Senscot Bulletin: 21.12.17

Dear members and friends,

I’m still on the board of a children’s charity in the east end of Glasgow.  In reception last Thursday, a woman is sobbing – an experienced member of staff is with her, so I continue to my meeting. I learn later that the woman is homeless – with three young kids – and absolutely nothing for their Xmas.  Her sobbing was from relief and gratitude for the toys and food we were able to distribute.

This incident stays with me – recalls a comment by the singer Susan Boyle, in a 2012 interview: “There is an abject poverty in the UK that I feel is hidden – a general unawareness of the struggle that people face every day.  Before my ‘big break’, I lived on £30 a week – I never again want to feel that gut wrenching panic or misery”.  Austerity is worse now that it was when Susan Boyle was struggling; poverty at Xmas with young children is merciless.

Today, the 21st December, is the winter solstice – the turning-point from which daylight starts to build again.  Every year – like our prehistoric ancestors – I feel a profound connection between this returning of the light and life itself.  This most natural of holidays, is about putting to rest an old, tired year – charging our batteries for the new one; the theme of ‘renewal’ has the deepest significance for the human spirit; the metaphor of the solstice ‘restoreth my soul’.  Senscot will now pause until January 4th.  May this festive season bring comfort and joy to you and your loved ones.



I’m a fan of historian and commentator David Marquand – several of his books grace my shelves; his take on the Brexit shambles in Tuesday’s Guardian is very clear – that Britain’s problem is not with Europe, but with the outdated version of English nationhood. A combination of myth, memories and rhetoric, he says, has transmitted a vision of Englishness of extraordinary power: the delusional world of Empire, Enoch Powell, trooping the colours……… But Marquand refers to a second England – from John Milton, to Thomas Payne, the Chartists, the Suffragettes etc, the centuries-long struggles for human rights since the Peasants’ Revolt. The task now, he says, is to create a 21st century vision of republican liberty – so that we can once again be in generous relationship with the rest of our continent.



I was pleasantly surprised when last week’s budget implemented the Barclay Report recommendation – that private schools should pay full business rates; I confess to thinking the SNP would ‘bottle’ that one – they’ve gone up in my estimation. The 7% of Scots who attend these schools are collectively the most powerful lobby in this country; be in no doubt – they’ll still be mobilising their networks. There’s a subplot to this issue which is about the credibility of our regulator, OSCR; for years they failed to discern, that the maintenance of social inequality is not a public benefit which qualifies for charitable status.



In a fight for survival, the daily newspapers I read online are increasingly resorting to paywalls; the notable exception is the Guardian – but one wonders how long their present business model can endure; the whole industry is floundering. An important essay was published by the ResPublica think tank last year – The Mission of Media in an Age of Monopoly; it suggests that Google; Facebook et al – should pay a 1% levy on revenue to fund investigative and local journalism. Media platforms pay nothing for the newsfeeds they take from newspapers – then make billions from the very advertisers who once supported the press.



At the end of 2014, Ursula Le Guin received an award for her contribution to American writing; she used her six-minute acceptance speech for a blistering attack on the publishing industry – which is turning the practice of art into the production of a market commodity. Writers, she said, need the freedom to imagine alternatives to how we live now – even imagine real grounds for hope. “Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of Kings”.



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

JOBS: South Ayrshire Women’s Aid, Big Issue Invest Scotland, WHALE Arts, New Caledonian Woodlands, Scotland’s Social Way, Glasgow Wood Recycling, The Ballantrae Trust

EVENTS: Family Festival, 21 Jan; Introduction to Being a Board Member (Edinburgh), 24 Jan; Facilitation Training, 6 Feb; Social Entrepreneurship, Youth & Vocational Education Forum, 27 Mar

TENDERS: Employability Services in Inverclyde – Inverclyde Council, Forth Valley Bike Share – Forth Environment Link, Practitioner Advice Service Evaluation – One Parent Families Scotland.


The SENs Weekly Update: As this is the last SENs Newsletter of 2017, it’s appropriate to reflect on some of the year’s significant developments. We can’t include them all – but here are some of particular note: the long-awaited TSI Review – with more news this week (see below);  6 Community Learning Exchanges for SENs, involving over 50 SEs; publication of the SE Action Plan including a series of ‘early actions’; launch of P4P; publication of the SE Census 2017; Social in the Gardens; SE Reports in Glasgow, Edinburgh and  Argyll and Bute; Senscot Feasibility Study into Consortia Model; a series of Senscot Briefings highlighting the work of thematic SEN members; a revamped Senscot website ; our SE Conference; and a new Community Bond Offer for SENs and SEN members. The good news is 2018 is likely to be just as busy!



News this week of the ‘new deal’ for TSIs and VAS. Following a meeting on Tuesday – all TSIs received a letter informing them of the Govt’s intentions. These included four key proposals: 1) Funding for VAS will cease after Sept 2018; 2) Re-defining the role of TSIs as strategic partners, driving the delivery of local outcomes to be co-produced at a local level; 3) Establishing a closer and more direct relationship between Govt and TSIs; and 4) Future funding allocations and arrangements for TSIs to be discussed further over the coming months. Senscot is seeking an early meeting with Govt to clarify the implications of these measures on local SENs and the actions identified in the SE Action Plan. More on this in the new year.



The SE Census 2015 set a benchmark for measuring the growth and development of the SE sector in Scotland. Its breadth of detail ensured that it was welcomed across our sector. One concern, however, amongst local SENs, was that Scottish Govt was not able, for various reasons, to share the local data that had been collated. It is good to hear, therefore, that these concerns have been addressed and the SE Census 2017 is now supported by a ‘Technical Report’ –  providing further info’ about the methodology behind the Census, including identifying those in each local authority area. No doubt folk will notice anomalies – but this increased level of transparency is to be welcomed.



The decision of RBS to close 62 branches in Scotland is hardly surprising – I haven’t been in a bank for years; but the loss to small, rural towns will be colossal. Across Scotland, there are striking examples of High St ‘Hubs’ – trading as community enterprises – owned and operated by local people. Among the range of services: info; citizens’ advice; cultural etc – there could be a banking presence. The ATM cash machine would remain – a new type of generic banking consultant; not running the Hub, but a tenant – offering loan advice etc – for ‘that’ community. Where the market fails – social enterprise can offer a different way. Scottish Rural Action is currently undertaking research to find out what the impacts will be on rural communities and their high streets.



The Grassmarket Community Project is hosting an event on 23rd Jan titled: “Whole Person Leadership: A Day of Healthier Working Workshops”. The workshops will explore: How men limit themselves; taking Control of Feedback; Empathy Partnerships; Efficient and Effective Collaboration; Including All the Voices and balancing your needs, your employees, your organisations etc. Early Bird deadline – 31st December.



This week’s bulletin profiles one of the winners of this year’s Dragons’ Den at our SE Conference earlier this month. Glasgow Piano City, originally formed in 2014, set up The Piano Project CIC earlier this year. Its aim is to encourage and facilitate a new appreciation of acoustic pianos in Glasgow & beyond – through a series of events and activities that offer people more opportunities to play irrespective of age or ability. They have a new initiative with Galgael and KibbleWorks to develop a new range of high-quality products made from stripped out parts from acoustic upright & grand pianos, creating employment and reducing waste.



At a funeral this week I thought of this lovely poem by Meg Bateman: tribute to “a life well lived”.


After the Funeral


“The widow stands at the door and leans her head against the wall. All is quiet. The guests are fed and mostly gone, and the sea and the town are grey, grey, with the fishing boats silently putting out. She hears the talk of the women in the kitchen and the old men with their drams discussing a life well lived. ‘It’s been kind of a happy day,’ she says, looking at her boys, each with his something of his father in his face. Suddenly the sun stabs out bars of lemon-yellow light over the fields of glowering corn, dragons of mist are whisked up and away across the bay, and as she turns back to the house you can still see in her face the dead man’s love for it all.”


That’s all for this week.


Best wishes,




Senscot is a Company, registered in Scotland. Company Reg No. 278156: Scottish Charity No. SC 029210