Senscot Bulletin: 24.03.16

Dear members and friends,
Although I still experience mild depression –for me a benefit of ageing is that mood fluctuations become less frequent and less dramatic; I’m sure quitting alcohol helped. Jean Paul Sartre wrote “There is no love of life without despair of life” – which implies that bi-polar swings are a necessary human condition; I suppose it’s a matter of degree. Personally, I don’t experience what I understand as ‘despair’ very often; but occasionally – when I’m bouncing along the bottom – I can glimpse a darkness which could overwhelm me.


As a society, we are not very kind in our response to mental illness and the reason could be denial – a collective fear that ‘breakdown’ could visit any one of us. The reasons why my moods swing from hopeful to hopeless are almost totally unknown to me; the subconscious mind, largely formed when we were toddlers, is the primary source of controlling our life experiences. To a large extent, we just have to play the hand we’re dealt – best we can.


One of the few influences which I’m aware can affect my morale is the weather – particularly the quality of light – and there’s the garden of course. This week marked the arrival of the spring equinox – and though it’s not warm enough yet, I feel the stirrings of new life; I walk around in my winter gear planning new garden projects. John Muir, the great Scottish environmental philosopher, said: “When we tug at a single thing in nature – we find it attached to the rest of the world”.


Belgium is in mourning following the murderous bomb blasts on Tuesday; as a ‘people’ we send our solidarity with their efforts to get back to normal; as individuals we feel a shiver at how close it seems.


Yesterday was the last day of this Parliament – now suspended for our 6 week election campaign. Several (23) ‘well kent’ names and faces have chosen to leave public life;we thank them and wish them well. Regardless of party affiliations – may the new crop conduct our politics in a manner that makes us proud. At present, there’s an edge of nastiness that cheapens everything.


One of the retiring MSPs is the SNP’s Tricia Marwick who said last week that she believed power in Scotland should be devolved to the most local level possible. The surprise for me is that her party, with independence as its raison d’etre, don’t agree with her about our missing tier of local democracy. This week, COSLA, the local authorities’ umbrella body, published its Manifesto for Stronger Scottish Democracy. After May’s election, it wants an urgent summit to redraw the partnership between local and national government; it wants to put local communities more in control. The Local People Leading briefing this week carried a speech from MSP Kenneth Gibson to the SNP spring conference – which he wasn’t allowed to make! You can see it’s an attempt to get the SNP to start thinking about the reform of local government.


‘The grubby incompetent manipulations of a political chancer’ was how John McDonnell described the conduct of George Osborne last week; although the Tory Whips managed a noisy display in the House of Commons – the furious resignation of Iain Duncan Smith has damaged the authority of the UK Govt. As we move towards the June Referendum and the Tory civil war escalates – the UK Govt will become increasingly dysfunctional. Turbulent times.


Iain MacWhirter, the Herald’s political editor, has written a passionate piece today about Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to abandon her policy of restoring the 50p tax band in Scotland. Taxation, he says, is about fairness, equity and the kind of society you want to live in; a Nordic model where income differentials are held in check – or devil-take-the-hindmost of the UK under the Tories. He sees this decision as a betrayal of the SNP’s claim to be social democrats.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: The Ripple Project, Laggan Forest Trust (LFT), Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust, ARK, The Church of Scotland, The Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Impact Business Leaders:
EVENTS: Green Tease: Songwriting & Climate Change with Jo Mango, 29 Mar; Edinburgh Story Cafe, 30 Mar; Coalfields Regeneration School – Open Event, 31 Mar; Portobello Market at Easter, 2 Apr;
TENDERS: Review, Business Planning and Sustainability Support; North Ayrshire – Community Led Action and Support Project, Scotland’s Business Support Contract for Applicants and Grant Holders – Big Lottery Fund, Community Connecting for people over 50 – The City of Edinburgh Council.  Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes:  With our Scottish elections taking place in six weeks’ time, Social Enterprise Scotland has produced a manifesto – ‘For the Good of Everyone’ – promoting the increasing role social enterprise can play in Scottish society. The manifesto itself will be launched at an event at the Grassmarket Project in Edinburgh on 11th April – that will include John Swinney (SNP); Andy Wightman (Scottish Green Party); as well as candidates from other leading parties. The launch will also include a debate on the theme – “What should politicians do to build a social enterprise society in Scotland?". Some of the themes covered in the manifesto include promoting and protecting the social enterprise brand; building mass public awareness; business support; transforming public services; local solutions as standard. Places are still available for the event – which is free.


Our SNP Government is making massive cuts to work-based training for young people in 2016/17. Following a model established down south, the money will, instead, be going into schools and colleges – in the belief that classroom taught qualifications are the best way to fill the ‘skills gap’. Organisations, like Working Rite, believe – and have the track record to prove it – that the real skills gap – punctuality, initiative, team-work, respect – are best taught in the workplace from experience, guided by an older mentor. They fear that this shift in Govt thinking in Scotland is at risk of condemning thousands of our youth to a system that fails to help them cross the employment threshold in a way that works for them. Working Rite is petitioning Scottish Govt to save work-based training for young people. You can show your support by signing their petition – almost 600 people have signed up already.


The Ferret – the online investigative journalism platform for Scotland and beyond – is hosting a Spring Conference on Saturday 23rd April at Strathclyde University in Glasgow. The event will be covering themes such as Making the News; Press Regulation/Press Freedom; and effecting change through journalism and film-making – and includes an impressive array of speakers. The Ferret has been operating for just over 12 months but has already been short-listed for a British Journalism award. Places are limited (£20-£40) so book now if you’re interested in attending.


To say that I’d never heard of Jackie Kay, Scotland’s new Makar, would be untrue – but when I sampled her work this week none of it was familiar. Some poets and writers think that to be easily understood is superficial – thankfully Jackie Kay is not one of those. If, like me, you need a first introduction, Kevin McKenna’s piece in the Observer does this; gave me the impression that we’ve got ourselves a ‘live one’. Good luck, Jackie.


This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise – based in Callander in Perthshire – providing bespoke adventurous outdoor learning experiences across the central belt of Scotland and further afield. Metro Outdoorsaims to engage, inspire and educate by delivering programmes, designed to be relevant, challenging and rewarding. They facilitate adventurous and challenging outdoor learning programmes that equip people with valuable skills for education, work and life – helping them become more confident, more effective and more capable at school, college or in the workplace. They also deliver capacity building development programmes, as well as leadership and team development courses.


My favourite Hemingway book is A Movable Feast – reflections on the happy years spent in Paris between the wars.


“With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning. Sometimes the heavy cold rains would beat it back so that it would seem that it would never come and that you were losing a season out of your life. This was the only truly sad time in Paris because it was unnatural. You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen….and when spring came there were no problems except where to be happiest.”


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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