Senscot Bulletin: 22.05.20

Until December’s general election, Paul Sweeney (31) was member of parliament for Glasgow North East; last week he applied for ‘universal credit’ – tweeted that becoming a benefit claimant for the first time was ‘disorienting’.  In six weeks, when my salary ends, I intend to apply for housing benefit so I can remain in this cottage; like Sweeney, a ‘means tested benefit’ is new territory for me – a self-identity shift.  He says a few people have told him they’d be too proud to claim – as though it was somehow shameful.

For whatever reason, my life failed to reach a balanced accommodation with money; I resented its exaggerated importance – its ‘primacy’ made me hostile; among the wealthy, I always knew I was a visitor – that I didn’t believe in their God.  It’s not clever being 80 without financial security – but I would make the same choices again.  Our NHS is a marvellous model of how society can be organised cooperatively, without a hint of shame.  Some argue that human progress needs to be driven by competition, hardship and fear – I believe the opposite: Aneurin Bevan named his 1952 essay on a free health service: In Place of Fear.

It won’t be very long till humankind creates the technology to provide for the basic needs of everyone – free of charge; but the human brain is not as agile with moral calculations.  Just because we’ll soon have the resources to organise society cooperatively, doesn’t mean we’ll have the wisdom to do so; this still needs more work.


The association between Italian immigration and the catering industry (cafes, chip shops etc) is a particularly Scottish story; certainly an important aspect of my own personal upbringing; I still have close family wondering if their restaurants will survive lockdown.  This article is about Sweden, where instead of closing restaurants, they urged social distancing guidelines; I think the article is intended as an optimistic glimpse of how we could ‘ease back’ – but it had the opposite effect on me.  The friendship and hospitality of my favourite café/restaurants – the whole social experience – has come to symbolise the return of our world to normal.  I wish I thought it was close.


Mike Small of Bella Caledonia has posted an excellent, thought provoking article about the growing movement for a de-growth/post-growth economy.  He references the Positive Money Report – the Tragedy of Growth – I particularly like the five principles outlined for a lasting recovery from the Covid crisis.


Edinburgh Poverty Commission is an independent group researching steps required to end poverty in the capital.  In recent weeks, it has been listening, at first hand, to the impact of Covid on people living in poverty.  The Commission’s 3-page summery as well as an article in Sceptical Scot by Zoe Ferguson.


I got a thrill from this short video of Kevin Rudd – former PM of Australia – berating Rupert Murdoch’s media empire; he calls it a ‘cancer on democracy’, which uses ‘mafia’ intimidation tactics against disserting voices.  Such a powerful empire – ruthlessly punting a hard-right agenda – needs to be confronted.


When I started primary school, we walked both ways – which was normal; since then, the ‘school run’ has become the norm – children are now transported everywhere.  Recent research suggests that our over-attentiveness deprives them – not only of essential exercise – but of training in self-reliance. Of all the participating countries, 90% of Japanese children self-commute to school.


This is about a forest school nursery is Norfolk called ‘Dandelion’.

“The school’s directors keep the children outside in all weathers, place mud and philosophy at the heart of their curriculum and obtain outstanding results.  It comes as no surprise that boxing children in classrooms and giving them plastic toys to fight over does not bring out their best.  Keeping them outside, making them think of hundreds of ways a stick might become any kind of toy and allowing them to be led by their interests and personalities dramatically improves their conduct, their wellbeing and their attainment.”

Last week’s SE Reset week proved a big success. Over 20 virtual meetings took place – attracting over 800 participants. The ‘grand finale’ session on Friday afternoon attracted over 60 folk – as well as this message from Cabinet Secretary, Aileen Campbell and a follow up tweet over the weekend.  The sheer volume of participants from right across the country reflects a genuine appetite to share and learn from one another’s peers. We are currently in the process of collating the messages, feedback and ideas emanating from all the sessions and will be putting these together in a report that we hope to be able to share next week. Some of the key themes will not surprise you – peer support, collaboration and partnership working (in different forms); and the need for clear and concise guidance relating to what is ‘allowable’ re spaces, services, facilities etc.

It is important that we build on these messages from the frontline to ensure that the sector can play a full part in contributing to a recovery plan – not just for our sector – but for communities all across Scotland. Our willingness to participate in this process was outlined in a recent joint letter to Aileen Campbell.

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

At our Conference back in November 2019, one of our keynote speakers was Joe Cullinane – Leader of North Ayrshire Council (NAC). Joe spoke about NAC’s plans to pilot the Community Wealth Building (CWB) model as its roadmap to building a ‘better and fairer’ local economy. Last week, NAC launched its Community Wealth Building Strategy – the first in Scotland. Part of the Strategy will include an £8.8m investment fund to support a series of CWB projects such as the development of co-operatives, employee ownership and social enterprises, and ensuring local communities and workers have fairer jobs, pay and opportunities to train and progress. Here, Joe explains the logic behind Scotland’s first CWB Strategy.


The response of local communities to the Covid 19 crisis has deservedly been getting a lot of coverage in both mainstream and social media outlets in recent weeks. The critical role and contribution they make – and particularly in stepping up to the plate under the current circumstances – has seen many urge Scottish Govt to invest more in community-led initiatives as we move forward. The Scottish Community Alliance’s Briefing this week picks up on a story in the Lancet advocating this very same approach.


P4P host a Collaboration Best Practice event via zoom on 28th May. Frontline social enterprise will share their experiences of new collaborations emerging from the Covid 19 crisis and how existing collaborations that have strengthened during this time. They will also examine what Best Practice is emerging and how this can be harnessed this for the future. Plus – another blog this week from P4P’s Claire McLaughlin looks at how to best use your time during Covid 19 to get tender ready –  Getting Procurement Ready in a Pandemic.


Frontline News: Edinburgh SE has joined forces with Edinburgh City Council and the Federation of Small Businesses to call on local residents to shop locally and support local businesses during lockdown. See more:

NatWest SE 100 has announced its 2020 winners – including their Top Ten. Great to see Leith’s Projekt 42 scooping the Trailblazing Newcomer award – for newer social enterprises with under three years trading:

Sport SEN member, Tri Rugby International (tri) have this week launched a new online programme called tri Active – designed to encourage physical activity and reduce social isolation for people with disabilities:


Staying on our current theme of highlighting the response of local communities to Covid 19, this week’s bulletin spotlights activity in the Govanhill community in Glasgow. Govanhill Baths Community Trust (GBCT)operates a range of projects to support and provide services to, perhaps, Scotland’s most diverse community. Amongst these is Rags to Riches which has a longstanding leading role in waste reduction and upcycling activities in the city.  Together with other GBCT projects, they have responded to the lockdown, by providing free craft packs to support vulnerable members of the local community and wider Southside. They have also revved up the development of the ‘Make and Do at Home’ project, bringing a whole new suite of upcycled products and kits connected to online video tutorial content. Their range of activities have been designed to support and foment a circular economy – generating income associated to tangible waste reduction within Govanhill. Check out Govanhill Baths’ own YouTube channel for latest videos.