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How my Work is Resourced

 

a. Ethic of accountability

b. How I do or don't charge for public events

c. Managing the soundscape

d. My policy on travelling and flying

e. Economic witness: table of financial accountability

f. An Idea of What I Speak on (opens new page)

 

Ethic of accountability 

Money matters if we are to live in and engage with the world. Seen simply, it's just a token of exchange. But press more deeply, and money expresses power. If one has and another hasn't, there's a power imbalance. Maybe that's inevitable, but it calls for mutual accountability. Especially so if our work invokes justice. On this page, I therefore give economic account of myself and discuss how, when and how much I charge for the work that I undertake.

Some of my social and environmental activist work is controversial precisely because it engages with power. As my public itinerary shows, I sometimes share ideas with strange bedfellows. These range from radical campaigning organisations to academia, the military, police and corporations. I don't mind who I speak to provided I am free to say what I think, and to do so where necessary respecting the Chatham House Rule.

I do have to be paid for most of my work because, although our mortgage is paid off, I do not have private income. I am not on anybody's payroll except for occasional part-time commissions - typically universities insist on putting you on the payroll for what would elsewhere be considered consultancies. The problem with freelance work is the perception that "whoso pays the piper calls the tune." Given my strange bedfellows and the controversial nature of some of my campaigning work, I decided long ago to make my sources of income transparent. This also helps those I am asked to work for to understand how I operate.

Listed in the table below are each year's earnings. These are shown both gross (as turnover) and net, after deduction of business expenses acceptable by the UK Inland Revenue. I also state specific income sources wherever a sum received in a given year exceeds £1,000. I list lesser sums wherever these might be of a nature that might be considered unusual with some of my peer groups. For example, when I speak at military colleges, albeit on nonviolence. Full information on where I speak is given in public itinerary. The range and ethos of my work is also reflected in my publications.

I always feel uncomfortable providing such economic accountability. I earn far more than some of my neighbours, and embarrassingly little by middle-class standards. These days people are often more comfortable talking about their sex lives than their money. I am an associate of the Iona Community, and it's often said there that the full members find the requirement of mutual "economic witness" the hardest part of their discipline. It challenges egos, values, sense of self-worth and relationships. Yet, if we are serious about justice and community in the world, that's precisely the sort of challenges we need to face.

 

How I do or don't charge for public events

My work is relatively well known from my books. However, what a middling writer earns goes nowhere near covering the years of work that goes into gathering experience, doing the research, and the actual writing. Soil and Soul has sold nearly 20,000 copies, took five years to write, and has brought in royalties of around £9,000. Poacher's Pilgrimage took seven years to write and earned an advance of £6,000. What keeps the show on the road is not the literary earnings, but the spin-off such as teaching courses, leading retreats, consultancy and keynote speaking fees.

I therefore have to charge a speaking or teaching fee for most things that I take on. For things to add up, it has to factor in the background work what I offer worth offering. How much to charge?  In 2007 I took advice from somebody I respected on the matter. I was told: "What you offer is unique, so you need to find a way to set your ‘value’ at a reasonably high rate, while allowing you to be realistic in relation to the kinds of public with whom you want to engage." That has stood the sense of time. I avoid having a fixed rate, but my suggested rates per day or speaking event are:

 
bulletNon-governmental organisations       -  £700
bulletGovernmental organisations             -  £1,200
bulletCorporations                                    -  £3,000                                

Where travelling time does not fit comfortably within a working day I suggest 50% of the given day rate. Where preparation time goes beyond a few hours I will also request the daily rate, for example, if a carefully written script is required, or considerable background research. I expect accommodation where necessary, travel and reasonable subsistence costs en route to be covered, and will assume that to be agreed in any arrangement made.

In practice, I find that I get paid from everything from the top corporate rate down to zero, the latter especially for local community groups. I therefore ask people not to be put off if their resources slender but, at the same time, to understand the limitations and choices I have to make in what I can undertake for little or no payment. Consider whether your group can do some fundraising. In practice, I find that most event organisers are very understanding of the position outlined here. At the end of the day, my earnings figures show that I make a living, but not a killing. I am thankful to those who help this to work.

Organisations that want to invite me should first make contact by email or letter. I prefer this to being phoned out of the blue and put on the spot when I will usually need time to consider. My website itinerary gives approximate dates when I'm already booked. It is only a rough guide, and some dates are flexible (such as my periodic BBC Thought for the Day broadcasts, which can usually be swapped if there's a clash).

 

Managing the Soundscape

I have poor hearing, and use sophisticated hearing aids controlled by an app on my phone. These have auxilliary clip-on mini microphones that allow for one-to-one communication across noisy environments. At events, if there is not a good and functioning loop induction system I will usually tape one or more of my own mikes to the roving mikes, or to the lapel of other participants if it's a panel discussion. I usually don't chair events these days since it can be difficult to catch interventions from the floor. It's also difficult if there's a group event where the focus is not primarily on me, meaning that I'm not in a position to control the soundscape.

If you are an event organiser, don't worry about all this. I will sort out the technology, usually making a joke about it when I interact with an audience so they understand that I'm not using my phone to check emails. The system works well, and where there might be problems I'll usually see them coming and sort things out with the organisers in advance.

 

My policy on travel and flying

Part of my work is international. It is concerned with global issues such as war, climate change, poverty and corporate responsibility. Although I am aware of the environmental costs, I nevertheless fly where necessary to conserve personal energy and time. From where I live in Scotland on the west coast line, rail travel would entail 2 days in each direction to reliably reach many European destinations. Nobody's going to resource me for that amount time and accommodation. I therefore bite the bullet and fly if I consider it necessary. However, I quite often turn down distant invitations where I feel that the carbon karma can't be justified, and I'm well aware of the argument that it's never justified. I am happy to speak at events or give seminars through internet connections, though I'm well aware that these lack the same depth of opportunity for human connection. Sometimes this option means I can connect in to another event while otherwise travelling elsewhere.

The amount of travel that I do can be wearing and a bit of a busman's holiday. People often don't realise how far away Scotland is. To give a talk in, say, the south of England or the middle of Wales, is the best part of a working day each way by train. I therefore try to group invitations together and encourage groups that might be thinking of inviting me to check my itinerary to see when I'm likely to be near them. 

When travelling, to keep in good fettle I'm no longer so willing to burn the candle at both ends and rough it like I used to. While that doesn't mean business class or "good" hotels, it does mean asking for accommodation that provides peace and quiet. With longer events where I might be the lead facilitator, it means a schedule where I can keep up with my other work and not be overstretched while on the road. My preferred times for offering intensive input are mornings and late afternoons or evenings. I find that hosts are always very understanding when these points are explained, and I am thankful for their consideration.

 

 

Table of Financial Accountability

(see rationale above)

 

1998 - 2017

   
April 2016 to March 2017 Gross turnover was £20,418 from self-employment plus £1,687 from a 10% employment to August at Edinburgh University's Divinity School (AHRC) = £22,105. After deduction of business expenses of £4,577 and own books for samples/resale of £4,275 (high owing to 2 new books out), this yielded a net taxable income of £13,253.

Sources of my gross self-employed income of £20,418 were: Writing/royalties £3,794; Speaking fees £3,993; Broadcasting fees £745; Consultancy £4,200; Book sales £4,082.

Items in excess of £1,000, or items that might be deemed controversial, were: half-advance for Poacher's Pilgrimage net of agent fees £2,460; course taught at Iona Abbey £1,000; contributions to Re-Soundings arts project £2,100; preparation of training about consumerism for Papua, Indonesia, £2,100; lectures (on nonviolence) at French military academy Saint-Cyr £1,000; ditto at both the Irish and the UK defence academies, £350 each.

April 2015 to March 2016 Gross turnover was £18,655 from self-employment plus £4,038 from a 10% employment at Edinburgh University's Divinity School (AHRC) = £22,693. After deduction of business expenses of £5,396 and own books for samples/resale of £2,347, this yielded a net taxable income of £14,950.

Sources of my gross self-employed income of £18,655 were: Writing/royalties £852; Speaking fees £8,370; Broadcasting fees £780; Consultancy £5,950, Book sales £2,302, Miscellaneous £399.

Items in excess of £1,000, or items that might be deemed controversial, were: Speaking tour with University Congregational United Church, Seattle, £3,040; Climate change and Community empowerment training with Planning Department, Government of Papua, Indonesia (see report), £4,550; Climate change & consumerism slide presentation for same, £1,400; speaking on nonviolence on the Advanced and Higher Command & Staff courses at the UK Defence Academy, £700.

April 2014 to March 2015 Gross turnover was £23,561 from self-employment plus £4,470 from transient/minor employments (mostly Edinburgh University's divinity school) = £28,031. After deduction of business expenses of £5,901, and own books for samples/resale of £2,857, this yielded a net taxable income of £19,273.

Sources of my gross self-employed income of £23,561 were: Writing/royalties £1,338; Speaking fees £5,569; Teaching fees £3,076; Broadcasting fees £895; Consultancy £10,550; Book sales £2,188, currency losses -£55.

Items in excess of £1,000, or items that might be deemed controversial, were: Training (climate change and community empowerment) for Government of Papua, Indonesia, Planning Dept. £8,450; Salvia Foundation consultancy £2,100; events linked to Keynsham Festival £1,200; Iona Community programme £1,000; UK & Irish defence college teaching (nonviolence) £670.

April 2013 to March 2014

 

Gross turnover was £15,535 which, after deduction of business expenses of £4,162 and own books for samples and resale of £1,694, left a net income of £9,679 from self-employment, plus £2,170 from a 10% fellowship post at Edinburgh University's School of Divinity commencing October 2013, thus net taxable income of £11,849. Again, writing has been my main focus, Poacher's Pilgrimage finally going to my literary agent in March 2014.

Sources of gross self-employed income were Writing/royalties £1,015, Speaking fees £8,660, Teaching fees £1,000, Broadcasting fees £790, Consultancy £1,800 and Book sales at events £2,270.

Items in excess of £1,000, or items that might be deemed controversial, were: Irish Defence Force £340, Ministry of Defence £700 (these are standard speaking fees for guest lectures on nonviolence), ESD Consulting for keynote conference speaking on environmental higher education £1,500, Scottish Community Alliance for keynote address planning, preparation and delivery, BAPPEDA Indonesia for input on Nov 2013 training course, £1,800.

This latter payment was invoiced on a consultancy basis to my wife, Verene Nicolas, who was on this occasion the contract holder with BAPPEDA for a programme that involved various CHE colleagues. On this occasion the Indonesian authorities deducted tax at their end. Having spoken with the Inland Revenue it seems that Verene sorts out the double taxation side of things via her tax return and I simply invoice her for my share and declare it on my tax return in the usual way.

April 2012 to March 2013 Gross turnover was £21,783 which, after deduction of business expenses of £5,127 and own books for samples and resale of £1,921, left a net income of  £14,735. The Indonesian work was the main activity this year and supported my writing, which absorbs most of my time but earns little. This enabled work on Poacher's Pilgrimage and the writing and publishing of Island Spirituality.

Sources of gross income were Writing/royalties £1,246, Speaking fees £4,039, Teaching fees £3,301, Broadcasting fees £625, Consultancy £10,460 and Book sales at events £2,110.

Items in excess of £1,000, or items that might be deemed controversial, were: £350 speaking fee from the Ministry of Defence and £11,890 course design and teaching fees in Scotland and Indonesia from BAPPEDA Papua Planning Dept on community empowerment.

April 2011 to March 2012

Much of this year has been spent writing (and therefore earning less). Also, with the recession total turnover fell to £16,690, less bulk book purchases for sale/samples bringing it to £15,360, less business expenses of £4,196 leaving a net taxable personal income for the year of £11,165.

Sources of gross income were: writing/royalties £1,207, Speaking fees £6,010, Teaching fees £3,038, Broadcasting fees £1,352, Book sales at events £1,596, Consultancy £3,488.

Items in excess of £1,000 or which might be deemed controversial were a fee from Schumacher College for teaching a spiritual activism course (£1,200) and consultancy (£3,488) in association with the Centre for Human Ecology from the UK Foreign Office and BAPPEDA Indonesia for work with the Papua Province planning department.

April 2010 to March 2011 Total turnover for the year was £21,582, less bulk book purchases for sale/samples, leaving turnover from main activities as £19,352 which, after deduction of allowable business expenses of £5,073 leaves a net taxable personal income for the year of £14,279. This is down on previous years due to several event cancellations owing to the economic climate and the fact that much of my time is being spent working on my next book.

Main items of turnover were £3,155 writing/royalties, £10,717 speaking fees, £3,925 teaching fees and £980 BBC broadcasting fees, with most of the rest being book sales at events.

Main income sources that either exceed £1,000 from any one source or might be deemed controversial were: Royalties from Rekindling Community and Love & Revolution had backlogged, causing this income line to be double the usual amount, £1,000 in speaking fees from each of ESD consulting and the European Churches, £1,260 from Le Cheile Schools Trust in Ireland, £1,200 from WWF International, £710 speaking fees from the Irish and UK military academies and £3,225 from the Centre for Human Ecology (Strathclyde Uni) for teaching and thesis supervision.

April 2009 to March 2010 Total turnover for the year was £25,719, less bulk purchase of my books for sale at events and samples, leaving turnover from main activities as £21,981 which, after deduction of allowable business expenses of £4,562 leaves a net personal taxable income for the year of £17,419.

Main items of turnover were £1160 writing & royalties, £10,546 speaking fees, £6,960 teaching fees, £1,172 broadcasting fees, £1665 consultancy fees, and most of the rest from book sales at events.

Main sources of income, or sources that might be considered controversial, are (in round figures) £1,100 from Scottish Natural Heritage, £2,500 from the Centre for Human Ecology, £3,300 for keynotes and workshops for WWF International, £3,000 for a keynote to Nokia, £400 for an executive sharing with Lothian & Borders Police, £1,100 for lectures to military staff colleges in the UK, Ireland and Switzerland, and £2,350 for talks and workshops with the Church of Scotland. Further information on these activities can be found on my itinerary.

April 2008 to March 2009 Total turnover this year was £28,997. Of that, £3,373 was bulk purchase of books for resale and promotion giving a turnover from my main activities of £25,624. From this tax deductible business expenses of £6,922 leaves a net taxable income of £18,701 for the year.

The main sources of income were writing and royalties (£1,179), speaking fees (£8,867), teaching fees (£4,200), broadcasting fees (£455), consultancy (£10,517) and book sales (£3,779 - mainly bulk sales to organisations with which I work - I am not a book retailer though I sell copies of my own works at some events).

Major (over £1,000) or potentially contentious major sources of income sources during the year were £1,800 for 200 copies of Hell and High Water sold to Lafarge for distribution to worldwide senior management at a conference I addressed (I do not accept fees from Lafarge for reasons given here, but I don't mind selling at full whack my book about climate change); from WWF international for consultancy £5,760 for a report reviewing their partnership with Lafarge, £2,000 for a report on WTO and environmental controls on the cement industry, and £1,200 for teaching on the One Planet Leaders programme; £2,700 from Atlantic NLG (natural gas) in Trinidad for a video presentation in preference to flying to address them directly; £3,725 for teaching and thesis supervision on the CHE MSc in human ecology in partnership with Strathclyde University; £1,275 for speaking fees at the University of Saskatchewan Dept of Native Studies, and £350 for lecturing to the UK Defence Academy on Nonviolence. The speaking fee from Shell plc noted below actually fell into my accounting period for this financial year.

I expect 2009-10 to be less productive - two major events having already cancelled due to credit crunch cutbacks.

   
   
April 2007 to March 2008 Total turnover this year was £22,206, leaving a net taxable income after deduction of business expenses of £15,846. This came roughly one third from each of speaking fees, teaching fees and consultancy fees, plus about £1,000 from writing royalties.

Most of the consultancy work was from both WWF international and WWF UK, with a little from Friends of the Earth in Northern Ireland. The speaking included a €2000 fee for a lecture on corporate ethics to Shell, nearly half of which was recycled into causes including the Centre for Human Ecology as part of an ethical discernment about such engagement. £1,600 was received jointly from the Scottish Government and the Economic & Social Research Council for preparing a paper and participating in a forum on the fishing industry. And some two thirds of the teaching money came from Strathclyde University for teaching on the MSc in human ecology, supervising theses, etc..

   
April 2006 to March 2007 Gross taxable turnover this year was only £12,007 due to not taking on engagements in the New Year because of Ossian's loss, and to working on climate change book. Business expenses allowable by the Inland Revenue were £5,875, leaving a net taxable income for the year of £6,132. This included:

 

bullet£4,635 from Strathclyde University / Centre for Human Ecology for teaching.
bullet£1,200 teaching fees from Gibson Institute, University of Belfast.
bullet£100 expenses from Lafarge for service on their Sustainability Stakeholders' Panel. No fee was received for this work which continues as aftermath of the Harris superquarry campaign.
 April 2005 to March 2006  My gross turnover was £18,664, with business expenses allowable by the Inland Revenue of £8,385, leaving a net taxable income for the year of £10,280. This included:

 

bullet£5,600 for consultancy with the GalGael Trust beyond the remit of normal voluntary Board duties, in accordance with Article 30 of the constitution. This was for management and accountancy services. 
bullet£5342 for teaching from the Centre for Human Ecology / Strathclyde University. 
bullet£385 was received from Lafarge as expenses reimbursement for service on their Sustainability Stakeholders' Panel. No fee was received for this work which continues as aftermath of the Harris superquarry campaign.
bullet£900 in speaking fees plus travel expenses were received from the Ministry for Defence for lecturing on nonviolence at ATR Bassingbourne, and twice at the Joint Services Command & Staff College (see note below).
bullet$1,000 from the Garrison Institute in the USA, £500 from the Russell Trust and £400 from Pollard & Dickson Trust for N. America lectures as part of bringing back the summit of Mt. Roineabhal.
April 2004 to March 2005

My gross turnover (before deduction of expenses allowable by the Inland Revenue) for this year has been £14,575.70, the main components of which were £3023 in speaking fees, £6,000 in consultancy, £4450 in teaching fees, and the rest for writing, royalties, etc..

After deduction of £8,997.77 of expenses for running my office, travel, etc., my net income for the past year was £4,314.82. This figure has been accepted by the Inland Revenue. Our family finances balance because of gifts from benefactors, Verene's earnings and the fact that we have no debts. 

Receipts exceeding £500 were:

 
bullet£500 from the Anglican Diocese of Liverpool for Clergy training.
bullet£3,000 from the Centre for Human Ecology for teaching on the Field Trip and Spiritual Activism module.
bullet£500 plus travel from WWF International for a lecture in Switzerland.
bullet£600 plus travel expenses from the Ministry of Defence for lecturing (on nonviolence) on the Intermediate and Advanced Command & Staff Courses.
bullet£742.98 in expenses claimed against receipts from Lafarge for work connected with their Sustainability Stakeholders' Panel. I do not take payment for this work, which is part of laying down the Harris superquarry campaign. However, Lafarge staff did arrange for me to be a speaker at a conference on CSR at the INSEAD European Business School, and I accepted a speaking fee of €500 (£317) from the School for this, plus travel expenses and accommodation. 
bullet£777 from Jersey Education Dept & College for speaking/travel.
bullet£6,000 from the GalGael Trust, Govan, for consultancy mainly on establishing and fundraising for our new £400,000 premises at Fairley Street. This work was in excess of normal unpaid Board duties as the Treasurer, and was agreed in advance by the Board, notified to our auditors, and paid in accordance with Article 30 of our constitution, which the Inland Revenue have approved and which permits such payments. 

April 2003 - March 2004

Gross income for the financial year 2003-04 was £10,212, expenses were £6,938, leaving a net taxable income as agreed with the Inland Revenue of £3,274.

My main work was preparing course materials for the Open University accredited master's module in Spiritual Activism that I am developing and teaching at the Centre for Human Ecology in Edinburgh. This received full accreditation from the Open University Validation Unit. I also undertook broadcasting work - especially the 4-part BBC Radio Scotland "Voices for Peace" series. Payments received in excess of £500 during the financial year were £591 from the BBC, £667 for management training with Groupe Credit Mutuel, £700 for postgraduate thesis supervision from the Faculty of Science & Engineering in the University of Edinburgh, £2,800 for module teaching and field trip organisation with the CHE, and a grant of £1,870 from the Network for Social Change to help with the work being undertaken with Lafarge withdrawing from the Harris superquarry.

2002 to March 2003 Gross income for the financial year 2002-03 was £10,980, expenses were £6,156, leaving a net taxable income of £4,824.

Verene and I have got by mainly from bits of consultancy work and earnings from writing, speaking, broadcasting teaching etc. - comprising about £5,000 for each of us, our personal resources bolstered by friend and family benefactors. Payments received in excess of £500 during the financial year were £1,615 for thesis supervision and teaching at the CHE, £600 for an article on St Andrew and feminism for the Daily Mail, and £1,765 remaining advance from Aurum Press on Soil and Soul. As of September 2002 Verene has procured 2 year's funding for her work, now called the "Community Programme", which she is managing at the CHE. This involves undertaking Training for Transformation with black and minority ethnic communities in Scotland. I advise on this programme, and help especially with fundraising for it and with looking at aspects of Scottish identity vis-a-vis ethnicity, but I am not employed by it. Her salary, however, helps to support the work of us both. Payments received by me in excess of £500 during the financial year were £2,650 for thesis supervision, module teaching and field trip organisation at the CHE, £2,500 for senior management training at Groupe Credit Mutuel, and £500 from the Francis Camfield Charitable Trust for community activism training.

April - Dec 2001 Gross income for the financial year 2001-02 was £8,752, expenses were £4,372, leaving a net taxable income of £4,379.

Verene and I were supported by funding from a private benefactor for her work, and from a £5,000 transitional grant that Rowntree gave to me and which the Inland Revenue kindly agreed could be classed as a tax-free redundancy payment (Ah, that's what I like - "redundant" social activists!). This indirectly, but crucially, enabled my primary activity that year being to step back in temporarily and serve as Executive Director of the Centre for Human Ecology in an unpaid capacity, whilst sorting out certain organisational problems and procuring funding for the appointment of a permanent Executive Director. I did not apply for this post, and for various reasons, I am delighted that Osbert Lancaster has been appointed and is making such a good job of things on a horribly tight budget - see www.che.ac.uk . Payments received in excess of £500 during the financial year were £1,000 for teaching at the CHE and £640 for teaching at Edinburgh University.

The 3 years 1998 - March 2001 

Action for Transformation is the name that my wife, Vérène Nicolas, and I, gave to our work when I was funded with an annual grant of £23,000 including expenses by the Quaker Concerns budget of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust for the three years ending March 2001. The salary component of this was about £18,000, the same as I had been on previously in the university (see below). Over that period we both lived mainly from this. 

Many of the outputs of this programme will be found listed in the publications section of this website. It involved community empowerment work with such issues as land reform, environmental protection, urban deprivation and issues of identity, belonging and ethnicity. Examples include:

 
bulletHaving co-founded the Isle of Eigg Trust, and followed this through with action contributing to Scotland's land reform legislation in the new Parliament.
bulletPlaying a key role in blocking development in a National Scenic Area of the proposed Isle of Harris superquarry.
bulletWorking with Glasgow Mosque on combating Islamophobia, and other anti-racism initiatives, particularly our Embracing Multicultural Scotland project and follow-up studies.
bulletWorking with the head of the Department of Economics in the Russian Academy of Sciences and with the Russian Orthodox Church on the relationship between religion and economics.
bulletUndertaking a national values discernment process - People and Parliament.
bulletCo-founding and providing regular management advice to the GalGael Trust - a group of marginalised urban youth in Glasgow who are reclaiming their culture and traditional boatbuilding skills as an antidote to despair.
bulletWorking for the removal of nuclear weapons from Scottish soil, including addressing some 400 senior officers for each of the past 5 years at military staff college, and being arrested (but found "not guilty") for participating in a mass blockade at the Faslane submarine base.
bulletWriting Soil and Soul and other publications, to suggest where wellsprings of hope can be found.

Vérène's work, also based at the Centre for Human Ecology where she too is a Fellow, has involved working with marginalised women in Scotland and especially, introducing skills drawn from the Training for Transformation programme. For information about her work, click www.VereneNicolas.org .

1996-97 Up until 1996 I was employed full time but paid half time as postgraduate Teaching Director in the Centre for Human Ecology, then in the University of Edinburgh, laterally earning about £18,000 a year. While being recommended to become a senior lecturer the university closed the Centre, and for about a year I lived on an organic farm on unemployment benefit while starting to write the book that became Soil and Soul.

 

 

Last Updated: 04 July 2017

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