Senscot Bulletin: 22.10.10

Dear members and friends,

 A central idea of Taoist philosophy is ‘not doing’ :- "Less and less do you need to force things – until you arrive at non action – when nothing is done and nothing is left undone."  Far from advocating passivity, this paradox is an assertion that the most effective action happens effortlessly – without interference from the conscious mind; the great golf shot plays itself; the poem writes the poem; the dancer and the dance become one.
 Sister Clare, a psychotherapist, talking about her work:- "When I’m with a child who’s upset, I try to empty my mind of preconceptions and theories – to become as still as possible.  If the child senses this stillness, the cause of distress will surface – anger, fear, sadness, whatever – and we can face it together.  The starting point of our connection is not theory but stillness."
 Hemingway on Scott Fitzgerald :- "His talent was as natural as the pattern made by dust on a butterfly’s wings.  At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred.  Later, he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly any more because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it was effortless."
 These three passages seem to share a common understanding – that the human intellect has limitations – that we function best from some higher faculty – beyond thought and striving.

The headline of Wednesday’s spending review is the scale of the benefit cuts; removing a further £2 billion from the annual welfare budget equates to one million households each losing £2000.  Regardless of our anger at the abusers of the present system, we need to be aware of the implications of these proposals.  In cities like Glasgow, such a reduction for thousands of the poorest citizens will cause hardship and desperation – with the potential to destabilise many of the most fragile neighbourhoods.  The reduction of public services will itself change the mood of society – but nothing like the extent of this welfare revolution.  Things are going to get harsher, angrier, uglier and it may not be confined to the ghettos of the poor.

As the political parties wind themselves up for the next election, I reflect how boring Scottish politics is – a Punch and Judy show remote from the lives of ordinary citizens.  Small villages I visit, in Spain and Italy, have their own elected representatives – feel part of the process – but our system excludes everyone except a small self perpetuating group at the top.  Some of us have been campaigning since the 1970s to extend local democracy – zero progress.  32 local councils is too many – I would divide Scotland into around 8 regional authorities.  But a new tier below that would transform our democracy – every town and village with elected representatives – powers proportionate to size – thousands of new citizens drawn into the political process – learning the rudiments of how democracy works.  This scenario would gradually result in hot competition for membership of Scotland Parliament – which is precisely why nothing happens – turkeys don’t vote for xmas.  Mediocrity is entrenched.  

All across Scotland, Councils are going to find themselves unable to maintain basic community services – and at the same time, the lack of money in circulation, will cause essential local business to close.  This story from Dalmarnock in Glasgow tells of a community’s response to its last shop closing.  Please note that Dalmarnock benefits from effective leadership – a credit union run by the local councillor.  The resilience of communities without such a local ‘anchor’ organisation in more precarious.   See

I’ve got Andy Wightman’s new book "The Poor Had No Lawyers" which tells how the landowners got their hands on the millions of acres once held in common by the people of Scotland.  "Let the people clearly understand that our present House of Lords is composed largely of descendents of successful pirates and rogues."  Here’s Andy’s essay ‘Who stole Scotland?’ in Sunday’s Herald.

Last week, the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition (SSEC) launched its manifesto with an eye on next year’s Scottish elections. The manifesto calls on Scotland’s political parties to consider three particular issues: promote community benefit clauses in public sector procurement contracts; promote a new investment culture for social enterprise; and restore momentum in the land reform agenda and support community ownership of assets. For more, see

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See . This week: 
JOBS: The National Trust for Scotland, Cairn Housing Association, Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition, Bute Connections, Kirknewton Community Development Trust, Children’s Parliament, The Big Issue
EVENTS: Scotland’s National Community Energy Conference, 26 Oct; Attracting Social Investment, 27 Oct; Good Deals 2010: The UK Social Investment Conference, 16 Nov; EVOLVE workshops, 23 Nov
TENDERS: Landscape Maintenance & Repairs Contract, Deer Population and impact assessments, Close Cleaning Contract, Police Cycle Clothing & Equipment, UK-Glasgow: refuse recycling services

NETWORKS 1st: Four weeks till this year’s Ceilidh and our programme is shaping up (see As well as the usual favourites, this year we’re also introducing a couple of new features. These include ‘crowd sourcing’ – audience donations to Dragons’ Den (as mentioned last week); ‘Lightening Talks’; and our ‘Mystery Breakfast Club’. More information will be made available on each of these over the coming weeks. A final reminder for prospective Dragons’ Den entrants – closing date is Friday 29th Oct. To apply, contact  To book your place at the Ceilidh, see    For more Networks News, see

At the start of September, Senscot participated in CEiS’s ‘Realising Potential’ conference in Glasgow. It was the first time we had seen `crystal technology` in action. This allowed all attendees to submit questions to speakers, panellists etc. Altho’ time did not permit full answers on the day, the attached Report has helpfully collated answers/comments to most of the questions posed on the day. See

It looks like Rosie’s are sprouting up all over Aberdeen. This week, we hear that Aberdeen Social Enterprises, part of Turning Point Scotland, has re-launched its portfolio of social enterprises under the one banner – Rosie’s. The re-branding brings together four enterprises – with each being run separately. They include Opus, now trading as Rosie’s, Framers and Crafts; two new lines, Rosie’s Jams and Preserves and Rosie’s Wedding Stationery as well as the well kent Rosie’s Café. For more, see,

This week’s bulletin profiles a new community enterprise on the Isle of Bute. Brandish Bute opened this summer and is one of a series of local initiatives being planned by the community following their recent purchase of a section of the Rhubodach Forest from the actor and director Richard Attenborough. Brandish Bute sells locally-produced design pieces and crafts as well as foodstuffs with the intention of both showcasing local products as well as acting as an information point for finding out more about local producers. See more,

In her Observer column this week Victoria Coren suggests that we underestimate the value of laughter.  "Decades have passed since Woody Allen complained that making comedy was ‘sitting at the children’s table’, never respected by awards committees (or audience) as much s the cleverly grim.  We still make the same mistake today.  My dad once told me that if literary culture had to lose the complete works of Goethe or of PG Wodehouse, he reckoned it would be a lot worse off without Wodehouse.  The older I get, the righter I think he was.  This feels tender and important, because tomorrow is the third anniversary of my father’s death.  Its’ not the wisdom you miss most, it’s the laughter."

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

Best wishes,


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