Breakthrough in Scottish miners’ strike policing review

Neil Findlay MSP, as former miners and lawyers gathered outside the Scottish Parlaiment
Neil Findlay MSP, as former miners and lawyers gathered outside the Scottish Parlaiment
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CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement of an independent review into the impact of policing during the 1984/85 miners’ strike.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said the review, led by human rights lawyer John Scott QC, would look at files released under the 30-year rule as well as interviewing people directly affected. He has asked for an interim report early next year with a full report by June.

An estimated 500 Scottish miners were arrested during the year-long strike, including at the Lothian pits of Monktonhall and Bilston Glen. Scotland saw 30 per of the arrests despite having just ten per cent of the UK’s mining workforce.

Mr Matheson told MSPs: “Although more than three decades have passed since the main miners’ dispute, the scars from the experience still run deep. In some areas of the country most heavily impacted the sense of having been hurt and wronged remains corrosive and alienating.”

He also said he hoped the UK government would now follow the Scottish Government’s lead and launch a similar inquiry.

Lothian Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who has long campaigned for an inquiry into the policing of the strike, said many miners had suffered miscarriages of justice and some had gone to their graves with a stain against their name when they had done nothing wrong.

He said: “This announcement is a huge breakthrough in the fight for justice and the truth about what actually happened in Scotland during that period, but it also must not shut off the possibility of a full public inquiry at a later date.

“The release of the Cabinet papers under the 30-year rule and the fallout from the Hillsborough campaign exposed how the police and judiciary acted under the political direction of the then Tory government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and were instructed to defeat the strike, no matter the cost. This was all part of a plan to attack organised working people and their trade unions.”

Alex Bennett from Danderhall, a miner for 22 years and former chair of the NUM at Monktonhall, said he was delighted with the announcement.

He said: “The truth will now be told. That’s all we’re wanting.”

He said he had been blacklisted for three years after the strike and mining communities were still bitter about what had happened at that time.

David Hamilton, former Labour MP for Midlothian, who worked in the pits for 20 years and was himself arrested and jailed during the strike before being acquitted, also welcomed the review. He said the issue was not individual police officers but the collusion he believed had taken place between the Tory government and police chiefs in Scotland.

“The state was working against us as a union and that should never have happened. It wasn’t political for us – we were fighting for our jobs.”

Mr Scott will be assisted by an advisory panel made up of former MSP Dennis Canavan, former assistant chief constable Kate Thomson and Glasgow law professor Jim Murdoch.