Senscot Bulletin: 25.11.16

Dear members and friends,

The decade between age 40 and 50 (1980-1990) was a troubled time for me; alcoholic, manic/depressive, borderline nervous breakdown; amongst my survival strategies was a daily journal where I poured out my woes. For around 30 years, this mostly unread screed (circa 2000 pages in 10 box files) has awaited destruction; but out of respect to the writer – I was determined that it deserved one read-through; an impulse to come to terms with this period before putting it to rest.
            I started reading in September – realised it was much too private (toxic) to be allowed to survive – forced myself to finish it. I’d like to report that the content had some coherent order – but, in truth, it was mostly tormented; the level of alcohol consumption indicating a person trying to destroy himself. It recounts I had the sense to get help – a psychotherapist helped me get some handle on what was going on. It’s interesting that this state of inner collapse, coincided with a fertile decade of work.
            In my back garden, I keep an occasional incinerator – and over three visits, my decade of outpourings went up in smoke. It was hard going, but I’m pleased I went to the trouble (and pain) of revisiting this time in the wilderness; Laurence the reader (30 years older) was able to view events with more compassion than
Laurence the writer. Can’t say I feel any great ‘release’ – more a relief that all those pages of drivel are safely incinerated; move on.


Neal Ascherson’s familiarity with history and international affairs gives his journalism an extra dimension; his Herald piece tracing the Trump disaster is convincing – a worldwide rebellion of the disaffected, against the self-satisfied liberal elite: “Americans have turned to a lying, bullying demagogue – and everyone who believes that humans were made to co-operate rather than compete – has their face in their hands”. So far, Ascherson says, Scotland is an exception – popular grievances have poured into a positive civil independence movement – supporting a cautious brand of social democracy; but this may not last. “Unless the SNP leaders drop the caution and go for far more radical change – grievance, here too, could overflow into nastier channels”. He says “a total democratic recasting of local govt. – ‘power to the people’ – would make a start”.


The most radical voice around the Scottish Govt is Naomi Eisenstadt – Nicola Sturgeon’s independent advisor on poverty and inequality; she said this week, “the answers to inequality are about taxing the rich. There are lots of other answers but this is one of the key issues”. She has made it known that she herself favours increased inheritance tax and a higher top rate income tax. Eisenstadt’s report in January emphasised the importance of improved childcare in tackling inequality.


Most encouraging launch of Our Democracy campaign in Glasgow on Monday – to highlight the disgraceful state of local democracy in Scotland – our Govt’s baffling inaction. For the fifteen years of the Senscot Bulletin, this has been, and will remain, a priority issue – as this movement builds. See video (60 mins).


Unlike local democracy, the Land Reform cause has made some progress in Scotland – with appointments to the Land Commission regarded as indicative of future Govt intent. The early ‘goss’ is good – that four of the six newly announced commissioners are committed land reformers – but we’ve a long way to go.


‘Time for a Basic Income in Scotland’ is the title of a day conference in Glasgow’s Pearce Institute – this Saturday, 26th November – 10am; the event will mark the launch of a new campaigning network ‘Citizens Basic Income Network Scotland’ (CBINS). See details of speakers, sponsors etc.


A reader sent this terrific article about Leonard Cohen in the New Yorker; it’s long – but devoted fans will be rewarded.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Tannahill Centre; Skidaddle; Bandrum Nursing Home; Victim Support Scotland; With Kids; Impact Arts (Projects) Ltd; Baldy Bane Theatre Company; Place 2 Be; Port Edgar Watersports CIC:
EVENTS: New Rights, New Resources and Revenues, 30 Nov; Finance and Sustainability for Third Sector Organisations, 30 Nov; "Ye Olde Toy Storey", 18 Dec; Leading Growth for Senior Leaders, 23 Mar:
TENDERS: Armadale Partnership Centre – West Lothian Council; Intensive Support Service for Young People – Stirling Council; Grounds Maintenance Service – Cunninghame Housing Association Ltd and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes: The ‘Keep it Local – Strength in numbers’ event on Wednesday went off well. Over 130 folk turned up to hear some lively discussion on key issues affecting our sector – including the imminent SE Strategy and, as the profile of the sector grows, preserving its core values and behaviours. We also heard some great examples of the work of social enterprises from communities across Scotland. The general theme of the day was about collaboration; partnerships and consortia as models in which social enterprises can increase their contribution to the delivery of local services – and included two excellent and informative presentations from our two keynote speakers – Floriana Nappini and Neil Berry.


Just as supermarkets decimated our High Streets – the same dynamic of ‘giantism’ threatens our third sector; Senscot, with others, is actively exploring how to encourage smaller community and social enterprises to form consortia – both to secure contracts – and to ensure local services can be delivered locally (see above). Two excellent examples of what can be achieved are CRNS Consortium (18 partners) and Fife Employability Consortium (8 partners).


Buth Bharraigh Ltd(on Barra) has been in the news of late – picking up national awards and in the running for more. It is, however, the nature of the enterprise that sets it apart and is also serving as a great example to other rural communities on the benefits of local collaboration. The Buth Bharraigh model – via its community-owned shop – has helped over 80 local producers with opportunities and ‘routes to market’ and its success has inspired neighbours on Uist to establish Uist Gifts along similar lines.


Can’t vouch for the ‘Bank’ of Scotland – but the ‘Church’ of Scotland is increasingly involved in initiatives to protect the poor from predatory moneylenders. The story of the formation of the Castle Community Bank by the (banker turned minister) Rev Iain May gives real encouragement.


Some time ago, I took a close look at the co-housing model – where a group of people build, develop and run their own wee community – around 20 private homes, with a ‘common house’ for elements of shared living. Contact this week from Clachan Co-housing in Glasgow’s Maryhill area – who are exploring a Mutual Home Ownership model (somewhere between owning and renting). They want to know about other groups or individuals interested in collaborative working.


This week’s bulletin profiles an enterprise in Argyll and Bute that seeks to improve the health and wellbeing of people with mental health problems and the wider community through interaction with and in the restoration of Blarbuie Woods – includes the grounds of Lochgilphead’s Argyll and Bute Hospital. Here Blarbuie Woodlands Enterprise offers a range of services that include creating training, volunteering and longer-term work opportunities through the maintenance of a healthy, well-used and sustainable woodland – that also involves path-work, tree planting, maintenance, public events and guided walks.


These quotes imply that Neal Ascherson agrees with the late William MacIlvanney –  "Scottishness is not some pedigree lineage, but a mongrel tradition".


“All human populations are in some sense immigrants. All hostility between different cultures in one place has an aspect of the classic immigrant grudge against the next boatload approaching the shore. To defend one’s home and fields and ancestral graves against invasion seems a right. But to claim eternal and immutable ownership – is a joke.”


“If there is a spectrum between ethnic and civic forms of nationalism, Scotland is very far on the civic end of the spectrum. That is partly because nobody has ever been stupid enough to say that Scotland is an ethnicity in a genetic sense. A kingdom of Scotland existed long before anybody talked of a Scottish people. So that is one thing we have been spared.”


Neal Ascherson, interview, Scottish Review of Books


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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