Senscot Bulletin: 25.05.18

Dear members and friends,

When I graduated from Moray House School of Community Studies, in 1973, we were required to rent an academic gown for the ceremony; learning that overseas students were encouraged to wear national costumes – I hired a traditional highland outfit – which drew a rousing cheer from the assembly, and a snide remark from the principal. I like to think of this gesture, as an early stirring of my mission for Scottish Independence – but I suspect I was just showing off.

I suppose it was 2011 – when the SNP won a Holyrood majority – that I started to regard independence as a serious possibility; saw little need for anxiety on economic or other grounds. Apart from the generous natural resources of our country – we Scots are a remarkably creative and resourceful people. Across history, across sectors – we’ve always produced our own stamp of world class leaders: Bill Shankly, Jock Stein, Alex Ferguson. I know they’re ‘only’ football – but that’s our ‘craggy’ brand; you’ll find the same formidable personalities, men and women, in business, professions, academia, politics, public service, civil society etc.

As soon as we know that Scotland will be removed from Europe against our will – I would call indy ref 2. The Westminster govt. is in a mess – its cabinet in two halves which hate each other – deadlocked by a nasty hard-right cabal; the Brexit mess could hardly be more advantageous to a ‘yes’ for independence. If Corbyn wins a general election, ends austerity, moderates Brexit etc – leaving the union would become a different equation for many Scots. Good piece from Iain MacWhirter.


News consumption is changing at a bewildering speed – Scotland, at this time, particularly confusing. STV has conceded that they got it wrong with STV 2 – over 50 job losses. Ofcom is consulting on the proposed new BBC Scottish Channel – amid complaints that it’s London-centric operation already smothers competition. Stuart Cosgrove is chairing a very spirited bid by Glasgow, to become one of Channel 4’s major regional hubs. Two suggestions: – our licence fee should be retained by the Scottish Broadcasting Corporation – our own independent public broadcaster. Stable competition would be provided by a ‘protected’ social enterprise – which, like Channel 4, would be publicly owned but privately financed. The free market would wax and wane against these two benchmark institutions.


A barber on Callander’s Main St informed me that the town has 140 voluntary organisations – one for every 21 of its 3000 residents. A glance at their community newspaper – The Ben Ledi View – confirms the sense of a vital, coordinated citizen society. In contrast, our sector across Scotland, seems to be going through a period of unsettling change – long term leaders, in key organisations, on the move. This ‘churning’ extends to civil servants in the govt’s third sector and other divisions; the constant need to build new relationships – the sense that people are over stretched. Hopefully things will soon settle down.


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.”


Yours aye,



Senscot AGM takes place today in Glasgow – looking at resilience amongst grassroots SEs and what practical steps can be taken to create a more supportive environment – not just by national intermediaries and/or Scottish Govt – but, more importantly, by the sector itself. One practical step that regularly comes to the fore is ‘bulk purchasing’ – that could reduce collective expenditure on office and other supplies. As this topic has come up at a number of events over recent months, we have decided to re-canvas SEN members to find out if there is a genuine appetite to explore this further. Initial feedback suggests significant efficiency savings can be made on a wide range of services. We have now set up a survey monkey to gauge interest. It just takes a minute to complete. If demand is there – the next step will explore setting up such a service.


When Harvey McGrath became chair of Big Society Capital in 2014 – he said, with commendable candour, that loan finance was only suitable for a small sub-set of third sector organisations – that most required grants, or patient, non-commercial investment; Senscot has been arguing for years that pressure on asset-locked enterprises to become ‘investment ready’ for commercial loans is totally inappropriate. Interesting article from Stephen Barnett (CEO of the Euclid Network) who agrees with us – that the question should be turned around – ‘are social investors ‘ready’ to work with us – ready to offer the kind of finance we need’.


Date for your Diary: This year, the 4th John Pearce Memorial Lecture will be taking place on 10th September in Glasgow City Chambers. The Lecture will form part of an academic symposium which, in turn, is part of the SE World Forum. Delivering the Lecture will be Baroness Glenys Thornton – currently CEO of the Young Foundation and, amongst other things, was also founding chair of the old SE Coalition (now SE UK).


A recent report by the Office for National Statistics states that 2.4 million adult British residents – of all ages – suffer from chronic loneliness. Senscot has highlighted the work of SEN members (see Briefings) in seeking to address this issue in local communities and is now taking further steps through our engagement in SCA’s Pockets and Prospects Project. Pockets and Projects will link directly with Glasgow’s Campaign to End Loneliness – working with GSEN and other SEN members to co-ordinate a ‘programme of activities’ which will be available for community anchor organisations to purchase and run in their own communities. Here’s Senscot’s response to the recent Govt Consultation.


Argyll SEN has been busy over recent months – working on the development of a SE Action Plan for the area. They are hosting an event on Monday 18th June in Lochgilphead to look in greater depth at the Action Plan; gather feedback – and also how to progress specific actions. All welcome – see details.


This week’s bulletin profiles an arts organisation, based in Glasgow, that looks equip people with the creative tools to help them explore their experience of criminal justice, and ask them how justice might be reimagined. Vox Liminis – Latin for ‘voice from the threshold’ – was established in 2013 and uses music and art to open up questions around: how lives are affected by the criminal justice system in Scotland; ways in which people can make more positive futures for themselves and for their families; and the roles we can all play in building a fairer society.


Best wishes,