Scottish Government consultation launched on pardon for miners convicted during 1984-85 strike

A consultation has been launched on details of the promised pardon for miners convicted of low-level offences during the 1984-85 strike.

Saturday, 13th March 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Monday, 15th March 2021, 10:43 am
Police keep miners and the NUM picket line back outside Bilston Glen colliery during the miners strike in January 1985.

Last October the Scottish government accepted the recommendation of an independent review that a collective pardon should be issued for hundreds of miners found guilty and fined for breach of the peace and breach of bail in the bitter dispute which still casts a shadow over many ex-mining communities.

There were around 470 court cases in Scotland, of which 85 per cent led to a conviction. An estimated 200 miners lost their jobs and about 60 per cent were never reinstated.

The review panel, led by human rights lawyer John Scott QC, received many allegations of unfair dismissal, wrongful arrest and miscarriage of justice.

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Police escort a miner away from outside Bilston Glen colliery during the strike in June 1984.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has now launched a consultation seeking views on the criteria which would trigger an automatic pardon.

The panel proposed anyone receiving a pardon would have to have had no previous or subsequent convictions and those imprisoned rather than fined would not qualify.

Based on the evidence available, the panel believed the vast majority of miners convicted for matters relating to the strike would satisfy all the criteria.

Mr Yousaf said: “I am determined to make swift progress on this matter, given the passage of time since 1984-85. That is why we have acted quickly to publish this consultation now.

“The consultation paper sets out potential criteria – based on the criteria suggested in the independent report – and asks for views. It is important that we have a rationale for the qualifying criteria which is well-thought through and informed by a range of views. I encourage anyone with an interest in these important events to take this opportunity to have a say. The responses to the consultation will help shape the legislation that will implement the pardon.

“The miners’ strike was one of the most bitter and divisive industrial disputes in living memory and I hope the independent review, this consultation and the legislation for a pardon will go some way to aid reconciliation – and to help heal wounds within Scotland’s mining communities.”

The UK government has so far refused to follow Scotland’s example and order a review. Mr Yousaf said he had written again to Home Secretary Priti Patel, urging her to instruct a full UK public inquiry into the policing of the strike.

Lothian Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who campaigned for the review, said: “I warmly welcome this move. We now have a commitment from the Scottish government to pardon former miners unfairly convicted during that titanic struggle of 1984/85.

“This consultation will inform the scheme of pardon to be applied. I would encourage anyone with an interest in this issue to complete the short consultation paper with their views.

“You don’t have to have a conviction or have been involved with the strike to do so – anyone can respond. Please take a few minutes to give your views and help deliver at least some justice for those who have carried the weight of a conviction for almost 40 years.”

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