Dear members and friends,
The historian AJP Taylor wrote: “Until August 1914, sensible law-abiding British citizens could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. They could live where and as they liked – no official number or identity card. They could travel, or even move abroad – without passport or permission”.
Stranded on the M9 last week, I was most grateful to be rescued by Police Scotland. Their car stopped 20 yards away and spent 5 minutes on the phone; from my registration number, I can only guess at the amount of information state computers hold about me – any of us. This must be very useful for crime prevention – but it leaves our society vulnerable to malign governance. The collection of data about everyone and everything is now out of control – looms like a storm cloud over coming generations; I excuse myself from this conflict on the grounds of my age.
As I become more physically decrepit (hearing and mobility in particular) I increasingly notice the ‘invisibility of the old’. But like the writer, Doris Lessing, I find late-life invisibility has pleasing aspects; ‘not being noticed’ creates new spaces/freedoms. The physical changes are unforgiving – sometimes upsetting – but inner Laurence hasn’t really changed – and this causes confusion. There has been a definite ‘mellowing’ of outlook: just enjoying the feel of the journey, becomes more important than ‘destinations’. And I get flashes now, that this moment I walk in, is enough, that I might not need a great deal more.
The Edinburgh Book Festival this week featured Nicola Sturgeon ‘in conversation’ with writer Ali Smith; they agreed that current time is “a dark place – a worrying place”; Smith said, “the darkest time I have ever lived in”. The terrifying posturings of Donald Trump and the Tory right have us all on edge – we need to get them back in their boxes ASAP. I take heart from re-visiting Margaret Wheatley’s piece about what we can do when things are unravelling on the global stage. She writes about creating ‘islands of sanity’ – where the destructive dynamics of the time are kept at bay: Throughout the world – countless millions of local communities, projects, organisations – which are clear about normal human values – and just get on with it.
The disgusting state of Birmingham prison was in the news this week – the Inspectorate reporting some of the most squalid evidence they have ever seen; the Ministry of Justice has been forced to take immediate control of the facility from contractor G4S. Satisfaction at the failure of yet another private contractor is too simplistic; this problem runs deep into the regime of austerity which is degrading all UK public services (Guardian editorial). An old adage says that the advance of any civilisation can be observed in the treatment of its prison population. The UK’s populist vote has a deep resistance to prison reform.
The SNP’s default impulse, to centralise everything, has deformed much of our national infrastructure – but not so with the Scottish Land Commission: though I don’t know any of them personally – the brief bios of the five commissioners are grounds for optimism. Latest from the Commission, is a call for a new Compulsory Sales Order (CSO) which would empower Council planning authorities to tackle the blight of abandoned buildings and derelict land. The membership, and emerging awards policy, of the new Scottish Land Fund, are further grounds for optimism; but personally I believe we should be bolder with land reform – along the lines of the 6 priorities identified by the Scottish Greens.
Been enjoying the many tributes to the great Aretha Franklin – I’ve selected one from Ann Powers, a notable USA music writer.
“Aretha Franklin was a child of the African-American Great Migration, that created the golden age of gospel – the fundament of rock and soul. Her music did the crucial work of art in the 20th century: it captured the experience of living through profound change and showed how to preserve integrity in its wake. She was a central player in the civil rights movement, American democracy’s fundamental historical struggle… And the voice that echoes in our memories, from its belly growl to those heaven-hitting squalls, embodies liberty itself.” (Read full tribute)
There are 16 local Social Enterprise Networks (SENs) across Scotland. Some are constituted – some are not. Some receive funding or have resources allocated through their local TSI – some do not. Between them, they work to support and connect over 800 grassroots social enterprises in Scotland. The current SE Action Plan has a commitment to ‘strengthen SENs and extend them to any area that wants one’ – and this work is progressing. The role of a SEN can vary – and Senscot has recently updated its blueprint of core activities. This snapshot from a recent SEN meeting in Glasgow – where SEN members were asked to match what some members need with what others can offer – captures the essence of what SENs are about – connecting, supporting and exploring joint working opportunities. The meeting saw 32 needs identified; 42 offers made; and 29 connections established – with more continuing to stream in from those who were not able to attend on the day.
Keep up to date with the latest jobs, events and funding opportunities in the social enterprise sector.
Scottish Govt is consulting on a draft Cultural Strategy for Scotland – setting out a cultural vision for Scotland. In recognising the value of culture – it will look to commit to long term change through greater collaboration and integration across culture, communities and policy development. Senscot will be responding to the consultation – informed by SEN members – and invite SEN members to submit views via this survey. The strategy also touches on health and wellbeing, inequalities, community involvement and other issues relevant to social enterprise. The Cultural SEN meeting on 5th Sept will discuss the draft strategy in more depth. If you’d like to attend – please sign up here.
The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust offers awards for travelling fellowships each year to around 150 individuals. The fellowship allows awardees to travel abroad for up to two months, researching innovative practice on a topic of your choice. There is a diverse range of categories – including one on ‘Enterprise – supporting social impact’. If you’re interested, closing date is 18th Sept. See application details.
Frontline News: Congratulations to Sport SEN member – McLaren Leisure – who last week celebrated its 20th anniversary. McLaren Leisure officially opened in August 1998 and is a community-led organisation that has been providing sport and leisure facilities, over the last two decades, to the community of Callander and wider area. As well as contributing to the well-being of the wider community, McLaren is also an important employer in the town – providing over 30 jobs at the Centre. See recent press release.
This week’s bulletin profiles a community enterprise that uses sports facilities and programmes as part of its contribution to community regeneration – as well as seeking to improve physical and mental well-being within the local community. Cumnock Juniors Community Enterprise (CJCE) has spread its wings in recent years beyond the football field – to providing a range of programmes and services that benefit the whole community. Their premises at Townhead have now evolved into a community sports hub – offering local volunteering opportunities; a series of programmes for young people; as well as, more recently, a couple of environmental initiatives – ‘ZERO-ise Carbon in our Community’ and ‘Improving Cumnock’s environment’.