David Mackenzie's diary

3 April 2006Comment

A week or so ago the Local Heroes affinity group conducted a gentle forensic raid on the Labour Office in Airdrie, in order to out a dubious hombre by the name of John Reid who has been linked to Al McKayda. This unsalubrious shop is the hole-in-the-wall for the same Reid, when not providing the muscle and the sweet-talking on behalf of the business operations of one Tony Blair.

The complaints against this Saruman lookalike are many and various, but also peculiar due to his…

1 March 2006Comment

In another life I was a teacher, and I recall that in the early nineties we used the tag Design Model to explain how injustice was embedded in formal educational institutions.

In the Scottish case the well-intentioned move to universal public education in the nineteenth century was underpinned by assumptions which gave us an institution (and buildings) designed for the a favoured group, which had the obvious characteristics of being white, male, middle class, able-bodied, straight,…

3 February 2006Comment

Doors continue to swing open for Faslane 365, the ambitious plan to blockade Faslane naval base continuously for a year. It seems to be catching the imagination.

Perhaps one of the reasons for this lively response is the fact that these days people working for social change are showing an increased readiness to express solidarity across a wide range of connected problems and injustices, such as war, debt, poverty, abuse of asylum seekers, arms sales, drugs, corporate scams,…

3 December 2005Comment

On 5 December, ten anti-Trident activists were each fined a total of £300 by a Scottish Sheriff who takes a dim view of people not doing exactly what the police tell them on every occasion. The activists were in bother for being the crew of a large model nuclear weapons submarine which blocked the street outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on 10 March.

The ten were accused under the Roads (Scotland) Act with placing an obstruction in the roadway without reasonable…

3 November 2005Comment

There was no way I wanted to miss Robert Fisk's lecture in Stirling, so I was not critically put off by the irritating call notice which referred to him as the “revered foreign correspondent”.

“Sound”, “respected”, “influential” would have been fine but “revered” does rather take us into that stratosphere of adulation in which we kneel down and cast aside, like Pilgrim's bundle of sin, all our unworthy critical thoughts. The worry of course was not about Fisk himself, who I imagine…

3 October 2005Comment

Education for peace is being talked about in Scotland again. There has been a debate in the parliament on the topic and there is now a cross-party group on a Culture of Peace.

Shortly a study done by Arthur Romano of Bradford University will map what is being done around the country . In respect of mediation and conflict resolution there has been a lot of activity for some years now, both in schools and communities. Among many examples there is an established project in Inver-clyde…

3 September 2005Comment

I must love the questions themselves, as Rilke said, like locked rooms full of treasure, to which my blind, and groping key, does not yet fit. (Alice Walker from "Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful")

Some years ago former UK government minister Chris Smith wrote in the New Statesman about the joys of hill-walking in Scotland as an escape from politics. My first reaction to the article was to share in his pleasure -- but soon enough the question hit me: How in the…

3 July 2005Comment

Possibly the best thing that can be said for travel as an educational experience is that it can give you added clarity about the state of your own corner when you return to it. Due to surface strangeness and increased alertness, things that go relatively u

3 June 2005Comment

It has been a month full of sharp reminders of how the military dominates our lives.

During the last week of April a group of activists peacefully blockaded the Defence Munitions Depot at Beith in Scotland (see PN2461). This huge depot has a workforce of 500, and its main work is to store, produce, test and issue a range of missiles (including Tomahawks) and torpedoes.

In an arcane twist, HMG contracts big arms companies like BAE Systems to do the manufacturing and these…

3 May 2005Comment

As an antidote to election nausea I have turned again to Lewis Carrol's Alice. Since both Tweedles have now decided that “playing by the rules” is the thing, the obvious passage is from Alice's trial:

At this moment the King,who had been for some time busily writing in his note-book,called out “Silence!” and read out from his book, “Rule Forty-two. All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.”

Everybody looked at Alice.

”I'm not a mile high,” said Alice.…

3 April 2005Comment

The dismantling of the model Trident submarine in Edinburgh on 10 March (see news item on p2) was a dramatic performance in which different elements, with varying degrees of willingness, played essential parts. The activists inside and around the sub had an ideal plot in mind but realised that it might have to be adjusted as circumstances changed. In the end it went almost entirely to script.

The late evening denouement put the police centre stage. They increased the dramatic…

3 March 2005Comment

Ever since I got into some warm water for including in a press release a quote which compared Trident to Auschwitz I have been alert to the potential danger of such comparisons. The Dresden commemorations have raised the issue again, with much use of the term “moral equivalence”.

Boggy ground

The phrase itself has an interesting history. William James used it in 1906 in an essay proposing a civil substitute for military service which would retain some of the “moral” benefits of war…