Senscot Bulletin: 29.08.14

Dear members and friends,

            In 1989 I visited the USA on a kind of paid study visit – 5 states in 5 weeks.  One of the housing ‘projects’ which hosted me was in Ferguson – the suburb of St Louis where trouble flared last week – following the police shooting of an unarmed black youth.  The most vivid and enduring memory I have of those 5 weeks – is the extent of the demoralisation of the black poor; I recorded my thoughts: “This is not like poverty in Scotland – it is of a different order; maybe it is our health service/social security; or the influence of Rabbie Burns and the Clydeside socialists – that has enabled Scotland’s poor to retain some dignity and defiance.  The poorest African Americans I meet here seem defeated in a way I’ve never seen before (slavery?).  If you’ve no money – you’re nothing!  If you get ill – you die.  The poor are despised.  The human spirit is crushed.”  I developed a loathing for the hypocrisy of ‘the American Dream’ – for the barbarism of neoliberal politics.

            Thatcher, and then New Labour, brought free market economics to the UK.  The ensuing 25 years has seen dysfunctional levels of inequality and economic crisis; a growing contempt for public services and the constant advance of privatisation.  England, particularly the south east, seems locked into this voracious and unsustainable version of capitalism.  For whatever reason we Scots seem to prefer a gentler social order – which tries to include everyone – where market imperatives will be put to the service of the common good.  Given the chance – I wonder if we Scots would dare to ‘go for it’ on our own?  We’ll soon find out.      


The National Coalition for Independent Action (NCIA) is not much known in Scotland – but it is worthy of our attention; it’s an alliance of campaigners with the splendid strapline ‘dissent protects democracy’ – who oppose privatization of public services and lobby for independent community action – check it out here,  In its latest report ‘The Failure of Leadership’ – NCIA looks at 6 of the leading English third sector umbrella organisations – and robustly accuses them of failing to stand up for the independence of our sector – ‘which is fast becoming a government service delivery mechanism’: NCIA is refreshingly uncompromising – see,  As part of its research, NCIA asked Nicola Gunn to report on ‘what’s happening in Scotland’; her seven pages are based on a tiny number of interviews – impressionistic – but the comparisons with England will make you grateful for devolution. See,


In his latest book ‘Private Island: why Britain belongs to someone else’, James Meek argues that the bones and sinews of the British economy – rail, energy, water, airports, post etc – have now been sold to unaccountable private owners. What makes these assets valuable to investors, he says,  is that we have no choice but to use them. “British citizens have been packaged and sold – sector by sector; we are a human revenue stream – made tenants in our own land – defined by the string of private fees we pay to exist here”. This is a long essay by Meek in the Guardian. See,


Like most people I’ve spoken to this week – I’m reeling at the scale of child abuse in Rotherham – and the evidence of a systematic cover up; difficult as it is – we need to talk about this. Whether in a domestic situation, the sex industry or wherever – the sexual abuse of a minor is not only criminal – but abhorrent.  Yet most of the subsequent enquiries uncover how many people knew about the abuse; what then inhibits our outrage? I’m asking myself if, as a society, we’re too complacent about such behaviour. How many children live amongst us carrying the shame of adults? See,


The Community Interest Company (CIC) is a legal structure which allows a mixture of social purpose and private profit; recent amendments to the (complicated) legislation have increased the level of permitted dividends payable by CICs with shareholders, see,   Some welcome the emergence of such ‘hybrid’ structures: but others – including Senscot – hold that an SE is importantly defined by its ‘asset lock’ – and that tinkering with this will lead to the kind of confusion which is evident in England; CICs are regulated but some members of SE UK are not recognised by HM Treasury as eligible for Social Investment tax relief (SITR) – which invites questions about the way they present themselves.


NOTICES: We can’t flag all notices here, but more jobs, events and tenders available on our website. See  this week:

JOBS: Edinburgh University Students’ Association, The Church of Scotland, Action For Children, Scottish Council on Archives, Turning Point Scotland, Strange Town, Aberdeenshire Voluntary Action

EVENTS: DTA Scotland Annual Conference "Our Communities – Our Future", 1 Sep; In the Steps of the Suffragettes, 2 Sep; Portobello Market, 6 Sep; Leading Edge, 9 Sep; Pre-Start Leadership, 9 Sep;

TENDERS: Home Argyll Website Design – West Highland Housing Association, Preparation and Delivery of Community Meals (Sandwiches) – Renfrewshire Council, Community Growing Project – Landscaping Works – Hillhead Housing Association 2000 and more.


The SENs Weekly Update; Kim writes: Bookings are now open for this year’s SE Conference and Ceilidh – our 10th – at the Westerwood Hotel, Cumbernauld on 13th/14th November. To request a booking form, email . Initially, we are limiting places to 6 per SEN and 2 per organisation. We’re keen to ensure that each SEN can a few of their members along. We`re working on the draft programme – should be available within the next couple of weeks. The programme will include old favourites such as the Big Questions and the Dragons’ Den – but will also be an opportunity to reflect on the progress made by SENs and their members over the last 10 years and to look at challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. With the Referendum being done and dusted, it will also be a chance to consider the impact of its outcome on social enterprise in Scotland. Most importantly, however, is the chance for folk to connect up again for the craic.

For more SENs News, see


Edinburgh SEN (ESEN), this week, launched their ‘Buy the Good Stuff’ marketing campaign. The campaign is a call to action to the general public to think about how they shop around the city and consider purchasing from over 150 social enterprises that are trading in the city. The next stage in the campaign is ESEN’s ‘Social in the Square’ – Scotland’s first festival of social enterprise – taking place on 12th/13th Sept in St. Andrews Square Garden. Best of luck to all those involved.  See details,   


Each year, I try to visit the annual conference of Scotland’s Development Trust Association (DTAS) – a celebration of people power. A packed assembly of front-line activists from all over Scotland; women and men, working away quietly – to improve the place they live. If you add to these 200 Trusts, the community housing associations – and then all the other community owned organisations – arts, health, sports, transport, energy, childcare – it goes on and on… The community sector must comprise thousands of organisations – jealously independent of local government; an army of citizens to hold the state to account.



BOLD, the marketing arm of Community Enterprise, has recently launched its first crowdfunding campaign. Working with the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, BOLD is looking to raise funds for the Patrick Geddes Library – just off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Their target is £25k. To support the campaign, see


This week’s bulletin profiles a new social enterprise in West Lothian that provides a range of cookery classes for children between to ages of 5-12 – with classes for adults and children on the horizon. The Larder aims to provide young people skills for life. Through its work, the Larder offers a safe, supportive and encouraging space to explore ideas for their future and to learn skills that will send them in good stead throughout their lives. From their premises in Craigshill, Livingston, the Larder will deliver food based activities for young people of all ages as well as develop enterprising projects which will generate income to support its charitable work. The Larder is also a member of West Lothian SEN. For more see,  


In 1972 – when he was elected rector of Glasgow Yooni – Jimmy Reid delivered a famous inauguration address on alienation.  This is from the opening passage:

“Let me right at the outset define what I mean by alienation.  It is the cry of those who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control.  It is the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the process of decision making.  The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies.  Many may not have rationalised it; may not even understand, may not be able to articulate it. But they feel it.”

See full address,

That’s all for this week.   

Best wishes,



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