Senscot Bulletin: 24-08-2007

Dear members and friends,

On 4th September, I’m six years without alcohol. Abstinence is not ideal – too extreme – out of balance – but the alternative, for addicts, is to destroy ourselves. Over the years the drink has taken some good friends – decline, then despair – they couldn’t imagine life sober. Best decision I’ve made – I’m a lucky laddie. Most days it doesn’t bother me – I keep away from pubs and parties – the obvious triggers – but I’ve noticed a definite connection between prolonged gloomy weather and the urge for hard drink. Scots, Scandics, Russians – dark skies – dark humour – heavy bevy.
 Not sleeping well – something churning in my head. Tuesday dawns without hope – slate grey sky – cold drizzle – by mid afternoon I’m locked in a downer. Cathy from the village chaps my door – slaps a beautiful bottle of ‘The Famous Grouse’ in my hand – “You’ve won the raffle!” My mind races – this has been sent – a sign that I’m ready to drink again. “The woman gave it to me, Lord” Watch myself hand it back. “Please give it to someone else, Cathy.”
 Spooked by how close it still is – the old death wish – I’m upset – can’t settle. Jump on my bike and pound up the nearest hill. Leg muscles aching – stop for breath – to slow my heartbeat. A hawk perches on a wall – wild berries ripening in the hedges – the scent of conifers on the breeze. The immediacy of the senses – balance returns – the demon subsides. Another lesson learned – beware of raffles.
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Two decisions are pending in Scotland which will indicate the understanding and commitment of the SNP leadership to community empowerment.  4 years ago the citizens of Glasgow voted to transfer their tenancies to GHA on the explicit understanding that stock would pass to community ownership.  GHA management have subsequently refused to transfer ownership – the most barefaced example, in my long career, of public sector officials shafting local people. 
The second test of SNP judgement will be their rumoured intention to transfer the functions of Business Gateway to local councils – including social enterprise support.  The problems we have getting business support from some Scottish Enterprise LECS stem from indifference – they mostly see us as irrelevant.  Many councils however see our sector as the enemy – direct competition, to their in-house empires.  Please don’t do it, Swinney!  Don’t tip us out of the frying pan into the fire.

The writer/journalist Simon Jenkins is probably a Tory but he is one of the most articulate champions of local democracy in the UK.  From a recent article: “When a place is caught up in some catastrophe no elected leader appears to speak for it.  In France, Germany or the US, the mayor is first on the scene and first on the screen.  In Britain the best on offer is a chief constable, a vicar or a head teacher.  It is rarely someone known to the community, let alone accountable to it.  Our democracy had degenerated into an atomised society devoid of local bonds, where everyone hides behind the walls of house and family and senses no responsibility for community wellbeing”

Good paper by Charles Leadbetter about the future of social enterprise. He argues that ours is not a stand alone sector – but sits at the meeting point of other sectors and will grow through taking a larger share of their activities – I mostly buy it. This is part of an Office of the Third Sector initiative asking five leading thinkers to set out their ideas on the future of social enterprise.

“We should be able to trace our investments like we can trace the provenance of food.”  This is the idea behind a new scheme called ‘slow money’ which as been launched in England’s West Country to channel investment into small community enterprises, where investors can see local benefit.  This feels very ‘right’ – it should spread.

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

JOBS: 23 vacancies, incl. posts with: Big Issue Invest, Forth Sector, EverybodyOnline, Social Firms Scotland, Impact Arts, The Waterways Trust Scotland, Project Ability, Edinburgh Cyrenians

EVENTS: 15 events, incl. CEiS Social Enterprise Business Models Conference, Glasgow, 4 Sept; Healthy Glasgow: Our Business, Glasgow, 11 Sep; It’s OH so Enterprising- Social Enterprise in the Outer Hebrides awareness day, 18-19 Sept; Trusts, Statutory & Foundations Special Interest Group, Glasgow, 19 Sept; Developing Social Enterprise, Perth, 19 Sept;

Doubt whether any of Senscot’s co-promotions has attracted as much interest as the ‘Fit for Purpose’ day on 12th Sept.  The joining of social enterprise and health provision seems a natural fit.  The English Dept. of Health is to invest £73m over the next four years in community organisations providing health and social care.  Surely Nicola Sturgeon will want this niche sector to get the same boost in Scotland

This year’s Enterprising Solutions Shortlist has been announced. 15 social enterprises have been selected for the shortlist with Scotland being represented by the McSense Group and Haven Products Ltd. Best of luck to them both. Check out the full fifteen, see

Employee co-ownership does well in Scotland and over 7 years the BAXI partnership has helped 8 companies with 700 staff become employee owned.  £100 invested in employee owned companies in 1992 would have grown to £349 in 2003; In FTSE it would have grown to £161.  Good article in Guardian.

One of the UK leaders in home support services for older people is a charity called ‘Food Train’ which serves the rural south west of Scotland from its base in Dumfries.  This award winning service is branching out with ‘Food Train Extra’ – where a van and a volunteer will arrive at the door of housebound customers offering (in the pilot stage) seven services (see attachment).  This operation has the potential to roll out nationally and Food Train are hosting a conference ‘Quest 4 Quality’ on Sept 7th at Crichton Campus, Dumfries.

This week’s bulletin profiles Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE) which has recently received over £500,000 from the Big Lottery towards the purchase of premises and to grow its FareShare scheme. It trades on a commercial basis supplying fruit to 20 businesses and 40 community food outlets and companies (20 presently) in and around Aberdeen. They also run a fruit/ veg/ salad box scheme where they deliver orders to workplaces. All profit is invested in health and community development work in disadvantaged and excluded communities. For more, see

Two of my friends are attending their mothers who are reaching the end of life.  I was moved by Wendy Cope’s poem – Names.  “She was Eliza for a few weeks when she was a baby – Eliza Lily.  Soon it changed to Lil.  Later she was Miss Steward in the baker’s shop and then ‘my love’, ‘my darling’, Mother.  Widowed at thirty, she went back to work as Mrs Hand.  Her daughter grew up, married and gave birth.  Now she was Nanna. ‘Everyone Calls me Nanna,’ she would say to visitors.  And so they did – friends, tradesmen, the doctor.  In the geriatric ward they used the patients’ Christian names.  ‘Lil,’ we said, ‘or Nanna,’ but it wasn’t in her file and for those last bewildered weeks she was Eliza once again.”

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

Best wishes.

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Laurence’s book, ‘You’ve Got To Laugh’ is available See: