Senscot Bulletin: 23.03.18

Dear members and friends,
My cottage sits 100 yards from an ancient church and graveyard – with origins in the Pictish seventh century. Weather permitting, I often sit there – for no reason other than I find it a ‘thin’ place – where the ‘membrane’ separating the material from the spiritual worlds, seems slight; I like to imagine a continuity with centuries of pilgrim souls. Philip Larkin deemed such places: “serious earth – proper to grow wise in – if only that so many dead lie round.”

This Monday, our churchyard was cordoned off – what turned out to be the filming of a short sequence for the television series, Outlander 4. Personally, I’ve never seen Outlander, but am aware of its popularity; because total strangers, from around the world, chap my door to ask the whereabouts of nearby Midhope Castle; Google says that this is because it’s the external location for fictional Lallybroch – family home of the main character. Local ‘goss’ has it that Outlander has brought 200,000 visitors to this derelict ruin – at a tenner a pop.

I’m a keen fan of the Inspector Montalbano TV series; if I were to visit Sicily, I would pay a tenner to see Salvo’s house on the beach – where he goes for a swim every morning – his terrazzo where he takes his espresso; it doesn’t matter that none of it is ‘real’. It’s an interesting feature of our times – that what can empirically be shown to be ‘true’ – is not as important as we were told; not as important as a powerful story. Donald Trump realised this sooner than most of us.



There is increasing criticism in the media that our big, third sector, service providers are misbehaving; Matthew Taylor, of the RSA, spoke on Radio 4 last week about ‘aggressive empire building displacing charitable mission’. Delivery organisations, commissioned by the state, become part of the established social order; a free society needs citizen organisations – resourced by citizens – which can, and will, challenge established practice. Both these roles have their place – but are different; organisations must choose; it’s not helpful to group them together as ‘the voluntary sector’. I remember a 1993 research study (Voluntary Action by Barry Knight) which called for just such a differentiation. If the behaviour of giant third sector providers is becoming the same as Serco, Carillion etc – genuine, independent voluntary organisations need to distance themselves.



Great news that the Scottish Land Fund (SLF) has awarded £4.4m to the community bid to buy the island of Ulva; I wrote in August that, if I was a young man, I’d be very drawn to get directly involved in the resettlement of this seven square mile island. My utopian vision is of a community of a few hundred families – where everything required for a decent life – housing, energy, food, work, wellbeing – is organised on a collective, shared basis. Scotland’s islands offer unique opportunities for shared living.



In November, thinking of escaping to Spain for the festive season, I spent time online looking at hotels around Estepona: for the next two months, my browser was pelted with ads for Estepona hotels. There’s no doubt in my mind, that personal data held by Google, Facebook etc – can be harvested and used by outfits like Cambridge Analytica to influence electoral voting patterns. It is possible, particularly in the US, that these social media giants are already too powerful (wealthy) to be restrained. This is a big one.



Spaniards love fish – Scottish fish in particular, enjoys a very high reputation across Europe – so we’re back once again to the anger around Westminster trading Scottish fishing allocations. I don’t pretend to know what percentage of fish stocks in Scottish waters should be ours exclusively – but it is certainly not acceptable that many of our fishing communities are struggling economically. Our politicians task is to ensure that these local economies reflect the quality of the product in the seas around them. Here’s a background piece.



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

JOBS: Gorebridge Community Development Trust, Southern Uplands Partnership, Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust, The Melting Pot, Lorn & Oban Healthy Options Ltd, The Findhorn Village Conservation Company

EVENTS: Croft Woodland Workshop, 24 Mar; Maryhill Pedal Power – Connecting Cycling, Energy and Waste, 24 Mar; Social Entrepreneurship, Youth & Vocational Education Forum, 27 Mar;

TENDERS: Research into Public Sector Procurement Opportunities – P4P, Printing of West Lothian Council Bulletin – West Lothian Council, Tune into Tourism – Highlands and Islands Enterprise.


The SENs Weekly Update: Yesterday, a couple of dozen folk from constituted SENs and membership-led organisations met to discuss the progress of the SE Action Plan after its first twelve months and to consider priorities for the year ahead. Together, those attending currently represent around 2,500 SEs – circa 50% of those identified in the SE Census 2017. This gathering is, at this stage, a sub-group of Scottish Govt’s official SE Action Plan Reference Group which meets two to three times a year. Its intention is to ensure that those who are in the frontline or work to support grassroots SEs have a better opportunity to share their thoughts and bring greater influence on how and what should be delivered through the current and future Action Plans. Yesterday’s meeting focused on activity during 2017/18 and what might be programmed for 2018/19. Topics included Business Support – with a new tender looming up in the year ahead; Branding; ensuring local consultation in the delivery of national programmes; and ‘extending and strengthening’ SENs. A full report will be available next week. See attendees list and agenda.



Our poorest high streets are blighted by shops which offer ‘crack cocaine’ one arm bandits – or payday loans at disgraceful rates of interest. Poor people, who have far fewer basic ‘cashflow’ options than you or I – deserve protection, in law, from ruthless financial exploitation – but it’s slow to come. The actor Michael Sheen was in Glasgow this week – meeting Scottish partners (Scotcash, Carnegie UK etc) of his End High Cost Credit Alliance. Also last week, the UK’s Gambling Commission has recommended that the maximum stake for fixed odds betting terminals should be cut from £100 to £30. Campaigners want it to be £2.



In the summer of 2017, Scottish Govt announced that it was to establish a new Enterprise Agency – the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency – to meet the distinctive economic needs of communities in the South of Scotland. The new Agency will cover two local authority areas – Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway) – and, we believe, will take on a similar role to that of Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) that has always had the additional ‘strengthening communities’ remit which Scottish Enterprise does not. As part of the setting up process, Scottish Govt has launched a consultation – looking to the public to find out more about what people want from the new agency, and how it can best help the south of Scotland.



Following on from his blog last week on social capital , Alan Kay sends us a ‘think piece’ from the Stanford Social Innovation Review that, although a bit US-centric, addresses an issue that is of as much relevance to our SE community in the UK at this time. It’s basic premise is that whilst social enterprise and social entrepreneurship have exploded across the globe in the last decade, social entrepreneurship, in spite of the hype, has done little to solve the systemic social problems it purports to address – and, if anything, distracts from and undermines the critical role of organized citizenry, political action, and democratic government in achieving systemic social change. The comments are also worth a read.



This week’s bulletin profiles a new social enterprise about to launch in Scotland that is designed to inspire, celebrate and transform the lives of the LGBT+ community. Somewhere EDI is to be the Scottish franchise of Somewhere MCR, set up in Manchester in 2017. Somewhere EDI will aim to showcase new culture and learning-based projects, celebrating LGBT+ arts, culture, heritage and enterprise – looking to connect up the LGBT+ community, and increase visibility in wider society, combating stigma and reducing loneliness. Somewhere MCR has already picked up a number of awards for its work in Manchester including Most Successful Campaign; Social Network of the Year; as well as a number of Diversity Awards.



The most important environmental book I’ve ever read is Cormac McCarthy`s heart-rending `The Road` – about our planet following an environmental catastrophe – which destroys our biosphere and all life. It changed my view of our world. This is the last paragraph in the book – a poignant, lyrical postscript, about a time before we lost it all.

“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”


That’s all for this week.


Best wishes,




Senscot is a Company, registered in Scotland. Company Reg No. 278156: Scottish Charity No. SC 029210