Senscot Bulletin: 21.07.17

Dear members and friends,

Watching the film ‘To Sir with Love’ on Sunday – I was surprised how much it affected me.  Made in 1967, it’s about Sidney Poitier as a temporary teacher in a rough London East End school; most of the kids, already switched off from education, amuse themselves tormenting staff.  Poitier’s calm respectful manner – the dignity he offers and expects from his class, gradually wins them over.  While it wouldn’t stand serious critique, the film made me cry; 50 years ago it probably influenced where I chose to work.
            In my twenties I became a detached youth worker with an exciting group of young men in notorious street gangs; they were violent, unstable and frankly scary – I don’t know what I was supposed to be doing.  I was freelance, untrained and unsupervised; it was a stupid and reckless thing to do and I got what I deserved – a rude awakening. Some ‘sair’ memories from that period, but there were things I needed to learn – and some of us can only learn the hard way.
            ‘To Sir with Love’ is a beautifully acted story about an extraordinary individual – an idealised hero; that’s what I wanted to be – a famous champion on behalf of disadvantaged young people. But in real life, heroic do-gooders tend to be self-absorbed – take themselves too seriously; lack of accountability and burnout are problems. Genuine social progress happens through millions of daily acts of goodwill, by ordinary people – boring, mundane, consistent. Beware the fevered exploits of would-be heroes.


Jeremy Corbyn has reset the Labour party back to its true values – has greatly expanded membership – his manifesto, ending austerity, has wide popular support; the Tories are right to be afraid that the man they mocked may have become electable. Social policies cost money – Corbyn carries the weight of Labour’s reputed failure to balance the books; but on the other side he is honest – not political in the forked-tongue sense; this is a very rare quality among the political class and difficult to compute. It would take an extraordinary act of self-destruction for the Tories to blunder into another general election – but this is an unusually inept bunch – which seems ready to self-destruct.


It is pleasing to note that Scotland’s new children’s commissioner , Bruce Adamson, is not afraid to voice criticism of Scottish Govt. policy – this week specifically about smacking children and raising the age of criminal responsibility. Adamson says that in allowing the physical punishment of children – Scotland is out of step with the rest of Europe and our govt’s failure to introduce legislation is difficult to understand. P.S. My neighbours with small children – just returned from Italian holiday – overwhelmed by the welcome for kids everywhere; compared to Italians, they say, we Scots don’t like children.


Through a reported ‘leak’ to a London newspaper, we learn that the autumn ‘relaunch’ of Scottish govt. will include ‘the biggest shake-up of local councils in decades’; it’s certainly overdue. As someone deeply engaged with the local democracy issue over many decades – it’s difficult to discover where the debate happens which informs govt. policy on this. Is there a secret cabal of selected civil servants, academics and democracy activists – which will eventually announce its decisions? Compared to every country on continental Europe – Scotland has a missing tier of local democracy; it’s time to sort this


David Floyd’s ‘Beanbags’ blog is exceptionally informed about social investment – ‘even’ following the drift in Scotland; his current piece  addresses the ideological difference between Senscot (and others) and commercial social lenders like SIS (and others) – summarising both positions. But it’s simply not true that Senscot regards mainstream social investment as ‘morally wrong’. Like Muhammad Yunus, for me to take profit from activity intended to relieve suffering, would be morally wrong – but others have different beliefs which they’re entitled to promote. Floyd suggests that Scottish social lenders are doing better at the lower end: small loans alongside grants.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Social Enterprise Acaademy, WHALE Arts, The Touring Network (Highlands & Islands), Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust, SURF – Scotland’s Regeneration Forum, DTA Scotland, The Birks Cinema Trust
EVENTS: Social in the Gardens, 02 Aug; Fife Soup; 01 Sep; DTA Scotland Annual Conference & AGM 2017, 04 Sep; Pop-up-Cafe Lunch, 05 Sep; Bake & Decorate 6 Cupcakes, 18 Sep
TENDERS: Substance Misuse Services – Aberdeen City Council, Tender for the Supply of the Provision of School Transport Services – Angus Council, Positive Emotional Wellbeing Support Service – Scottish Borders Council. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.
The SENs Weekly Update: The Scottish Government has announced that public bodies in Scotland will be required to put reducing poverty and inequality at the heart of their decision making, the first government in the UK to commit to such a pledge. Once implemented, it will mean bodies like councils and the NHS must consider what more they can do to reduce poverty and inequality, whenever they make major decisions. A consultation will ask which public bodies should be subject to the duty and what they need to do to demonstrate they are carrying it out. Read the full Scottish Government press release here


The Development Trust Association Scotland (DTAS) conference is an annual fixture in our calendar; this is an early notice that this year its on Sunday and Monday the 3rd and 4th of September – at Westerwood again. Here is the programme and booking form – more later.


Referencing Matthew Taylor’s (disappointing) review of the Gig economy last week, I argued that a growing number of people are choosing more flexible working arrangements – and a core issue will become how our  ‘social contract’ collects tax from casual workers. A few readers commented on this – asserting that the power imbalance between exploitative employers and insecure workers is a more urgent issue; or the blatant tax avoidance of big businesses. Here’s what Andy Milne, CEO of SURF says.


With over four million annual visitors, there is a real danger that Edinburgh is heading the way of Venice, Florence etc. – a hollowed-out tourist trap; certain areas, like the Old Town, are already at tourist capacity. As more city centre property opts for the lucrative holiday-let market – so the city centre residential population declines – along with its vibrancy. The organisation Edinburgh World Heritage, has questioned if Scotland’s capital city is now full.


This is the week of the year when I’m usually immersed in the British Open Golf – but the R&A sold it to Rupert Murdoch; because I won’t give him a penny, I’m with the majority of Brits – excluded from a growing number of ‘privatised’ national events.
            David Puttnam, whom I regard highly, wrote in a letter to the Observer this week – that if Murdoch is allowed to buy-out Sky – it would pose a threat to our democratic process. Unregulated access to Sky’s huge ‘domestic consumption’ database – would offer opportunities for its misuse for political leverage. Would Murdoch really use your private data for his own benefit? Like a shot.


Sustainable Thinking Scotland (STS) CIC is a social enterprise created and designed to address food poverty, climate change and a reduction in landfill use. STS regularly donate to their local Bo’ness Storehouse foodbank, using local community produce to increase the provision of healthier dietary options for vulnerable families, as well as giving foodbank users the skills and knowledge to grow their own produce.
STS is also involved in the production of biochar, a highly porous, high carbon form of charcoal obtained from baking wood within an oxygen depleted environment. The biochar produced allows STS to assist with carbon based climate change on a local level as well as reducing the amount of wood waste going to landfill.


With No Experience in Such Matters by Stephen Dunn.
To hold a damaged sparrow, under water until you feel it die is to know a small something about the mind; how, for example, it blames the cat for the original crime, how it wants praise for its better side.
And yet it’s as human as pulling the plug on your Dad whose world has turned to faeces and fog, human as….. Well, let’s admit, it’s a mild thing as human things go.
But I felt the one good wing flutter in my palm – the smallest protest, if that’s what it was, I ever felt or heard. Reminded me of how my eyelid has twitched, the need to account for it. Hard to believe no one notices.


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