Senscot Bulletin: 23-03-2006

Dear members and friends,

Not touched alcohol since 4 Sept 2002 – but dreamt last night that I was drunk in the pub with an old buddy.  In the 1980s I knew Colin and Ella from our local – they were folk singers – then Ella left for a new life and Colin lost his mind for a while.  We’d sit together – sometimes he’d get weeping drunk – but gradually he mended himself.  Then my woman chucked me and he was the patient one while I drank to oblivion.  That’s  what we had in common – getting drunk – getting ditched – not seeing the connection – but we made each other laugh – were best mates for a while. Then he went to visit someone in Mexico and never came back – so I found other people to get drunk with.  So many blank years – that seep into my dreams – till I realised it was killing me – that I can’t drink.
 I’m so grateful to be out of all that – so relieved this morning to awaken sober.  And you my old folk singer pal wherever you are: Raymond Carver’s words ‘I pray your hands are steady, and that you’re happy tonight.  I hope some woman has just put her hand under your clean collar a minute ago and told you she loves you.  Believe her, if you can, for its possible she means it.  Is someone who will be true and kind to you all your remaining days.’

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in England has decided that there are around 1050 social enterprises in Scotland. In calculating, they have used the bench mark that 25% of an organisations income derives from trading goods or services. On the basis of our own network activities, Senscot has for several years operated on the assumption that there are around 3000 Scottish social enterprises. A recent ‘count’ in East Lothian found nearly 80 – some larger local authority areas will obviously have more – its reasonable to assume a Scottish average of 100.  100 x 32 councils = around  32,000. It’s difficult to design a strategy without numbers. Would it be helpful to conduct a comprehensive national survey – refreshed each year? All we need is an acceptable definition of what is a social enterprise – here we go again! Here’s a one-pager on Senscot’s estimate of the size of social enterprise in Scotland:

Good interview in Society Guardian with Stephen Sears, CEO of ECT Group, a social business with a £45 million turnover and 1,000 employees working across seven subsidiary companies. This interview raises some interesting issues – like how big can you get without losing touch with your community. ECT is the largest not profit waste organisation in the UK – and Sears says he’s coming to Scotland.

At the recent SURF conference in Dundee, Professor Stewart Gulliver of Glasgow University criticized politicians and Scottish Enterprise for their lack of leadership in improving deprived areas. Gulliver said, ‘Scottish Enterprise tends to view regeneration as the back door to welfare policy. It seems to have lost interest. That does not happen in England.’

Wednesday’s budget announced that HM Treasury will undertake a review into the future role of the third sector in social and economic regeneration.  The review will be informed by the largest consultation ever undertaken with the third sector, and will feed into the comprehensive spending review in 2007, which will report direct to the Chancellor. This is a clear indication of his intent to expand the role of the third sector.

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

JOBS: 40 vacancies, incl. posts with: Impact Arts, West Dunbartonshire Social Inclusion Partnership, Federation of City Farms & Community Gardens, Scottish Community Diet Project ,’The Skinny’ magazine.

EVENTS: Edge Upstarts awards deadline: 31 March; Affordable Housing in Scotland conference, Edinburgh, 8 May; Development Trusts Association Scotland annual conference, Dundee, 5 June.

Senscot has helped facilitate a growing number of local and thematic peer support networks in Scotland. Preliminary meeting for a Tayside Social Enterprise Network is on April 21 from 12-2.30 pm, the Family Learning House, Dundee, hosted by Craigowl Communities. It is open to established and emerging social enterprises. More info: mail, or to confirm attendance.

18 social enterprises on our website’s ‘Intra-trading’ section offer IT, media and marketing research services. Find out more at:

The New Economics Foundation has published a discussion paper about basic bank accounts. It says 2-8 million of the UK’s poorest individuals still have no service, and banks have little incentive to promote uptake of accounts. The paper argues that, like telecommunications and utilities providers, banks should be obliged to extend a fair and cost-effective service to all.

Irvinestown (population 2,200) in County Fermanagh was in real trouble when the two main employers shut down with the loss of 220 jobs. Read this great story, how the community-owned social enterprise ITEC has transformed the town into a thriving vibrant economy.

Research published in this weeks’ Third Sector magazine found that of the top 50 fundraising charities surveyed, only one chief executive is not white, and only one has a disability. ‘You can wrap it up and call it whatever you like, but its racism.’ The study found that the under-representation of people with disabilities is even more embarrassing than that of ethnic under-representation.

This week’s bulletin profiles a new social enterprise that opened in Inverness in January. Ness Soaps is a trading arm of Merkinch Development Ventures (MDV). MDV was set up to allow local people in Merkinch to take on the shared responsibility of creating employment opportunities in their local community. Ness Soaps is MDV’s first trading venture and will provide supported employment for people with disabilities and people who have been out of work for some time. Ness Soaps is the first of a number of social enterprises that MDV aim to set up and they seek to create 30 employment opportunities over the next 3 years. Ness Soaps is currently working on online shopping facilities with the intention of reaching a global market. For further info’, see       

Some of Paulo Coelho’s writing is a bit ‘sugary’ for me but some is ‘spot on’.  Here is a short essay called ‘The Secrets of the Cellar.’ which you won’t have seen before – where he writes of value of storing away the memories of our mistakes: ‘Although my mistakes may have taught me everything I needed to learn from them, it is still important to preserve them in the cellar of my soul.  That way, when, from time to time, I go down there in search of the wine and wisdom, I can look at them and see that, however neatly tidied away (or resolved) they might be, they are, nevertheless, part of my history and form part of the foundations of the person I am today; I need, therefore, to accept them.  Otherwise, I run the risk of repeating them all over again.’

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

Best wishes,
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