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Miners' pardon should be expanded to heal bitter wounds, Holyrood committee told

 

MSPs were hearing evidence on the Miners’ Strike (Pardons) (Scotland) Bill

The scope of legislation which could see miners involved in the 1984-85 strikes across Scotland pardoned could be expanded to heal the bitter feelings which remain in communities to this day, charities and trade union representatives have said. 

MSPs were hearing evidence on the Miners’ Strike (Pardons) (Scotland) Bill, which is currently being considered in the Scottish Parliament. 

Representatives from a number of groups whose members are affected  - including The Coalfields Regeneration Trust and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Scotland - appeared virtually in front of Holyrood’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee on Tuesday morning. 

The bill relates to the policing of the bitterly fought miner’s strike of 1984-85, and the treatment of workers across Scotland.

Following the dispute concerns remained about the police’s conduct, the fairness of Scotland’s justice system, as well as the treatment and widespread dismissal of union members who were involved in the strikes. 

In October 2020 then-Justice Secretary Huma Yousaf announced the Scottish Government had accepted the findings of an independent review that the Scottish Government should pardon people convicted of certain offences related to the strike.

https://twitter.com/SP_EHRCJ/status/1480566373256466442?s=20

Ministers have said they intend for the legislation to provide “reconciliation between those who were upholding the law and those who were fighting to protect their jobs, livelihoods and communities”. 

Nicky Wilson, NUM Scotland president, has been involved in the union since 1972 and worked in the mines from 1967, was a participant in the strike and remained involved afterwards. 

Mr Wilson said that the scope of the bill could be changed to cover those from the community who were arrested as a result of their support for the workers on strike. 

The committee were also told that the charges which could be pardoned - which could be limited in the bill - should also be expanded.

MSPs on the committee said the legislation is “long overdue”, welcoming the discussions on Tuesday. 

Robert Young, a member of The Coalfields Regeneration Trust’s board and former NUM branch chair, told the committee he was arrested multiple times and personally dismissed by the Coal Board following the strike. 

He said: “People have to remember the psychological side of the miner’s strike. You have to understand the effect it was having on people. 

Former miner Alex Bennett was heavily involved in the strike, leading to his arrest, a fine from the courts and dismissal from his job. 

The 74-year-old said the strike saw a “terrible atmosphere”, with police arrests widespread. 

He said from June 1984 there were mass arrests and it was clear that not only would workers be arrested, but they would lose their jobs, redundancy pay and careers - something which many miners are bitter about to this day. 

The calls come during public consultation on the proposed consultation, which is set to close on Friday.

 

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