Dear members and friends,
I remember the day, ten years ago, when RBS collapsed – the shock/disbelief on the face of a corporate lawyer, mumbling ‘anything can happen now’. I`m reminded of this by the collapse this month of the Johnston Press – and the realisation that the Scotsman Newspaper (200 years old) – is flat broke – without a viable trading model. For most of my life, the Scotsman and Glasgow Herald were major institutions, which I saw standing vigilant against injustice and corrupt power – whether from dodgy politicians or greedy corporations. Banking turbulence is less worrying to me, than losing the scrutiny of robust journalism.
The problem seems to be, that ‘newcomers’ like Facebook, Google etc are hoovering up all the advertising revenue which once financed newspapers; until this gets sorted – the Canadian Federal Govt has wisely voted £350m in new tax credits for its media industry; financial viability is important – but not as important as sustaining a free press.
I have long, and fond, memories of working with Scotland’s community newspapers – where ‘hand-to-mouth’ was order of the day; when you love what you’re doing – ‘sustainability’ is an abstraction. There’s a dignity to investigating the news – presenting it with honesty and courage – something integral to stable democracy. Scotland has a beautiful model in the Ferret – an exemplar, asset-locked social enterprise – conducting professional investigative journalism; I like to think that this ‘vocational’ journalism – ‘pro bono publico’ – will find the means to gather momentum; pushback against the super-wealthy, privateer ‘barons’ – who pollute our press and public life, with impunity.
Good piece in Third Force News, asking if the charity brand is being tarnished by the inclusion of private schools, universities, ALEOs etc. SCVO is calling for a review of the Scottish Charity Act 2005 – with a view to tightening the charity test. Some of us have similar concerns about the tarnishing of the social enterprise brand – by over-casual use of the term. Over the years, Scotland has evolved the ‘SE Code of Practice’, which has provided the criteria for our national SE Strategy – and for our SE Census in 2015 (5,200) and again in 2017 (5,600). The recent estimate by SEUK that infers there are around 10,000 SEs in Scotland is simply untrue – unless you include businesses which provide marginal social impact for private profit – thereby tarnishing our brand.
Such is the contrast between these two stories – that I’ve linked them for effect. The first (uplifting) by Kevin McKenna, tells that the pub on the island of Easdale, the Puffer, is up for sale; because it’s at the heart of their community, we learn how the island’s 62 inhabitants have an emotional stake in its future. I admit to having a persistent (imagined) fondness for island life. The second story (depressing) tells how much the celebrated ‘sharing economy’ has been seized by ‘big money’. Remember that countercultural rebellion against authority? – when Uber, Airbnb etc were going to liberate more informal economic activity; this piece discusses what global capitalism is doing to our anticipated empowerment.
I had some involvement with the establishment of the Wester Hailes Land and Property Trust in the late 1980s – so I can heartily agree with Scottish Land Commissioner Lorne MacLeod – that ‘right to buy’ and community ownership have developed significantly over the years. Claims that we lead the world in social enterprise are, in my view, exaggerated (hype); but both our Land Reform legislation and the remit of the Land Commission are very exciting. Two areas may need some work; the aspiration of some communities will not yet match what is achievable; some local authorities are still resistant to community empowerment.
Lifted this quote from Mary Warnock’s review (2012) of Richard Holloway’s memoir ‘Leaving Alexandria’.
“The shapers of the Bible failed to understand the nature of myth; this has had a profound effect on religion, producing the finally intolerable tension, between pretending to believe a narrative to be factually true – and understanding the meaning of that narrative, the truth that it contains – without denying that it is the product of imagination. It is Holloway’s insistence that Christianity is a great work of the human imagination that makes his memoir so compelling and so intense. What he loves about the narrative is its central figure, who possesses endless pity for human beings and is endlessly subversive, in preferring compassion to rules. What he came to hate about the church is its insistence on rules, which turns it to cruelty, not pity”.
This week, we publish our 12th Senscot Briefing – looking at the role and contribution of local SENs. Previous Briefings have explored and sought to showcase the role of grassroots social enterprises in delivering services within particular policy areas to communities across Scotland. Local SENs have been around for over a decade. Today, there are 16 local SENs – with over 900 social enterprises actively engaged – the most representative grouping within our SE movement in Scotland Together they employ over 12,000 people – and have a combined turnover of over £500m. Local SENs have, over the years, had fluctuating fortunes – those who have been able to access funding/support locally have been able to flourish – those who have not, have found things a lot more challenging. The SE Action Plan commits to ‘extending local SENs to every part of Scotland that wants one’. We remain hopeful that by continuing to work with local SENs, TSIs and Govt this commitment will be realised – strengthening the collective voice for local SEs in Scotland.
Keep up to date with the latest jobs, events and funding opportunities in the social enterprise sector.
SCRT held its 4th AGM in Edinburgh on Tuesday. The last year has seen SCRT launching a SEN Community Bond – and follow up SEN Bridging Loan Fund; launching a second Community Bond in Linlithgow; obtaining a grant from the Big Lottery for community bond security; providing independent workshops on social investment with the SE Academy; and participating in the working group overseeing OSCR’s new Good Practice Guide to Charity Investments (see video). This last piece of work also busted the myth that charity trustees have a ‘duty to maximise financial returns’. Further myth-busting was in the form of an informative presentation from Prof Michael Roy (Glasgow Caley) on Social Impact Bonds (SIBs).
The Scottish Govt’s SE Action Plan Reference Group met in Edinburgh on Wednesday (see agenda and attendee list). The Group is, in the main, made up of statutory and support agencies and Wednesday’s event gave the Govt the opportunity to present some headline figures to date – with a SWOT analysis taking place on strengths/weaknesses etc as this Action Plan passes its halfway stage. The big challenge, of course, is to ensure that these measures are genuinely making a positive impact at a grassroots level. Frontline orgs can contribute their own views to this debate via the SE Reference Sub-Group that meets next Thursday in Perth. Some places are still available for membership-led and frontline organisations. If you are interested in attending, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Match Trading – the new funding model developed by the School for Social Entrepreneurs – is now being rolled out in Scotland by SSE (Scotland) under the Social Entrepreneurs’ Trade Up Programme. The Programme will see 20 social enterprises focus on growing their income from trading – with the Match Trading grant matching pound-for-pound, up to a cap of £5k, additional income from trading the organisation generates – compared to their previous year’s income. Participants are also supported by a learning programme and mentoring facilitated by SSE (Scotland).
This week’s bulletin profiles a community facility on the Moray coast that provides provide a range of indoor and outdoor facilities for community groups, activities & social events, as well as affordable group accommodation for guests. Cullen Community & Residential Centre (CCRC) is run by the charity, The Three Kings Cullen Association, that led a community asset transfer in 2017. The Centre is now managed by the local community and its residential centre can accommodate around 40 people. Although its priority is primarily about providing facilities for the local community, CCRC is also keen to promote the town of Cullen and the surrounding area as a great holiday destination.