Senscot Bulletin: 28.02.14

Dear members and friends,

              Donnachadh McCarthy is a 55 year old Cork man, now living in England, with an impressive reputation as a campaigning environmentalist. He has a book coming out later this year called, ‘The Prostitute State’ which has its origins in his period as deputy chairman of the Lib Dems. McCarthy alleges that so many MPs are now being paid as corporate lobbyists – that our system of democracy is fundamentally corrupted. The use of illegal tax havens – the covert funding of Academia – the penetration of corporate power into Govt. Departments have all reached alarming levels; but perhaps most troubling is his view of our media – serving to protect and advance relentless corporate encroachment.
              He says that 80% of UK daily newspapers are owned by just 5 tax-haven billionaires; 18% of the rest are also under international corporate control – leaving only the Guardian at 2.6%. These same proprietors own a sizeable chunk of our TV, film and book industries. McCarthy argues that while the mega-rich own the production and dissemination of thought/ideas – then we no longer live in a functioning democracy.
            George Orwell once wrote, “Journalism is printing what someone else doesn`t want printed; everything else is public relations”. If, as this book alleges, our Govt and media now serve the interests of Big Business – then our democratic system is indeed in danger. Not only because so many MPs are ‘on the take’ – but because citizens of good will – looking to serve the common good – will increasingly bypass politics for civil society organisations. See

This is the final week of Senscot’s annual appeal for donations, see

Bob Holman will be in his 70s now; for as long as I can remember he has been giving voice to the harsh reality of life among Scotland’s poor – and to the daily heroism and humanity of local voluntary action. The linked piece is about FARE – the anchor organisation in Easterhouse which he helped found 25 years ago. The simple activity he describes is the very essence of Big Society – but couldn’t be further from the fantasy world of Big Society Capital. Nor will you recognise it in Scotland’s Enterprising Third Sector Strategy. These are the folk on the outer edge of our economy – helping each other survive – with as much dignity as possible.  To ask them to frame their survival in some kind of ‘sustainable business model’ is hypocritical and insulting. Its time Scottish Govt – and all the rest of us – developed a strategy for the community action Bob Holman describes. See,

This week I enjoyed a conversation with 3 English civil servants – who travelled north to compare notes with Scottish counterparts – about community action. They will have learned that Scottish third sector policy doesn’t recognise a community sector – as a discrete entity with its own identity, needs and aspirations; Scottish third sector policy sits in a basket called ‘Public Service Reform’. English policy has a more attractive basis – that it is ‘of itself’ a desirable outcome that communities become more competent and confident; good for social cohesion and general well-being. These slides give a flavour of English directions. See,

The most ‘stable’ aspect of my political philosophy is the principle of subsidiarity; for me, this is basic social justice – a ‘moral’ imperative. In my long service as a community worker – I came to understand (and wrestle with) the innate centralism of Scottish Labour: The gradual realisation that the SNP are equally centralist has been a disappointment. Enjoyed this piece by Michael Marra, asking whether Scotland has the courage to make a genuine and profound commitment to localism. See,

Tweet from Lesley Riddoch yesterday – “Ironic that farms must shut to pay for bankers mistakes. Anyone ready for a truly cooperative takeover of Coops unwanted Scottish farm business?”

NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:
JOBS: MHF, Citizens Advice Scotland, Passage from India, Wild things!, Changeworks, WithKids
EVENTS: Portobello Market, 1 Mar; Tendering for Public Sector Contracts, 18 Mar;
TENDERS: Supply of Fresh Fruit and Vegetables – Fife Council, Lesmahagow Renewable Scheme – Lesmahagow Development Trust, North Ayrshire Council – Third Sector Procurement Register, Treatment of Recyclable & Residual Waste – Scotland Excel.

The SENs Weekly Update; Kim writes: Sport SEN members can benefit from a new £1m fund that will support the sustainability and capacity of SEs delivering sport and physical activity in communities across Scotland. The fund is a joint initiative between the Robertson Trust and Scottish Govt as part of the Games Legacy programme. See,  The programme will be launched at next month’s SE and Sport Conference – “SE & Sport – Inspiring our Leaders” – 18th March 2014 at the Emirates arena in Glasgow. To book, see .
For more SENs News, see

One of the most active areas of Senscot’s work in recent years has been in supporting the thematic SENs and Roundtables – in Sport (see above); Health; Community Food; and Culture. Between them, they now engage with almost 300 social enterprises. Activity in each thematic area is covered in bi-monthly Newsletters – see recent ones, – with case studies on SEN members being updated annually – see, At the moment, the Community Food SEN is carrying out a survey around the need and benefit of a bespoke community food e-commerce platform. See,  Closing date:Mon 3rd March at noon.

Firstport’s latest initiative – ‘Beyond the Finish Line’ – will help 10 young folk start up their own social enterprises and contribute to the legacy of the Commonwealth Games. The 10 aspiring social entrepreneurs will be given a blend of business support; mentoring; free workspace; as well as funding to open their SE for business during the Games. Angela Constance, Minister for Youth Employment, launched ‘Beyond the Finish Line’ at an event in Glasgow last week. See,

I was surprised recently to find myself in complete agreement with Princess Anne! – that the UK housing shortage should not be met by building new towns –with all the new infrastructure required – but in dribs and drabs – thereby energising existing rural schools and economies. I know of a dozen small co-housing projects around Scotland – stalled for want of land. I would place a statutory obligation on all public bodies to make housing sites available; not for private investment/development – but ‘off the market’ – self-build co-operatives. No profit – a place to live. See,

Voluntary work takes me close enough to child protection issues to be aware that certain children need to be rescued from the neglect or abuse of their family homes; I believe that the rights of children trump all other considerations. But after much discussion and consideration – I find myself unable to support the idea that every Scottish child will have a state appointed Guardian. I believe this proposal is well intentioned – but makes a worrying shift towards the state becoming prime carer. The sad truth is that children in state care don’t do very well. See,

This week’s bulletin profiles a social enterprise in East Lothian providing a range of activities for young people in East Lothian. theSPACE, based in North Berwick, runs skatepark; a softplay area; rehearsal rooms; a café; as well as being a venue for parties and events. Since it started in July 2011, theSPACE is now generating 80% of income through trading; has created 14 jobs; has provided and benefited from 13,000 voluntary work hours, hosted around 20 work placements; and put more than £500k into the local economy. Their current lease runs out in March 2015 and they are anxiously on the lookout for new premises in the area. If you can help, get in touch. See more,

Roberto Verzola is an environmental campaigner and academic who founded the Greens in the Phillipines. On corporate power he says:

“Corporations are a man-made species of business automata – which have exceeded Science Fiction’s worst nightmares – about runaway created systems. When we granted legal personhood to Corporations – we endowed them with the single purpose of maximising profit; like the giant prehistoric predators – they now roam the world – devouring all they encounter. Corporations are now the dominant species on earth – out of control – trashing human society and the natural world with impunity. They now occupy the top of the food chain – have become the greatest threat to human wellbeing.”

Here’s an extract from a talk he gave in Germany in 2010 – compelling.
That’s all for this week.
Best wishes,


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