Senscot Bulletin: 21.10.16

Dear members and friends,

Sitting outside a café last Sunday in Edinburgh’s George Street – watching a young chap handing out leaflets; he gives one to a 40-year-old, beer belly, bus driver who walks on reading it. Suddenly I experience a ‘revelation’ of the ‘truth’ of this incident – it’s vividly clear that no outcome is necessary – that it doesn’t matter what the bus driver does or thinks – the incident is complete and perfect in itself. More – it is all necessary and inevitable as part of an unfolding plan to help me achieve harmonious unity as a person – everything is exactly in place. After a few seconds, this ‘unveiling’ ends just as suddenly – but I`m as certain of it as I am of anything.

            These glimpses of ‘beyond’ – where everything is ‘just so’ – visit me once or twice a year – for no reason I know. I’d like to believe that they indicate a soul (psyche) which has reached an advanced stage of growth – but that is not possible in my case; nae chance. I’m a shamefully impatient person – angered by trivia – far from the spiritual goal of equanimity – far from the Buddha’s smile. Humanists say that this world is all there is; people of faith, that there must be more; in old age, I am content to agree with both positions. As a regular walker in woodland, I’m aware that occasionally, for a few seconds, we are blessed to hear the story of the universe – the way it tells its story – not as perceived by humans.


Even as a long term critic of Scotland’s local govt – I feel compelled to defend it from a centralising Holyrood. The SNP leadership is proposing several ideas to bypass the authority of elected councils in favour of empowering parents, citizens, communities etc. In vague terms, these policies are being presented as shedding power from the centre – but it will only transfer to an ad hoc assortment of unelected local institutions – some worthy, some not – but none accountable to the rigour of democratic elections. The SNP Govt needs to put in place Scotland’s missing tier of elected councils at community level – hundreds of them, towns, burghs, islands, villages. When in place, and bedded in, this tier can assume all manner of responsibilities to the benefit of our democracy; but until then, National Govt should not be centralising council functions. See Lesley Riddoch’s Scotsman piece.


Teresa May’s Grammar Schools, which select pupils on ability aged 11, are not acceptable in Scotland – we opt for the ‘fairer’ non selective comprehensive system. But a new analysis from Education Scotland reveals that, in terms of social class, Edinburgh has the most selective education in the UK. The analysis shows that the ‘catchment’ system for state schools, so entrenches social division, as to make genuine comprehensive education impossible in many.


Many years ago, I worked closely with the architect Malcolm Fraser – not only a thinker about the built environment – but the ‘people structures’ of society – how we all live together. Malcolm has authored an important discussion paper (published by the Common Weal Think Tank) asking what a proper integrated structure for housing and urban development would look like. He argues that the major cause of our housing crisis is the ideological pursuit of mortgage-backed privately owned homes.


The surge of community land buy-outs has taken everyone by surprise – with 160 transactions currently underway in Scotland – including, now, urban areas. A further surge is expected next year when new rules will enable communities to enforce the sale of land abandoned or neglected; and again in 2018 when they will only be required to show that they could make better use of the land. This burgeoning land reform movement is not driven by Scottish Govt – but they deserve credit for helping it along.


I enjoy pretending I’m ‘well read’ – then I see a list like this of the best thirty Scottish novels selected by the BBC et al – not read even half of them. Heavyweights like Gibbon, Gray, Kelman, even McIlvanney try to capture the essence of Scottishness, which is important – but I’m not really much concerned where a writer’s from. As John Rebus ‘sleuths’ his way through Edinburgh – I recognise the culture and the streets – whereas I can’t even pronounce them in Scandic thrillers. But at the end of the day it’s the storytelling not the geography that counts. For a’that, I’m glad Robert Burns was Scottish.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:

JOBS: Pass IT On, Social Enterprise Academy, Community Justice Scotland, New Tannahill Centre Ltd

EVENTS: FREE Negotiation Skills Workshop, 25 Oct; New Rights, New Resources and Revenues, 26 Oct; Joint Thematic Social Enterprise Learning Exchange, 3 Nov; Community Learning Exchange, 7 Nov;

TENDERS: Supply of Employability Pipeline Services – The Dundee Partnership, Business Gateway Services for Lanarkshire – North Lanarkshire Council, Inspiration Point – Creative Learning Team, Aberdeen City Council and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes: As a member of the Scottish Community Alliance, Senscot is able to access the Community Learning Exchange (CLE) Fund for SEN members. On the back of this, we are co-ordinating three CLE visits over the next few weeks. On the 1st Nov, we head to the Fife Employability and Training Consortium (ETC) – an example of organisations working successfully together to deliver local employability services. On 3rd Nov, a Joint Thematic SEN Learning Exchange in Elgin provides space for in-depth discussion; strategic thinking; making broader connections; sharing good practice; developing ideas and / or new pieces of work. Finally, on 7th Nov, we head to Liverpool to visit Can Cook to learn from theirenterprising and sustainable approach to tackling food poverty. Costs for the visits are covered but numbers are limited – further info’ and booking via the links above.


“Keep it local; Strength in numbers” is the working title of Senscot’s national event this year. It takes place at the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh on Wed 23rd November – and is being run in partnership with Social Firms Scotland, Community Enterprise and the Scottish Community Alliance. The event will begin with a session on the impending SE Strategy for Scotland and Cabinet Secretary, Angela Constance, has been invited to share her reflections on the Strategy and, in particular, the contribution social enterprise can make within local communities. The theme for the rest of the day will explore how – through greater collaboration – these contributions can be strengthened. In keeping with our previous events, the day will end on a social note – with a drinks reception and dinner in the evening. Places are being allocated on a first come, first served basis – over 80 signed up so far. To book, see booking form and draft programme.


Last year, The Ferret launched as anin-depth investigative journalism platform covering issues not just in Scotland but also further afield. Topics covered include Fracking; Human Rights; Police Scotland amongst others. On 12th Nov at Tribe Porty, they are hosting their Autumn Gathering and inaugural AGM. They will also be launching their next crowd-funded investigation – shortlist includes Diversity in public life; work and social security; Homelessness and housing; and Health and Social Care. You can vote here.


The Bike Station in Edinburgh was sadly hit by a fire over the weekend and their shop will sadly be out of action for a number of weeks. They were due to celebrate their 15th anniversary this weekend but, due to the circumstances, this is on hold for the time being. Thankfully, they will be able to continue with some limited trading from their warehouse nearby. Any help, support or donations – very welcome. See here


This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise, based in Kilsyth, that specialises in the collection and refurbishment of children’s nursery equipment, ready for re-sale to families in the local community and other social groups. Nursery Needs takes in donations of prams, cots, toys and other nursery equipment; employees then clean the goods up to an extremely high standard, ready for selling in its shop. Its main aims are to provide employment for people who can often find it difficult to access paid work; to help families on low income by supplying equipment at an affordable price; and also to reduce the amount of waste which goes to the landfills. Nursery Needs is operated by the charity, Watch US Grow.


C G Jung argued that modern life must be enriched by an awareness of dreams, an appreciation of myth, and a sense of mystery:

"We are very far from having finished completely with the Middle Ages, classical antiquity, and primitivity, as our modern psyches pretend… But it is precisely the loss of connection with the past, our uprootedness, which has given rise to the "discontents" of civilization. Unfortunately, the mythic side of humankind is given short shrift nowadays. We can no longer create fables. As a result, a great deal escapes us; for it is important and salutary to speak also of incomprehensible things. The more critical reason dominates, the more impoverished life becomes; but the more of the unconscious, the more of myth we are capable of making conscious, the more of life we integrate". 

That’s all for this week.

Best wishes,


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