originally produced for Edinburgh Napier News
Holyrood rejects calls for Miner’s strike Policing inquiry
Campaigners today vowed to fight on after their calls for a Hillborough-style inquiry into the policing of the 1984 and 85 miners strike was rejected by the Scottish Government.
Ministers were also told they had a “moral duty” to review the convictions of nearly 500 Scottish miners, but community safety minister Roseanna Cunningham insisted that she did not have powers to quash convictions.
The highly charged member’s debate was spearheaded by Lothians MSP Neil Findlay (Labour), who remains determined that the campaign will carry on.
A BBC documentary into events at the Orgreave coking plant in Yorkshire during strike last year prompted South Yorkshire Police to refer itself to the Police Complaints Commissioner for England. Now Findlay has called for the Scottish Government to launch a similar inquiry in police practice north of the border.
“Disappointed that the minister did not agree to have a review, but the campaign goes on.” He said.
Johnston Little of High Valleyfield, Fife was arrested at nearby Comrie Colliery in early 1985.
“I looked round, and two big Polis had me. ‘breach of the peace, and trespassing on the queen’s highway.’” He said.
Most of the 500 or so miners convicted at this time were done for minor offences such as these. Many were offered to have the charges dropped if they came off the picket line.
The events tore communities apart, as Little found when he was handcuffed to a policeman he knew well.
“I actually knew quite a few of the local police. I grew up with one of the guys in my own street, and I was handcuffed to him taking me to Saughton. When we got into the prison he says ‘I’m sorry Johnston’. I says ‘Tommy.. I know you have to do it. It’s your job.’ I was wanting to break down in tears and that. But I thought ‘you’ve got to be strong here eh’” he told us.
Little claims to have fallen into a “deep depression” following the loss of his job, and struggled to find work for years afterwards. He tried with his fellow sacked miners to go to the local dockyard but were told “no chance.”
The idea that Miners were ‘blacklisted’ following the strike is one shared by Neil Findlay MSP.
“It was a shattering experience for some of them, people who had worked 20 or 30 years in the industry. Sacked, no redundancy, broken men, many of them.
Only in recent weeks we’ve had the exposure of the blacklisting regime that was operating in the construction industry. It would be very difficult to believe that it didn’t happen in the mining industry, and other industries too.” He said.
Findlay is appealing for Miners to come forward.
“I’m working with a legal firm on this. We’re accumulating cases of people who were convicted and believe their convictions were bogus or exaggerated. And we’re appealing for anyone who was involved at the time to contact us.”