NEXT year will mark the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike. Despite the passage of time, feelings still run high in the communities affected, understandably so as more than 1,400 Scots were arrested during one of the most significant social, economic and political events of the past century.
Last year, the Hillsborough stadium disaster inquiry exposed alleged widespread police malpractice in South Yorkshire at the time of that tragic event. This was followed up by a BBC documentary into events at the nearby Orgreave coking plant during the 1984-5 miners’ strike. It alleged that the same force fabricated evidence and that officers committed perjury, duplicated witness statements and were guilty of misconduct. Since this exposé, South Yorkshire Police has referred itself to the Police Complaints Commissioner for England.
In light of this I, along with my colleague and ex-miner David Hamilton, MP for Midlothian (himself arrested and jailed during the strike), have been calling for a review of the convictions of all miners arrested in Scotland at that time. There will be a members’ debate today on this in the Scottish Parliament.
To date, more than 900 people have contacted the justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, calling for a review. Mr MacAskill has so far refused. But evidence I have received from a number of those convicted suggests police tactics deployed in South Yorkshire may also have been used at places such as Bilston Glen, Polkemmet and across the Scottish coalfields.
Therefore, I believe it is incumbent upon the Scottish Government to carry out a full investigation into claims that people were convicted on bogus and/or exaggerated charges. This new evidence gives weight to this call.
The passage of time does not make injustices disappear. We need a review to determine once and for all whether hundreds of Scots are, as they allege, victims of a near 30-year-old miscarriage of justice.
If you or anyone you know feels they were convicted on bogus or exaggerated grounds during the strike, please get in touch.
• Neil Findlay is a Labour MSP for the Lothians (firstname.lastname@example.org).