Senscot Bulletin 29-08-2003




Dear members and friends,


In ‘Gangs of New York’, Herbert Asbury says, “The basic
creed of the criminal is that whatever a man has is only his so long as he can
keep it, and that the one who takes it away from him has not done anything
wrong, but has merely demonstrated his smartness.”  Two recent incidents have made me ponder this.  Firstly, Anne’s new house, nearing
completion was burgled.  We drove out on
Saturday morning – Dode the joiner is really upset – “I don’t know how to tell
you this – it’s all gone.”  The washing
machine, fridge, kitchen units, fireplace – even the bath – all gone!”  Anne, gutted, phones the police every day – nothing.  The second incident is the revelation that
over recent months our bankers have deducted £800 of ‘penalties’ from Senscot’s
account.  We are determined to recover
our money but this incident upsets me more than the burglary because the greed
of the banks is legal.  With ‘small
print’ stealth they debit your account – then you try to claw it back.  Think how many millions they get away with.  As Asbury says – they think this is
‘smart’.  Senscot has switched to
Triodos, the pioneering ethical bank.  Imagine if all of us in the social economy banked together like in
Mondragon – lending to each other to build a better world.  In its products and systems, Triodos is not
yet as sophisticated as the clearing banks but when we phone, Sam is there –
and she knows who you are – and understands what you do – and you don’t feel
you are doing business with a predator.



Senscot is now in its fifth year and our network continues
to grow in reach and in influence. For several months we have been contributing
to the Scottish Executive’s review of the social economy and, leading the
strand for ‘Social Entrepreneurs’, we have proposed several action points which
came directly from the network. Last Tuesday, I attended a meeting of the six
‘strand leaders’ at Victoria Quay, and for 4 hours we sifted the various
proposals – with a view to producing an Action Plan by October. I had been
looking forward to this meeting – but it left me feeling despondent. I’m glad
I’m not a civil servant. Everything seems so slow and complicated.  Decisions are tortuous.  No wonder the underspends.



Ian MacWhirter’s piece in the Sunday Herald this week was
upbeat. He chaired five sell-out sessions with political writer George Monbiot
at the book festival and enthused, “The will to understand society and to
change it is as strong as ever.” He agrees with my observations last week that
folk are sick to death with the inane pantomime performed by the political
parties and the media. “The reason the public like Monbiot and Tony Benn is
that they are independent voices.” Monbiot, it seems, doesn’t believe in
political parties – some kind of anarchist (without bombs). This of course
raises the inevitable question – how will the energy and undoubted commitment
of these emergent groupings be converted into political power without some
party organisation. Just in case he’s got an answer – I’ve bought his book,
“the Age of Consent”. (Herald article:



Regular readers will know that the most persistent moan in
this bulletin is that ‘officialdom’ in Scotland refuses to acknowledge that the
Social Enterprise sector is a discrete part of the social economy. Its easy to
see why SCVO doesn’t want to relinquish its influence over a vibrant chunk of
the voluntary sector but its more difficult to understand why the Scottish
Executive chooses to separate Scotland from the drive and leadership provided
for social enterprise by Westminster. The government sponsored representative
body for our sector is the Social Enterprise Coalition in London and SEC is currently
applying to the Community Fund for a major package of support for its members.
SEC has a UK wide remit and its package includes support funding for a Scottish
Social Enterprise Network to be supported from London.  Is that what devolution was for?  What an embarrassment!   (



YELLOW PAGES: Space constraints mean we can’t carry every
notice you send. But please send in any relevant items (before noon Thursday)
to and we’ll post them
on our site.  This week:


JOBS: 32 vacancies, including posts at Communities
Scotland, Scotland UnLtd, DTA Scotland, Social Firms Scotland, SCVO, Aspire,
Scottish Centre for Regeneration.


EVENTS: Voluntary Action Highland Conference, Dingwall, 3
Sept; Theatre Nemo book launches, East Kilbride, 6 &11 Sept;
Third Arena event, Glasgow 10 Sept; EDAS conference, Glasgow, 16 Sept;
Multi-faith forum, Edinburgh, Sept 17; Urban Design conference, Glasgow, 21-22
Oct; Upstarts awards 3 now open for entries:


CAN YOU HELP: An international flavour this
week – Organisers of a multi activity centre to be run as a social enterprise
in Finland are visiting Scotland and seek contact with similar or related
projects here; meanwhile, Glasgow’s ‘Three Hands’ are looking for 40 daring
people – singers, dancers, musicians, circus performers, costume designers,
from beginners to experts – to take part by raising the money and coming out to
Brazil 2004 to put on a show in a Brazilian Big Top for a children’s charity.
Also, can you help Faith, Hope & Charity (storage space) or the Graphics
Company (new premises, Edinburgh)?


For details on these and more:



This week the bulletin profiles a community laundrette and
clothing store assisting those who are homeless or living on low incomes below
the poverty line. Sox in the City, located in the centre of Edinburgh, offers a
service which is not only affordable but welcomes customers with a strong
emphasis on customer service and, above all else, a quality range of clothing
and efficient laundry services. Everyone is welcome to use the service, from
those who are homeless (the majority of their customers) to tourists and
students. Opened in October 2001, Sox in the City now provides a training,
education and development initiative for homeless people as well as providing a
community launderette and clothing store that community people assist in
working in as well as running it. Further info’:; (Project Profiles).



The Senscot annual conference this year is on Nov. 19th
at the Lighthouse in Glasgow. We still don’t know the speakers or even the
topics but we are clear who and what our conference is for. We want to bring
together 100 front line social entrepreneurs who are directly involved in
turning their ideas into reality – on behalf of their communities. The idea is
to encourage – and celebrate – each other’s efforts – a gathering of `doers` willing
to share their experience and enthusiasm. The 100 places for practitioners are
free. Approx. 20 places will be allocated to support agencies in return for a
contribution towards the cost of the event. Emma is collating notes of interest
and inspirational ideas for the day.



On Monday I go into hospital for a cervical discectomy – on
Tuesday they will open my throat and try to attach my head more securely to my
shoulders. As the ordeal draws near, I feel afraid – especially at night. But
also – unexpectedly I have moments of Buddhic calm. In 1994, Dennis Potter said
something in an interview which I wrote down at the time – now I understand it

“Things are both more trivial than they ever were, and more
important then they ever were, and the difference between the trivial and
important doesn’t seem to matter – but the `nowness` of everything is
absolutely wondrous.”

The Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho says that the first stage
in the creative process is ploughing the field: “as soon as the soil is turned
over oxygen penetrates into place it could not previously reach. We are thus
prepared for the miracle of inspiration.” I would not have chosen to be
‘ploughe’` – but it’s true the dread has a tinge of excitement. Is this the
beginning of something new? Will things be different now? My neck will anyway.


That’s all for this week – Next week I expect I’ll sleep a
lot – like Kuska our Siamese cat.

Wish me luck for my adventure – good luck with yours.

Best wishes,



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