Senscot Bulletin: 21-09-2007

Dear members and friends,

Last week Andalucia – this week Lewis – how cool is that! Tuesday Stornoway – Wednesday Benbecula – my first visit to the Outer Hebrides – flying the flag for Senscot. Marked difference in pace of life up here, more laid back, understated. My hosts couldn’t do enough for me – gracious good manners. Speech is also slower – softer; the most attractive of Scottish accents. Benbecula airport is more like a wee community centre; the friendliness puts me in a good mood – can’t think of anything further from the Hell of Heathrow.
 On the downside, the weather seems even worse than ours. The venue on Tuesday is Shawbost old school on the west of the island; cold rain sweeping in from the Atlantic and my first blast of winter 2007. This great peat moor is proposed for a major wind farm; what a marvellous opportunity to harness this wildness.
 One of the sessions at Shawbost gets a bit heated – I address the troops about the importance of harmony – how bickering can undermine community action. Looking back it was a cringe – patronising. Donald, a big, laid-back fisherman says, ‘Where I live, we’re proud of our bickering; when something involves the whole community, we work together – then we return to our squabbling.’ He got a big cheer. Alongside a deep courtesy, the islanders don’t like plonkers from the south telling them what to do. Just like us with Londoners.

Hazel Blears, the English Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, gave the main speech at the Development Trust Association annual conference in Oxford on Monday. Blears quoted the socialist writer G.D.H. Cole (100 years ago) who called for: ‘widest possible diffusion of power and responsibility, so as to enlist the active participation of as many citizens as possible in the tasks of democratic self-government.’ She identifies 5 mechanisms which her department will pursue to achieve this `diffusion of power`: Asset Transfer, Participatory Budgeting, Petitions, Community Land Trusts, Community Anchors. The type of local democracy she is trying to foster would sit well with the citizens of Scotland – lets hope we get the same opportunities for empowering our communities. The last paragraph of her speech says it for me
For info, see

My visit to the Outer isles this week was supposedly to tell them about social enterprise – but I found a sector which could teach us a thing or two. The Community Enterprise movement which started in the 1970s just carried on up there – spawned the community land buyouts and renewable energy initiatives. Highlanders should be coming down to teach us how it’s done.

Andy Wightman writes laying down a challenge to the Scottish Government to maintain the momentum around Land Reform during the 3rd Session of the Parliament. Although legislation has begun to make a difference, he states, more initiatives are needed or the process will stall. Andy has also updated his valuable work on the neglect of common good funds and crown estates. See,

Scotland`s Communities Minister, Stewart Maxwell has responded to the independent performance report on Glasgow Housing Association. ‘It is immediately clear that the previous administration failed to put in place a coherent long term plan. The clock is ticking – GHA now has eight weeks to produce an improvement plan. I will ensure that the Scottish Parliament gives this issue the prominence it deserves.’
For more, see

Senscot `Intrapreneurs` event takes place on 4th October in Edinburgh  If you have not received an e-mail today and would like to attend, contact
Numbers are growing for Assist Social Capital’s ‘Social Capital & Financial Inclusion’ conference at Gogarburn (RBS HQ) on 9th November. Bursaries are available thanks to support from the Scottish Community Foundation. If you’re interested, see

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: 42 vacancies, incl. posts with: the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition, Fife Council, Lambhill Stables, Co-operative Education Trust Scotland, Forestry Commission, Blake Stevenson Limited

EVENTS: 18 events, incl ‘Social Capital & Financial Inclusion’ International Conference, 9th Nov, Edinburgh; Local Government & Climate Change: Your How to Guide, 9th Nov, Edinburgh; Ethical Enterprise: Certificate of Professional Development, 30 Nov, Glasgow; Fairtrade in Palestine, 5 Oct, Edinburgh

The School for Social Entrepreneurs in Fife is running a new programme – Enterprising Solutions – for Housing Association residents who have business ideas that could benefit their community. They are now recruiting for the course which will be based in Grangemouth.

Entrepreneurship continues to move up the agenda in Scotland with the announcement of the Scottish Programme for Entrepreneurship. Three universities – Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Strathclyde – will participate in a £2.65m initiative jointly funded by the Scottish Government and the Hunter Foundation.

It was announced last week that Careers Scotland and Learn –Direct Scotland will merge into a new unified Skills agency. This is seen as part of the Scottish Government`s streamlining agenda. Plans for the future role of Scottish Enterprise are due to be announced soon. Rumour is that the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday will determine its future.

This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise providing IT services in Ayrshire and the west of Scotland. Ayr Network Solutions (Ayrnet) was set up to offer a professional, quality and honest service to people and businesses while not charging huge fees. Supported in their early days by Scotland unLtd, Ayrnet offers services that include design, hosting, maintenance and e-solutions. They also provide business consultancy and run a series of workshops that provide training in databases, spreadsheets or word processing. For info`, see

After my taste of the Outer Hebrides, I find myself reaching for slowness again. The Buddhist monk they call THAY (THICH NHAT HANH ) is a great teacher.

‘At lunchtime prepare a meal for yourself. Cook the meal and wash the dishes in mindfulness. In the morning after you have cleaned and straightened up your house, after you have worked in the garden or watched clouds or gathered flowers, prepare a pot of tea to sit and drink in mindfulness. Allow yourself a good length of time to do this. Don’t drink your tea like someone who gulps down a cup of coffee during a workbreak. Drink your tea slowly and reverently as if it were the axis on which the earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing towards the future. Live the actual moment. For only this actual moment is life.’

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 See: