Senscot Bulletin: 21-12-2006

Dear members and friends,

When I was young we always had old Uncle Vito over for Christmas lunch – a bachelor who lived alone – do all families have one? I would collect him – a shy, considerate man, humble, stoic, likeable. He’d sit on the edge of the company – watching events with enjoyment, but not speaking – no-one bothered about him much. Every year his sister wrapped a parcel for him – always socks. I think I was a typical youth – impressed by wealth. The frugality of Vito’s socks made me feel sad.
 This Christmas at my sister’s I’ll be the nearest our family has to an Uncle Vito. What I didn’t realise all those years ago is that the old guy was delighted to get home before the party got swinging. I’m like that now. I’ll enjoy being with my family for lunch – especially the children – but I’ll be back in bed by seven, watching TV films. Young people may find this sad but that’s just the way it is. “For everything its season and for every activity under heaven its time.”
 Tomorrow, Friday 22nd is the Winter Solstice – the shortest day, and now the light will build slowly toward a new spring. This is the time of the year our unconscious asks us if we have the heart to start all over again. For those who can’t feel hope it’s a dangerous time – so it’s a time to be specially kind to our friends.

I’ve been a community development worker for thirty years and throughout that time Scotland has been ruled as a one party Labour state. Like the communist bloc countries, citizens joined the party for personal advancement- free open debate was censored , communities which achieved a degree of independence were reined-in by the centralised party machine. After the forthcoming elections in May, Scotland will never be the same again. All across the country, historical fiefdoms will be swept away. Communities will be able to push suffocating councils off their face – off their space. Next year Senscot will join with DTAS and other community support networks in a new initiative which will campaign for a more independent community sector in Scotland. The next few years will see the growth of a movement which will redefine the relationship between communities and the state.

There have been social advances in the UK over the past 50 years, but mutual support and neighbourliness have declined. Remaking these soft, often invisible supports, so essential to the quality of our lives, is one of the great contemporary challenges. Seen in this light the current programme of closing post offices shows seriously bad judgement, which exposes government talk about community empowerment as cosmetic.

As this bulletin regularly complains, the Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) has disgracefully dragged its feet over the implementation of second stage transfer of housing stock. In my view GHA has been making a fool of the Scottish Executive. Well – no more. Following an internal review carried out by Communities Scotland, Michael Lennon, CEO of GHA, was ‘read the nine o’ clock news’ last week and now he’s back in Australia. Let’s hope the politicians can now appoint someone with a commitment to strong independent communities – which is what it’s all meant to be about. By allowing the Glasgow situation to stagnate for so long, the Executive has seen Scottish public opinion swing against what was an excellent flagship policy. Maybe a new CEO can get it moving – but I suspect that resistance to community control is deeply embedded within GHA.

“The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the natural environment” – Andrew Simms

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but submit jobs and events and we’ll post them on our site. See This week: Laurence’s book is available at Word Power , 43 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh. See: 

JOBS: 12 vacancies, incl. posts with: space unlimited, New EU Support Service, Oxfam, Thistle Foundation, Glasgow Women’s Aid, Apex Scotland, SCVO.

EVENTS:12 events, incl. Change Management Workshop for Social Enterprises in Dumfries & Galloway, Castle Douglas, 16 Jan 2007; Developing Social Enterprise, Edinburgh, 17 Jan 07; Art Expo 2007, Scotland’s first ever National Conference for Artists with Learning Disabilities, Glasgow, 27 Feb 2007.

“Sitting in a plush hotel lobby in Beijing, Li Gong, head of Microsoft’s Chinese internet business, an alumnus of Sheffield University, put the UK’s challenge bluntly: “China is the world’s fastest growing economy. The US is the home of high-tech and Hollywood. What is the UK’s one-line pitch to the world?” In an interesting piece n the Financial Times, Charles Leadbeater argues that the UK should aspire to be a society of mass innovators, mobilizing creativity from many sources, including our senior citizens.

Article in current Resurgence magazine called ‘Slow Money’ which helped my understanding of the difference between normal venture capital and the patient capital which our sector needs. The idiom is American but it’s by someone who is actually ‘doing the business’ – not another academic. “What if there were a new generation of companies whose Mem and Arts called for 50% of profit to be deployed charitably at local level?”

This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise that provides training opportunities for young people by supplying community concierge services to housing associations in West Dunbartonshire. Dalmuir Community Concierge Service (DCCS) provides a range of services to the local community that include flat cleaning, ground maintenance, cleaning, painting, litter pick-ups, removing bulk refuse and removing graffiti.  The enterprise is a joint venture between Dalmuir Park, Trafalgar, Dunbritton, Clydebank, and Knowes Housing Associations and Linkwide Limited. DCCS is now moving towards becoming an independent social enterprise, in part through a service-level agreement with West Dunbartonshire Council. For further info’, see

Eileen Caddy, the co-founder and spiritual leader of the Findhorn Community died last week at the age of 89. The Community they founded over 40 years ago now attracts around 14,000 visitors each year, providing a range of spiritual retreats and workshops. See

A reader sent me a poem by the American James Laughlin (1914-97) called ‘The Ship’. It carries the right note of optimism which I feel for our adventures in 2007:

“There is an old man in the backstreets of this inland city who is building a ship. In his yard he has it up on a scaffold the full length of the yard and he works on it all by himself after work and on weekends. It will end up weighing more tons than the biggest truck could ever move. They will just have to break it up after he is dead, this beautiful ship that is sailing now on a great river that leads to the sea.”

Last word this year from my old friend Rainer Maria Rilke: “Now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”

Wishing you and your family peace and joy,
Laurence, Colin, Pat, Simon, Alison, Aidan and Varda

The next Senscot Bulletin is out on Friday 12th January 2007

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