One problem with Brexit (British Exit) is that there there’s no such place as Britain; the United Kingdom is a four-nation state – but England, with 84% of the population and power, is totally dominant. On Sunday, Andrew Marr interviewed Mary Lou McDonald, leader of Sinn Fein; she explained, with impressive candour, how the way Scots MPs are treated at Westminster affirms why Sinn Fein don’t send their seven MPs. When Scotland and N. Ireland are soon exited from the EU, against the will of their peoples, the pretence of a ‘United Kingdom’ will be over.
The cause of independence was a natural ‘preference’ for me, from a life-long commitment to the principle of subsidiarity and local empowerment; I am more comfortable with the Green Party version than the SNP – who reveal a recurrent ‘centralising’ twitch. Because of the Brexit bungling. I’ve been watching more of the House of Commons than ever before; like Mary Lou McDonald, I’m appalled at the humiliating irrelevance of Scotland’s participation. We really must escape this English Parliament.
G.K. Chesterton wrote: The Romans “did not love Rome because she was great. Rome was great because the Romans loved her”. ‘Great’ is an inflated (Trumpeted) word, best avoided – but we can all hope and aspire that our future Scotland becomes an empowered, prosperous and caring place. Chesterton is saying that this can only be bestowed on a nation, by the shared vision of its own people. Scottish independence has shifted in my priorities – from ‘preference’ to ‘necessary’ – if we are to retain self-respect.
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In a recent Herald column, Kevin McKenna confirms he’s an ‘Old Labour type’ – that he wouldn’t vote for SNP – “which still harbours too many right-wing types and Micky Mouse liberals”. Old Labour was the main influence on my own politics, but I can’t forget the nastiness of its internal warfare – venemous. The SNP is moderate social democrat – a remarkably harmonious team – tries to offend no-one – if, like me, you favour self-government, that’s their ‘raison d’etre’. When I’m unimpressed, I look at the rest. Stiffened a bit by the Greens, the SNP are the best we’ve got right now – Mickey Mouse or not.
Vacant shops on the High St diminish not only the economy, but worse, the morale of our towns – but they also offer the opportunity for the community itself to take direct action. This piece about Midsteeple Quarter regeneration project in Dumfries is a good example of this action – and Community Land Scotland reports an ‘explosion’ of urban community buy-outs. But some communities are finding that empty properties sit on the books of some London Pension Fund at such an inflated value, that they are effectively ‘abandoned’. Some Govt intervention is required – taxing empty shops would get them moving. UPDATE…sadly, the Dumfries community bid for the shop came up short.
Although I had no involvement, I’m proud of what our Violence Reduction Unit has demonstrated – that violence is not inevitable – can be prevented; much of the credit for the VRU goes to Karyn McCluskey who now heads up the Govt’s Community Justice Scotland. Appealing this week for alternatives to prison for women, McCluskey reiterated that people, damaged by early life neglect and abuse, need a support and care package more than prison – there is increasing acceptance that short-term prison sentences don’t work: “If you’re scared of someone, it’s reasonable to lock them up – but not because you’re angry with them”.
Laurens van der Post was an Afrikaner writer, who introduced the world to the Kalahari Bushmen – whom he regarded as the original natives of southern Africa – outcast and persecuted.
“The Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert talk about the two “hungers”. There is the Great Hunger and there is the Little Hunger. The Little Hunger wants food for the belly; but the Great Hunger, is the hunger for meaning…There is nothing wrong in searching for happiness. But of far more comfort to the soul is something greater than happiness or unhappiness, and that is meaning. Because meaning transfigures all. Once what you are doing has for you meaning, it is irrelevant whether you’re happy or unhappy. You are content – you are not alone in your Spirit – you belong.”
Glasgow SEN (GSEN) has had an eventful 12 months – over and above moving into new premises (in The Briggait) and employing its second member of staff. One of its most significant achievements has been its role in the development and launch of a new SE Strategy for Glasgow – which will include six ‘reps’ from the SE community being on the city’s Social Enterprise Board. On Wednesday, a well-attended event got a comprehensive activity update on GSEN’s progress – as well as conducting its own SWOT analysis of the national SE Action Plan. The themes that emerged, perhaps not surprisingly, were along similar lines to those which emerged in the SE Reference Sub-Group in Perth in December. While acknowledging that, in Scotland, we are fortunate in having our own 10-year Strategy, the old chestnuts of transparency around the processes and the lack of local engagement reared their heads again. A discussion around ‘failure’ also took place – hearing from members on the challenges faced both as individuals and as organisations. GSEN will be giving this theme particular focus during the year ahead. See GSEN’s most recent Annual Report.
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Date for the Diary: Senscot and the Sport SEN is hosting a ‘Football Event’ at Firhill Stadium in Glasgow on Thursday 21st March – bringing together Football Community Trusts from across Scotland to share their experience of delivering health, wellbeing and community activity in local communities. Mel Young (Homeless World Cup and chair of sportscotland) will chair the event. For more, contact email@example.com.
P4P, in partnership with Scottish Enterprise, has commissioned Community Enterprise to undertake research into the opportunities for third sector organisations and SEs to increase local service delivery and local spend through the creation of social enterprise clusters. They are looking to test the scale and nature of the interest in cluster models and their potential impact across Scotland. Filling in this survey would be a big help.
With progress already having taken place in areas such as Argyll; Dundee; Edinburgh; Glasgow; and North Ayrshire re local SE Strategies and Action Plans – Angus is now at the final consultation stage with its own SE Strategy. Angus Business Connections hosts an event this month for local SEs and third sector orgs to give their views on the Strategy’s final draft – that will reflect both local and national priorities.
Dundee SEN member, The Factory Skatepark has been on the go for over 20 years – and has been a mecca for Scotland’s ‘wheeled sports community’. The Skatepark itself was established as a vehicle around which a range of diversionary activities could be provided for young people in the city. However, over the years, demand has declined and, in an effort to continue providing its ‘core activities’, Trustees have taken the radical move of closing the skatepark – and turning the premises into a soft play centre. While sad news for the local skating community, the good news is that all staff will be retained; core activities will continue; and the organisation will continue as a key member of Dundee’s social enterprise community.
This week’s bulletin profiles Sport SEN member – the Clydebank Community Sports Hub (CCSH) – which officially opened its doors late last year, as a world class sporting facility for the whole community. Starting off in 1969 – as Clydebank RFC – the facility, following a £4m investment – now boasts a full-size, floodlit, all-weather synthetic pitch, two redeveloped grass pitches, and renovated indoor sports and social spaces with room for clubs and community groups. As well as running rugby and football teams, CCSH also hosts Gaelic football and a range of martial arts teams. Established as a SCIO, all revenues generated by CCSH are ploughed back into provide more services for the local community.