Senscot Bulletin: 30.09.16

Dear members and friends,

Concern is being expressed in the media about an ‘epidemic of loneliness’ in the UK; among people over 65 who live alone, social isolation can cause physical and mental decline – ‘a 26% increase in mortality’.  In my own life I associate loneliness mostly with my youth (the teenage years the worst); as life progresses we get to know ourselves better – make adjustments (ongoing); a major adaptation for me was the realisation that I’m introverted.  In groups I find myself overstimulated, even overwhelmed – too affected by other people’s moods; I gradually lowered my expectations of what social occasions can offer; I now ‘allow’ myself more time alone; as I learned to savour solitude, feelings of loneliness receded.  This challenges the automatic association of loneliness with being alone.

            But humans are not designed to be solitary creatures – we evolved to survive in tribes; the need to interact is deeply ingrained in our genetic code.  Neuroscientists can now tell us that loneliness activates the same part of the brain as pain, hunger, thirst etc; like them it’s a primal alarm, alerting us to restore balance.  After a few days ‘home alone’ without company – the impulse comes to get myself among people.  I may meet someone – or visit a favourite bookshop or café – where I can observe and feel part of the thousand social interactions around me; part of the tribe. In that 2003 film, Hugh Grant tells us that if we look carefully at these routine connections we will see that most are about Love Actually.


A new report from Audit Scotland has frankly warned that social work services, as currently provided, are unaffordable – and that hard decisions are now required.  When, after the last war, the Labour Party so bravely laid the foundations of our welfare state – they underestimated the value of a rich layer of voluntary mutual activity by citizens; the universal model became centralised state provision; community action met with ingrained municipal hostility.  As money runs out, we can expect fresh attempts to co-opt, what is now called the third sector, into service provision – and there is no doubt that, properly coordinated, local organisations can make a major contribution.  But if our work comes under the direction of any authority wielding the power of the state – we are no longer a third sector.  This is one of the major tensions for our sector going forward.


Social movements in other European countries had to create their own political parties – but in England there was a hollowed-out Labour party – ripe for takeover. Not that anyone could have anticipated that Corbyn would become the focus of a popular uprising – but that’s what has happened; Labour party membership now exceeds that of all other parties combined – and growing. Press campaigns against him will further intensify – but popular uprisings tend to have their own dynamic. Interesting times. Aditya Chakrabortty’s short take on the conference speech.


I get the feeling that Scottish politics is heading for a battle royal on the issue of fracking. I thought there was enough public resistance to prevent it but I underestimated how much economic clout Ineos commands.  Financial considerations weigh heavily with the SNP (which they should); but if they allow this hazardous extraction process – they will be blamed for all the subsequent (and inevitable) contamination.  Don’t go there guys.


I would like to pay tribute to the golfer Arnold Palmer who died this week ages 87 – and who was a personal hero of mine.  Like Seve after him, Arnie was a swashbuckler – he whacked the ball hard and wild – and then conjured the most remarkable recovery shots.  There’s a plaque deep in the rough on the 15th hole at Birkdale marking the spot where he  hit a five iron to the green; I once stood there, and believe me it’s not possible.  Arnie attracted crowds in excess of his achievements because people like me loved his love of our game.  Someone said on the radio: Rock had Elvis – Boxing had Ali – Golf had Arnie – I like that.


Being a sensitive soul, I keep well clear of twitter; news this week that Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson has had enough: "I can feel my soul withering within me each time I enter another dialogue of the deaf; this place diminishes us all, so I’m off".


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

JOBS: Atlantis Leisure, Impact Arts (Projects) Ltd, Community Transport Glasgow, Lesmahagow Development Trust, Assist Social Capital CIC, Ideas for Ears

EVENTS: Portobello Market, 1 Oct; Scottish Rural Parliament 2016, 08 Oct; New Rights, New Resources and Revenues, 26 Oct; Train the Trainer, 23 Nov; Leading Growth for Senior Leaders, 23 Mar

TENDERS: Grass Sports Pitch Maintenance Framework – Fife Council, Provision of a Mental Health and Wellness Centre in Moray – Moray Council, Children and Young Peoples Services – Scottish Borders Council. Join the Ready for Business Linked-In group and follow on Twitter.


The SENs Weekly Update: Kim writes: This week Senscot contributed to Voluntary Action Scotland’s TSI Practice Forum on social enterprise with a session on Procurement delivered by George (Senscot) and Charities and Trading Subsidiaries delivered by Helen (Senscot Legal). In addition to this George McConnachie, Partnership and Procurement Co-ordinator, delivered one to one surgery sessions in Elgin organised by tsiMORAY.  Please remember that one-to-one support is available, if you have an opportunity to work collaboratively or need assistance with tendering then get in touch!


Interesting piece in the Irish Times about what they call Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) – which is an attempt to put small scale farmers back at the heart of rural society.  Consumers work in partnership with a local farmer by paying in advance for produce – thereby sharing the risks and rewards of the crop.  It’s a way of boosting local food production for customers who don’t want to buy produce from distant foreign destinations.  Hope it catches on.


I remain convinced about the inevitability of the universal basic income (UBI) – only a matter of when; so I try to improve my understanding of the concept.  This short piece by Aaron Bastani points out that UBI is also supported by the right wing neoliberal end of the political spectrum for all the wrong reasons; that it only makes sense as a progressive policy alongside major safeguards on housing, education, healthcare etc.


Places are still available for the 2nd John Pearce Lecture on Monday 3rd October at 5pm in the Deeprose Lecture Theatre on Glasgow Caley Campus. Pauline Graham (CEO of Social Firms Scotland) will give her reflections and perspective on past and current issues affecting the social enterprise sector in Scotland. With the impending SE Strategy for Scotland – due for publication in the autumn – the role and contribution of social enterprise to communities across Scotland has never been more topical. The event is free – if you’d like to come along, see registration form.


From last November a total of 18,000 people across 134 countries took part in an online study called The Rest Test; the results are now in and the analysis is underway. The purpose of the exercise was to investigate what ‘rest’ means to different people – what they do and whither it benefits them. The most popular top 10 restful activities are listed (reading is number one) and the most striking early lesson is how important ‘time spent alone’ is to respondents. This is serious ongoing work which I’ll revisit.


This week’s bulletin profiles a venture in Hawick that has been on the go since 2004 delivering a range of services to young people across the Teviot and Liddesdale area of the Scottish Borders. Escape Youth Café, operated by Escape Youth Services, was established following a local Youth Summit back in 2003 – which set out a vision to enhance the lives of young people, building a positive future, by developing and sustaining a supportive service where young people can succeed and increasing the range, quantity and quality of youth-led provision. The cornerstone of this provision is the Café that has run successfully for 9 years. As well as acting as a drop-in facility, Escape works in partnership with other providers/services and agencies in the area to ensure an integrated approach to working with and supporting young people in the community.


Thinking about the controversy over fracking, I remembered this passage from a talk Charles Handy gave in 1996 called Re-inventing Capitalism for the next century:

"Capitalism is the most powerful mechanism we’ve yet invented for delivering the goods but I don’t think it’s necessarily capable of delivering a good life for all – or a decent society. I don’t think we should expect it to. It is a means and not an end and there’s a danger in promoting it as an ideology which is sufficient unto itself. That is a category error. It amounts to saying that the means can justify the ends, whatever they may be. In other words, competition, efficiency, the market place, profitability, must always be good, whatever comes out at the end. I’m saying ‘No’. We have to think about the ends we desire as well as the means. If that means moderating the means, well, so be it."

That’s all for this week.    

Best wishes,


Subscribe to this bulletin.