Senscot Bulletin: 22.08.14

Dear members and friends,

In his book, ‘Stone Voices’ – Neal Ascherson wrote about the dismal 1979 devolution referendum; of the widespread pessimism and sense of alienation he encountered going round the country – speaking in near empty halls; the demoralisation, particularly in the housing schemes, made him angry: “Scottish local government is preoccupied with control – and a condition of silent, divorced dependence is what it prefers from its tenantry; a patchwork of Labour Party power cliques – who want as few people as possible to participate in running their own lives”. In 1979, I was a community worker in Edinburgh’s Wester Hailes; Ascherson says it true – ‘Socialism from one centre’ was the prevailing doctrine; action from citizens independent of the one party state was openly resisted; we were a curiously cowed people. Not now though.
            Read this week – that since Margo MacDonald’s sad death in April – Jim Sillars has addressed almost 50 meetings around the country; he says that people have a new hope in their eyes – widespread engagement in shaping the future of Scotland. He believes that the referendum has politicised groups that will not be silenced after September 18th. Professional politicians don’t enjoy engaged citizens; for 50 years in this country – our greatest asset – the energy and urgency of local people – has been intentionally removed from political life. Veteran campaigners for the missing local tier of democracy – believe that we can build on the present levels of engagement. Regardless of the indy vote – momentum is building for a radical makeover of the way Scotland does local democracy.


The recent report ‘effective democracy’ – from the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy – is a truly radical one – making big suggestions that could change Scotland.  It follows reports in the same vein like ‘the hidden crisis’ and the Green Party’s ‘reviewing democracy in Scotland’.  Add the work of the Electoral Reform Society and Democracy Scotland etc; add the campaigning of individuals like Oliver Escobar, Lesley Riddoch, Andy Wightman etc; add third sector intermediaries like Scottish Community Alliance, Senscot ourselves… am I making my point?  A considerable body of opinion – academic, popular and even political – now favours sweeping change.  After the referendum we should be thinking of a major gathering of the troops – including veteran commandos from the front lines; move our campaign up a gear.  See,


I was saddened to read in the Sunday Herald that Robert McAlpine has parted ways with the Jimmy Reid Foundation; I hope the Common Weal doesn’t lose too much momentum.  The coordination of disparate organisations and individuals – in the service of a common cause is notoriously difficult; it is worth recognising the way local people leading (LPL) did it successfully.  It was decided not to set up a new organisation – but to regard LPL as a ‘wrapper’ denoting certain beliefs, values, intentions – like a kite mark.  As a campaign to empower communities – LPL was not something distinct from the work being done by participants – but a ‘joining of forces’.  Key organisational functions – like admin or hosting an event – were delegated to participants.  See,


I learn this week from a Lesley Riddoch piece about the work of a Dutch psychologist Geert Holfstede; in a book he wrote in 1980 – he developed a model for comparing the masculine and feminine aspects of different cultures – his model is still used today. The UK sits 62nd in Holstede’s index and typifies a masculine society, driven by competition, achievement, winners and losers, heroism, material rewards. By contrast, Sweden typifies a society in which the dominant values are feminine; co-operation, modesty, quality of life, caring for the weak, consensus. It’s an interesting perspective.



The final tranche of Enterprise Ready Fund awards has now been allocated – with 115 third sector organisations (51 SEN members) benefitting from the £6m fund. It is good to see a good number of SEN members in the list. See


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

JOBS: RAMH, Ladywood Leisure Centre, Edinburgh University Students’ Association, The Church of Scotland, Action For Children, Aberdeenshire Voluntary Action, Voluntary Action Fund
EVENTS: Miss.Fit Sister’s Vintage Circus, 23 Aug; Hidden Gems of Garnethill, 24 Aug; Out of the Blue Flea Market, 30 Aug; DTA Scotland Annual Conference "Our Communities – Our Future", 1 Sep;
TENDERS: Volunteer-Led Generalist Advice Services – Stirling Council, Zero Waste Scotland Website Development Projects and Invitation to Tender for Micro Hydro Feasibility Studies in Argyll – Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust.  


The SENs Weekly Update; Kim writes: We’re now opening bookings for Senscot’s 10th SE Conference and Ceilidh on 13th/14th November at the Westerwood Hotel, Cumbernauld.  This event has become a fixture in our SE calendar and has very much been for front-line social enterprises and SEN members. This year, we will be looking to reflect on the progress made over the last 10 years and the challenges that lie ahead. We`re aiming to make it as informative and interactive as possible – giving attendees plenty opportunities to contribute and participate in discussions. To ensure that as many active SEN members as possible are able to attend and that each SEN gets a fair allocation, you can request a booking form at

For more SENs News, see


About 20 places are still available for the CEiS SE Policy and Practice Conference on 3rd Sept at the Radisson in Glasgow. Senscot will be participating in the session on ‘Business Failure and Business Recovery’. A lot of coverage is given to awards/achievements etc but difficulties and failure is as real an issue for social enterprise – and we need to be able to talk about this more openly. Hopefully, this event provides a starting point. To book your place, see


Senscot is involved with the development of a Community Re-Investment Trust in Scotland; the key idea is to put in place the financial mechanisms – whereby the substantial wealth of our own third sector can be deployed to grow our work. There has been recent guidance on the power of charitable trustees to invest in the work of another charity. Pauline Hinchion has prepared a briefing note for us which clarifies the situation. See,


We link to a blog someone sent us about the rise of the teaching of social enterprise in business schools – pleasing testimony that young people still want to improve the world. In the UK, tax relief is only payable on investment in a regulated social enterprise; in the USA – SE is an unregulated mish-mash of hybrid businesses. See,


Friends of the Earth Scotland has commissioned the financial journalist and author, Ray Perman, to produce a report about the possible shape of banking in post-referendum Scotland – it’s bold and worth a look. Released this week, the report calls on the Government to break up Scotland’s two dominant banks – in favour of a financial sector of smaller, local, non-traditional business models – more responsive to the communities they serve. See,


This week’s bulletin profiles a community owned social enterprise based in Ullapool. Lochbroom Woodfuels Ltd is a trading arm of the Ullapool Community Trust (UCT) and was set up in 2012 with three main aims:  to provide local employment, training and volunteering opportunities in firewood production; to establish a fairly priced continuous supply of sustainable firewood from local forests and; to generate surplus profits which will be gifted to the Trust for reinvestment in other community projects.  In doing so the company is addressing fuel poverty in their area and in the long term helping to mitigate climate change as they promote and encourage the use of renewable fuels as opposed to fossil fuels. For more, see


Whether you believe Carlos Castenada’s Don Juan was a real person – or imagined – is not really important to me; he spoke some true wisdom:

            “Look at every path closely and deliberately.  Try it as many times as you think necessary.  Then ask yourself and yourself alone, one question.  This question is one that only a very old man asks.  My benefactor told me about it once when I was young, and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it.  Now I do understand it.  I will tell you what it is.  Does this path have a heart?  All paths are the same: they lead nowhere.  They are paths going through the bush or into the bush… In my own life I could say I have traversed long, long paths, but I am not anywhere.  My benefactor’s question has meaning now.  Does this path have a heart?  If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t it is of no use.”

That’s all for this week.     

Best wishes,



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