Senscot Bulletin: 23-06-2006

Dear members and friends,

I’m over in Spain for a ‘stolen’ five days, and the weather is as good as it gets. I found this hotel on a website at a great price, and though it shows some signs of being ‘tired’, the main salon is spacious, shaded, cool and very grand. Sofas and chairs arranged in clusters among beautiful furniture – real old pieces from grand Spanish houses, and big pot plants and old books and rugs and paintings. This fine space opens on to four acres of fragrant, groomed gardens where I’m writing on a lounger – under a date palm, beside a wall of spectacular bougainvillea.
 A young sparrow has perched on my side plate eating my roll – colours vivid in the sunlight. For a moment (outside time) the bird, the bread, me and the universe were one. This has made me feel ‘tranquillo’, and the only things that can spoil it now are people – and they can mostly be avoided. The fragments of conversation which intrude sound mechanical and pitiless. I think that the price many folk pay for advancement in the world is the loss of idealism and romance, and this is sad. There’s one couple I like, called Janis and Freddie – who built a plant-hire business in Yorkshire which their sons run. Because I once attended a wedding in Skipton, they consider me one of them. Their values are sound – no nonsense. They like a good story – a good laugh – and lashings of tomato ketchup on everything. And they haven’t lost their sense of romance. They think England can win the World Cup.

Down in London last week for a symposium on the ‘New Community Agenda’. More convinced than ever that the English White Paper on local government, expected by the autumn, will propose a radical shift in power to communities, including a new tier of elected community councillors and a concerted drive to transfer property/land/assets to community anchor organisations. In Scotland, not one of our MSPs has stepped forward to challenge our own ‘democratic deficit’ at community level. Last year’s bold talk about reforming Scottish local government has been silenced by Labour’s municipal lobby – that’s how powerful it is. In the absence of political leadership, Scotland’s fragmented community sector needs a new unifying network to promote the ‘New Community Agenda’. Watch this space.

The Smith Institute and the Young Foundation have jointly produced a book called ‘Double Devolution: the Renewal of Local Government’. It comprises a series of short essays by key experts which address the structural and cultural changes required to shift power downwards from central to local government, and from councils to neighbourhoods. The challenge of creating vibrant, representative neighbourhood-level governance scares most commentators, and this collection is welcome. Available for purchase at:

A piece in the Guardian this week by network member Boo Armstrong noted, “surveys show 75% of patients want complementary therapies to be available on the NHS. In fact, 49% of GPs in England recommend them to patients, but usually the funds for such treatment are lacking.” Boo tells how she started her own project, Get Well UK, with the help of UnLtd to address this.

Last week, we mentioned the launch of the Fife Social Enterprise Network’s Directory and website today (Friday). Our Colin is sharing a platform with Chancellor, Gordon Brown – giving him the lowdown on the value of social enterprise networks. Check out FSEN’s site – it goes ‘live’ today –

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

JOBS: 33 vacancies, incl. posts with: Moray Waste Busters, Community Enterprise in Strathclyde, Turning Point Scotland, The OneCity Trust, The Scottish Community Foundation, SACRO

EVENTS: 2006 Argyll & Bute Social Enterprise Network Conference, Craignure, Mull, 6 July; Community Can Cycle Open Day, Glasgow, 27 July; Edinburgh; Kilsyth International Carnival, August 13;  CRNS ‘Carpet Recycling Roll Out’ event, Dundee, 23 Aug; 2nd National Procurement Conference, SECC, 31 Oct.

A couple of weeks ago, via the Feedback File, we asked if anyone knew of communities who had purchased their local petrol pumps. There was a great response, identifying around a dozen communities who had done so. If you have any such queries that the network could help with, contact

This year our AGM was not organised as a ‘feelgood’ rally with celebrity speakers – it was more about dialogue and feedback from our members: how they see Senscot and what it could be. One of the proposed ‘nudges on the tiller’ will be to reaffirm that ours is not exclusively a social enterprise network, but was created to support ‘social entrepreneurs’, whatever their field of operation. See 2005/06 Accounts

‘Big Tent 2006’ festival (June 30-July 2) focuses on our stewardship of the world’s resources. If we care about the future, why do we put short-term gains before long-term sustainability? Minding the Future is the opening debate at the Festival and will challenge social enterprise to create lasting wealth without costing the earth. The final debate is on Making Poverty History (one year on). See and also

The Scottish Business in the Community Awards Dinner took place last week. Jon Molyneux, from the Coalition, tells us that Three of the six SBC Company of the Year Awards went to businesses to social enterprises.  The awards also featured a specific social enterprise category for the first time this year. For details on the winners, see

This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise that that has been established by a local Housing Association. Fyne Futures is a subsidiary of Fyne Homes and is part of the wider role function; it concentrates on improving the environment and promoting a sustainability message.  The Recycling Operation based on the Isle of Bute and the Cowal  Peninsula forms the core of FF’s work; it provides a kerbside collection services to households across the area and services more than 30 bring sites, collecting a wide range of recyclable materials it works in partnership with Argyll and Bute Council and Shanks Waste Solutions. FF also plans to have a range of other activities including a skate park in Rothesay and regeneration development in Campbelltown. For further info’, see  

I enjoy visiting the ruins of once great buildings – how they remind us that worldly glory is fleeting. Raymond Carver captures this beautifully in his poem ‘Venice’:
“The gondolier handed you a rose. Took us up one canal and then another. We glided past Casanova’s palace, the palace of the Rossi family, palaces belonging to the Baglioni, the Pisani, and Sangallo. Flooded. Stinking. What’s left, left to rats. Blackness. The silence total, or nearly. The man’s breath coming and going behind my ear. The drip of an oar. We gliding silently on, and on. Who would blame me if I fall to thinking about death? A shutter opened above our heads. A little light showed through before the shutter was closed once more. There is that, and the rose in your hand. And history.”

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

Best wishes,


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