Design is a trading arm of Grampian Racial Equality Council which has been active in the Aberdeen area since the mid 80s. GREC offers a full range of services from standard print to digital services that include photography and .DVD/CD-Rom creation. They also offer the full range of web services and pride themselves on their quick turn-a-round. For further info’, see

The Herald last Saturday carried the obituary of James Maley – ‘Scottish Communist and Spanish Civil War combatant’; penned by his son, Willy – it is attached below. The few communists I’ve known who fought the International Brigade were impressive – left a lasting impression on me. Pablo Neruda called them “that thin and hard and mature and ardent brigade of stone”. Anyone who would understand the Scottish psyche – our distinctiveness – needs to be aware of Red Clydeside between the wars – a hotbed of socialism led by real working class heroes. Aspiring political leaders should not underestimate how much this legacy is still carried inside us as part of our pride.

That’s all for this week. Good luck with your adventures

Best wishes.

To receive this bulletin directly, you can sign up here:
Laurence’s book, ‘You’ve Got To Laugh’ is available See: