Senscot bulletin: 22-09-2006

Dear members and friends,

Tuesday was a real blast of winter – scudding clouds, wind and rain. The swallows have gone, our ancient apple tree has shed its crop, the woodstove is lit again. In the hills above the south coast of Spain, there’s a former hunting lodge called the Refugio de Juanar. It’s a worker’s co-operative now, set in a forest of great Spanish chestnut trees – in October the villagers come up to harvest ‘Las castañas’. There’s an open wood fire – great country cooking and a wee room waiting for me early October.
 I believe that we are all as busy as we choose to be. It may be unconscious but ‘hectic’ is a choice – perhaps a fear of stillness. My head has been too full lately – a clutter of chores – habit – duty – whatever. Whoever’s running this programme, I realised, it’s not for my benefit. So I’m doing a clearout. It started with ‘things’ – symbolic. The pots and pans I never use; the appliances that don’t work; old clothes, chipped crockery, an old rickety shovel – bags of stuff moved to the barn. Then I withdrew from a weekly column I write; resigned a directorship; cancelled a guilty pile of unread magazines. When I return from Spain I intend that there will be space in my head for new things to wander in – new ideas, new interests, new adventures.
 But not all new things when arrive are welcome. This morning, going for the rolls, there was poo on my doorstep. Some cat had shat on the mat. Where did I put that shovel?

Angus Hardie reports from Birmingham: “Almost 500 delegates gathered this week for the Development Trust Associations’ annual conference. We heard government ministers Ed Miliband and Ruth Kelly outline their support for an independent asset-rich community sector in England. Kelly said she ‘takes very seriously’ the strategy of transferring assets to communities and has appointed a review group to report to her next spring, on the powers and policies required to make such transfers easier.”
The question which will eventually become unavoidable in Scotland is how this new community agenda will apply up here. If our executive has its way – it will surely be ignored – so it will become necessary for the community sector in Scotland to mount a national campaign – from a network which reaches up from our communities.

Two day-conferences Senscot is co-hosting. Event in Stirling on 3 October will look at links between social enterprise and the NHS. Strong speakers.
20 October in Glasgow – Secretariat of the commission for unclaimed will present their proposal for a new Social Investment Bank. If you are going to this – check you’re on the register.

Congratulations to West Kilbride, named UK Capital of Enterprise at this year’s DTI Enterprising Britain awards. Suffering from above average unemployment, it re-invented itself as an arts and craft town. In the place of boarded-up shops, the community’s efforts have created a buzzing hub of five studios, a shop and gallery for the town, and attracted 14 new businesses. In contrast to what New Economics Foundation calls ‘clone town Britain’, West Kilbride’s example shows that strong local identity and community control can work for rather than against the places we live in:

In an interview last week, Ed Miliband admits that the prospect of social enterprises delivering public services has been over-hyped. His new position seems to us more realistic.

I wrote a piece in last week’s Regeneration and Renewal magazine where I said I was ashamed of the Scottish Executive’s regeneration statement. Got good response:

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but submit jobs and events and we’ll post them on our site. See This week:

JOBS: 24 vacancies, incl. posts with: Carr-Gomm, Beulah Scotland, Scottish Native Woods, Scottish Executive, GCVS, Second Opportunities, The Melting Pot.

EVENTS: 27 events, incl. Solar Power to the People workshop, 23 Sept, Kinghorn; Marketing Workshop for Social Enterprises in Dumfries & Galloway, BASE project, 10 Oct; Creating an Entrepreneurial Scotland: How & Why Does Entrepreneurship Matter?, Edinburgh, 21 Oct;

On Saturday, 14th October, an international conference of “community initiatives and village associations” will be held in Langholm in Border country. There’s a ceilidh that evening in nearby Canonbie Village Hall. Sounds like an enjoyable weekend to me.

The Homeless World Cup continues to flourish – 48 teams this year on 24 September in South Africa. Here’s a short piece Mel Young wrote for Senscot:

Another Tory member of the shadow cabinet has made a speech about social enterprise – the first bits are interesting. First an ideological critique – and then the three things that our sector offers the government. We reach the disaffected; we nurture community independence; we teach commercial discipline. I have no difficulty with any of those – but if the real agenda is to “shrink the state” – I’d rather debate that openly.

This week the bulletin profiles UPKEEP, a wholly owned subsidiary of Shettleston Housing Association Limited (SHA). SHA developed UPKEEP as a social firm in 2004 to provide estate caretaker services for its properties in the Shettleston area of Glasgow. SHA has over 1,600 flats and houses for rent or shared ownership, with a further 600 factored properties. It is also the local housing organisation for 900 former Glasgow City Council properties and is working towards taking ownership of these through second stage stock transfer from the Glasgow Housing Association. For further info’, see

The distinguished journalist Neal Ascherson writing about the March for Independence in December 1992:
“The procession was immense. Some 30,000 people made their way to the meadows and asked for their country back. Of all the speakers I remember only one. The novelist William McIlvanney looked out over the faces stretching away towards Salisbury Crags in the distance and he said, “Let’s not be mealy-mouthed about this. The Scottish Parliament starts here today!”
“When the clapping died down he went on: “We gather here like refugees in the capital of our own country. We are almost seven hundred years old, and we are still wondering what we want to be when we grow up. Scotland is in an intolerable position. We must never acclimatize to it – never!” And then in a tone of tremendous pride he said, “Scottishness is not some pedigree lineage. This is a mongrel tradition!” At those words, for reasons that perhaps neither he nor they ever quite understood, the crowd broke into cheers and applause which lasted on and on.”

That’s all for this week. Good luck with your adventures.

Best wishes,