Senscot Bulletin: 27.01.17

Dear members and friends,

A wee book I got for Xmas – ‘Sod 70’ by Muir Gray – made a big impact; convinced me that the rate of physical decline of old folks is not inevitable – but greatly influenced by our attitude and physical fitness. Since New Year, I’ve been making a conscious effort to walk frequently and further – pushing myself deeper into the acres of forest around my cottage; I already feel the benefit of this.
            Within fifteen minutes – down lesser known tracks – I can be sitting in wild nature with minimal traces of human intervention – a tangled self-organising wilderness. I have several resting tree-stumps where I sit still and let the forest close in around me; when I can quiet my mind I feel the stirrings of a primordial connection to this teeming order; that humans came out of this. As well as improving my physical fitness, these excursions always lighten my mood – which convinces me of an inherent benefit to humans from the company of trees; sympathetic parts of the web of life.
            Visiting the non-human world that we ‘dwell within’ can make us feel humble – a welcome corrective to the speed and strut of our times. Mountains, rivers, deserts, seashores, have been there for millions of years; our forebears moved among them with pretty much the samewoes as ourselves. We can only guess at how ‘the beast of technology’ is effecting human evolution – but I have a sense that wild wilderness has answers to questions we have not yet begun to ask.


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I am not going to pretend that I understand the Donald Trump phenomenon – how a coarse, bullying liar came to be President; I’ve convinced myself that he can’t possibly last four years. But what if his egotistical posturing disguises a team of people who are cleverer, and therefore more dangerous, than they pretend; such would be capable of genuine carnage (his word) and not only in the USA. The scale this week of the (women-led) anti Trump marches – suggest a ‘resistance’ is underway. I have the sense that this will also apply to Scottish politics in the coming period; that it will take ‘people on the streets’ to get us properly aligned. This is the American sage Garrison Keillor’stake on Trump – bit of a rant.


Came across this article on the Al Jazeera site by the Edinburgh writer Jamie Maxwell (son of the late Stephen Maxwell – a bulletin favourite).  I sense that Jamie’s a bit more left wing than his dad – he argues here that Nicola Sturgeon has moved from being the most exciting social democrat leader in European politics – to becoming a champion of European liberalism.  Some of the political terminology escapes me but I have some sympathy with the article’s main drift – that as world politics polarises – our First Minister hugs the centre ground – cautious, establishment stability.


The SNP Govt. correctly recognises the attainment gap between richer and poorer children as the measure of inequality in Scottish society; I’m not convinced however that there is due recognition of the main cause: home backgrounds of generational poverty which see no point in education.  This is no criticism of present efforts to get resources directly to our poorest pupils through what are called ‘attainment fund schools’. I learned this week that there are 8 such schools in Edinburgh – 119 in Glasgow – a dramatic insight into distribution of poverty in Scotland.


The Supreme Court has confirmed (as expected) that the UK Govt. cannot trigger Article 50, to leave the European Union, without an Act of Parliament.  The Constitution Unit has produced this outline of what will now need to happen in both Houses of Parliament. Not that we needed it, but Scotland received further confirmation that we have no more influence over Brexit than any other region of the UK – i.e. none at all. Iain Macwhirter thinks decision time is ‘looming’.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: Eco Drama, Bandrum Nursing Home, Wild things!, The New Tannahill Centre Ltd, The Ecology Centre, Disabled Persons Housing Service (Fife), Bruntsfield Community Greengrocers – Digin
EVENTS: Leading Growth for Aspiring Leaders, 23 Feb; Getting Private Sector contracts – A Third Sector perspective: Part 1, 23 Feb; How to Bid and Win! for the Third Sector, 28 Feb;
TENDERS: Community Cooking Activities – NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Provision of Local Bus Services in Stirling Area – Stirling Council, Tender for Climate Challenge Fund Evaluation & Final Report – Auchenback Active, Social security systems based on dignity and respect – Equality and Human Rights Commission and more. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Senscot, in partnership with the Scottish Community Alliance, is hosting a Masterclass on Participatory Budgeting (PB) – ‘Opportunities for social enterprises’. The masterclass will be delivered by Jez Hall of PB Partners and Shared Future CIC and take places on Wednesday 15th March at the Trades Hall in Glasgow. The event will be of interest to those considering PB for the first time, or looking to extend their existing knowledge – and will provide an overview of PB with the aim of: increasing participants’ knowledge, including experiences in Scotland to date; consideration of ‘participatory small grants’ and ‘mainstream’ models of PB; and identifying opportunities for growing the SE sector through PB. Places available for around 30 participants. For more info and to book see here.


With Tariq on the move, Senscot is now looking to recruit a new Research and Communications Officer. See link to application pack. Closing date for applications is Friday 10th February.


Part 5 of the Community Empowerment Act came into force this week (23rd Jan) – introducing a right for community bodies to make requests to all local authorities, Scottish Ministers and other public bodies, for any land or buildings they feel they could make better use of. The Community Ownership Support Service (COSS) provides support to community-based groups in Scotland looking to take on such assets on behalf of their community. They have recently produced this short animated guide (2mins 30 secs).


With Kids and Queen Margaret University are now recruiting for their MSc in Play Therapy – accredited by BAPT (British Association of Play Therapists). Play Therapy is a recognised means of helping children express their feelings and deal with emotional problems – using play as the main communication tool.
This is their second cohort of trainees – with the course running part-time over 3 years (one day per week).


Measuring social impact or demonstrating social value is one of these thorny issues that has been talked about regularly over years – and increasingly, of late, by funders and ‘investors’ – without any consensus around an agreed methodology. The recent SE Strategy also identifies the challenge of achieving an approach that is not ‘inherently complicated’ and would allow ‘even the smallest of organisations to provide a balanced account of their performance and impact’. Roger Moors (Social Investment Scotland) provided a helpful article on this topic in last week’s Third Force News.


This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise, based in Inverness, providing arts and craft activities for offenders, those at risk of offending, their families and victims of crime, as a therapeutic medium to improve general health and wellbeing, develop pre-employability skills and reduce re-offending throughout the Highlands. The Libertie Project acts as a springboard towards employment by encouraging and preparing participants to progress to trainee volunteer positions within a cluster group of Highland social enterprises and third sector organisations.


As a ‘lapsed Catholic’. I have no pretensions to be a ‘defender of the faith’ – but like Giles Fraser in his excellent Guardian column – I get irritated by Donald Trump’s ‘vapid forays into religion’ – the association of commercial acumen with Godliness.


“To pray at his inauguration, Trump chose Detroit bishop, Wayne T Jackson, who holds that: ‘Donald Trump is an example of someone who has been blessed by God. Look at his homes, businesses, his wife and jet. You don’t get those things unless have the favour of God’. Being ‘blessed’ has become a moral alibi for America’s greed. American popular religion has been sailing these dangerous waters for years – bringing together Christianity, capitalism and cod psychology, and transforming preachers into motivational speakers delivering their sales pitches; re-imagining the life of an itinerant Jew who thought you couldn’t serve money and God, to be that of a poster boy for the super-rich”.


That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,




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Senscot is a Company, registered in Scotland. Company Reg No. 278156: Scottish Charity No. SC 029210