Miners convicted during 1980s strike in Scotland to receive 'collective pardon'

Simon Johnson
·3-min read
Former miners meet outside the Scottish Parliament on October 28, 2020 in Edinburgh, Scotland - Getty Images Europe
Former miners meet outside the Scottish Parliament on October 28, 2020 in Edinburgh, Scotland - Getty Images Europe

Miners who were convicted in Scotland during the year-long strike in the 1980s will receive a formal pardon, the SNP's Justice Secretary has announced.

Humza Yousaf unveiled plans for legislation to provide a "collective pardon" after a review found it was unlikely many of the miners would face prosecution for their actions today.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, he said the pardon was intended to acknowledge "the disproportionate impacts arising from miners being prosecuted and convicted during the strike - such as the loss of their job".

He also accepted a recommendation that it be granted on the same basis as the Armed Forces Act 2006, which he said "recognised the exceptional circumstances under which World War One soldiers were convicted of offences such as cowardice."

The miners' strike, which lasted from 1984 to 1985, took place after Mrs Thatcher announced plans to close a number of pits that were deemed "inefficient".

In Scotland, the flash points included picket lines at the former Ravenscraig steel works in Lanarkshire, and Bilston Glen pit south of Edinburgh.

It is believed about 1,400 miners were arrested in Scotland and more than 500 were convicted during the national dispute. 

SNP ministers ordered an independent review into the policing of the strike, chaired by human rights lawyer John Scott QC, following pressure from former miners' leaders.

It proposed that miners who were convicted of breach of the peace and similar offences be given a pardon. The National Union of Mineworkers (Scotland) welcomed the announcement.

Miners hope the pardon will put pressure on the UK Government to hold a public inquiry into the events at the Orgreave coking works near Rotherham, where about 100 miners were charged with rioting.

Mr Yousaf said: "Although more than three decades have passed since the main miners' dispute, the scars from the experience still run deep.

"The report indicates that in some areas of the country, the sense of having been hurt and wronged remains corrosive and alienating."

He said 200 Scottish miners were dismissed during the strike, 30 per cent of the UK total despite them comprising only seven per cent of the workforce.

The Justice Secretary added: "This is a collective pardon, which applies posthumously and to those living, and symbolises our desire as a country for truth and reconciliation, following the decades of hurt and anger and misconceptions which were generated by one of the most bitter and divisive industrial disputes in living memory."

Former miners gathered outside Holyrood ahead of the statement. Nicky Wilson, president of the NUM in Scotland, said said the pardon would remove a years-long stigma.

Iain Livingstone, Chief Constable of Police Scotland, backed the review's conclusions. He said: "During the miners’ strike, though many officers demonstrated compassion and commitment to public service in challenging circumstances, injustices arose."