Senscot Bulletin: 24-11-2006

Dear members and friends,

At a humanist funeral recently, a reading requested by the bereaved was declined by the ‘celebrant’ – because it was from the Bible. This seems daft. We can’t prove there’s no God. What harm in reading a psalm?
 In 1966 I ran a successful dance venue in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. On 21st October that year, a tip of coal waste slid into the village of Aberfan in South Wales, killing 116 schoolchildren. Next day, in response to this terrible tragedy, a nice lady from the evangelical mission across the road asks permission to pause the music and lead our customers in prayer. I refuse – concerned that dancers, feeling coerced, may behave disrespectfully. She promptly kneels at my feet – eyes closed, hands joined – asks God to ‘show this young man thy holy will.’ – I relent. 500 youngsters stand respectfully as the wee woman’s words connect our thoughts to the dead children. Then one minute’s total silence except for sobbing. Then we all say the Lord’s Prayer.
I often recall how ‘right’ that little ceremony was, how it helped us all to share grief that day. Now 40 years later I retain only fragments of my early Christianity – but I never feel inclined to question the beliefs of others. It’s only intolerant folk we need to challenge – including intolerant humanists.

The last posting of Laurence’s book for Christmas ‘pressies’ will be Monday 11th December. Let us know if you’d like it signed by the author!

Social enterprise policy in Scotland is too aligned with the delivery of public services and the whole procurement hassle. No one has deceived us – it was made clear by civil servants from the outset that this is how social enterprise was sold politically – but in England political rhetoric has moved on. Their ministers now speak of a change in the ‘mood of the nation’ towards a more ethical and socially just society. Let’s hope that when ‘our’ strategy is published next month it captures some of this English optimism. For inspiration we need look no further than the manifesto of the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition (SSEC), which I think is a fine document. I particularly like the community empowerment/asset transfer theme. The SSEC is the collective voice of all of us in the social enterprise sector in Scotland, putting our case to politicians and policy makers. This manifesto does us proud. 

In public policy terms, community empowerment is the coming wave, and as expected the howls of resistance have started. An article in the Guardian this week says, ‘To say that communities should be empowered to resist market forces goes way beyond the bounds of consensus politics, and could well be a recipe for permanent dependence on state support.’ If like me you think this is an outrageous statement, be in no doubt – it accords with the regeneration policy of the Scottish Executive. If your council house has got a nice view – watch out.

At 10 o’ clock this morning (Friday) David Cameron delivered the second Scarman lecture, in which he enlarged on the Tory vision for the voluntary sector (more comment next week). Whoever wins the next election, the relationship between the state and the third sector is going to change. Here are seven short comments on this which I found interesting.

One the most important elements of the imminent Social Enterprise Strategy for Scotland will be how the Executive proposes to ensure that the sector has access to appropriate, high quality business support. In England, the Social Enterprise Coalition UK has produced a policy paper that sets out the case for appropriate and targeted business support provision.  Uneven provision and quality of support is a much an issue there as it is up here and the case is made for a ‘braided’ approach, i.e. one which combines mainstream and specialist provision. The paper also asserts four principles for appropriate and accessible business support – responsive to customer needs; high quality; provides equality of access and based on genuine partnership. To read more, see

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: 22 vacancies, incl. posts with: SCVO, Workbase Scotland, Streetwork, Council for Voluntary Service Inverness, Scottish Executive, Glasgow Braendam Link.

EVENTS:17 events, incl. ‘Business Cheques’, 28 Nov, Tweed Horizons; Social Enterprise Alliance for Midlothian Christmas Fair, Dalkeith, 29 Nov; Christmas Art and Craft Market,  Portobello Community Centre, 2 Dec; Social Firms Scotland policy paper launch and AGM – Scottish Parliament, 15 Dec;

Last call for Social Audit Network Conference, York, 1 Dec: 

Oswalds is a renowned firm of Scottish company formation agents who specialise in the affairs of the third sector.  Pat, who manages the Senscot Exchange, has negotiated a cracking deal with them – setting up a Scottish charitable limited company for £350 (normally £500).  Contact for more info

Have you heard of the Citizen Organising Foundation (COF) which builds local alliances between religious and community groups to campaign for justice. COF has shamed 7 banks on Canary Wharf into taking cleaning back in-house and paying cleaners a living wage. This piece is by Neal Lawson , chair of Compass, an organisation which still proudly uses the term socialism.

The Schwab Foundation has selected as USA Social Entrepreneur of the Year Kyle Zimmer, founder of the First Book Marketplace – which gets top quality books to children from poor families. ‘FBMP is a strong and vibrant business model which expands the market for children’s books while addressing a serious social problem.’ First Book operates through local networks in hundreds of communities.

This week’s bulletin profiles a newly formed co-operative that aims to provide affordable design services for Scotland’s social enterprise sector. Anthill is a collection of like-minded people with extensive experience across the media who are aware of the increasing demand for professional marketing support from social enterprises as they seek to provide better and more effective services to their respective communities. Last week, Anthill launched its new website. For further info’ on this and more background on Anthill, see

Many years ago a friend of mine took her own life. Recently I met her son who recounted her cause of death as heart attack. I let it be. Czeslaw Milosz wrote a short poem called ‘zone of silence’.
‘It didn’t happen that way. Yet no-one dares tell how it did happen. I’m old enough to remember, and yet like others, I repeat the socially acceptable words, for I do not feel authorised to reveal a truth too cruel for the human heart.’

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

Best wishes,

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