Public meeting in North Lanarkshire as review investigates police action during miners’ strike

NUM pickets clash with mounted police when they try to prevent coal leaving Hunterston power station for Ravenscraig steelworks during the miners strike in May 1984
NUM pickets clash with mounted police when they try to prevent coal leaving Hunterston power station for Ravenscraig steelworks during the miners strike in May 1984

The 1984/85 miners’ strike is widely regarded as one of the UK’s most significant industrial actions of the post-war era.

And the policing of the dispute – particularly at flashpoints – has been an aspect of particular concern.

The long-term consequences of the dispute, including its policing, have been far-reaching.

In 2016, after many years of campaigning by the Miners Union, the UK Government considered the case for establishing an inquiry, or independent review, into the events that occurred in June 1984 at Orgreave Coking Plant in South Yorkshire.

In October 2016, the then Home Secretary, Amber Rudd MP, said there was no sufficient basis to instigate either a statutory enquiry or an independent review.

Following campaigning led by the NUM (Scotland Area) and Lothian MSP Neil Findlay, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson MSP agreed in November 2016 to to convey to the Home Secretary the Scottish Government’s view that the UK Government should commission and appoint an independent UK-wide investigation into any political interference during the dispute.

Again, the UK Government decided not to commission such an investigation.

In September 2017, Mr Matheson confirmed the Scottish Government was to actively consider a way forward as regards commissioning an inquiry into issues around the policing of the 1984/85 miners’ strike in Scotland.

The review was set up following a statement by Mr Matheson in the Scottish Parliament in June.

He said: “I have been struck by the continuing deep feeling and sense of injustice, a sense that our fellow citizens feel they have been misrepresented and ill-treated, that they wish their side of the story to be told and that any appropriate lessons are learned, to avoid unnecessary division and distress in the future.

“Doing nothing is not an option. While what I can do is limited by the powers devolved to Scottish Ministers, I am determined that the Scottish Government should do what it can to do right by those affected by the dispute.”

The review is being led by Solicitor Advocate John Scott QC.

He said: “Although the miners’ strike took place more than 30 years ago, I am aware that strong feelings about it persist in Scotland, especially in mining communities.

“Many documents of potential relevance are now publicly available.

“These will have to be considered but I am also keen to listen to individuals and communities directly affected.”

To this end a series of public meetings are being held across Scotland, including one in the Auchengeich Miners Welfare and Social Club in Moodiesburn on Thursday, December 6, from 6pm to 9pm. The meeting is open to all former miners in North Lanarkshire.

If you were a miner, part of a mining community, a police officer or in some other way affected by, or involved in, the strike, Mr Scott and his advisory panel would like to hear from you.

The advisory panel comprises Dennis Canavan (former MP and MSP), Jim Murdoch (Professor of Public Law at the University of Glasgow) and Kate Thomson (former Assistant Chief Constable).

It is envisaged the review will provide an interim report to Ministers in January.

It will then carry out further engagement and provide a final report next June, which will sets out lessons learned and make recommendations for any further action required.

It is not expected that the review will deal with individual cases or specific events but it will consider matters that fall under the devolved remit of Scottish Ministers, take full account of previous investigations and review appropriate documents.

Appealing for peopel to attend the meeting, Paddy Hogg, Cumbernauld East councillor, said: “I am fully supportive of this meeting.

“I was active in helping miners and their families in the 1984/5 strike when most of them struggled to get food and clothing.

“Former miners who believe they were wrongfully arrested or have issues about what happened during the strike should attend and voice their views.”

For more on the review, visit https://beta.gov.scot/groups/independent-review-policing-miners-strike.