David Hamilton: ‘Time to acknowledge role of those hell-bent on destroying our industry’

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DURING the late 70s and early 80s I served as union delegate at Monktonhall Colliery with responsibility for nearly 2,000 miners.

In September 1983, we went on an eight-week strike to defend our jobs, followed by a national overtime ban working four days a week.

This strike was not about money or working conditions – it was about defending our jobs and communities from a Tory government hell- bent on destroying the mining industry and the lives of the families and communities that depended on it.

A thousand miners were sacked, 206 in Scotland, and throughout the UK thousands were criminalised. The most common conviction was breach of the peace. I say that loosely, as it meant anyone being present anywhere around the picket was at risk.

The government, police and the courts colluded in their battle and we were all aware at the time of phone tapping, something which has only now hit the headlines. We knew this was going on and we tested it. We phoned round 26 strike centres arranging a picket at Dunbar – around 450 police turned up, but what they didn’t know was it was a hoax, and we had by word of mouth arranged a mass demonstration outside the coal board HQ with some strikers occupying the building. We were jubilant that day. This is one of many incidents and is why we have asked the Lothian and Borders Police to investigate the role of officers during the dispute.

I believe men were falsely charged and that judges and prosecution in the courts were ensuring that convictions took place. We should remember these were decent men who had never been in courts before. My own experience is bittersweet. I was arrested on numerous occasions for being present on picket lines, and I stress no violence was involved.

On one occasion my wife was arrested in an attempt by the police to provoke me and when I didn’t react, I was arrested anyway. Another comrade and I made a plea bargain to allow my wife to have her charges dropped. This is only one of many examples of miners being victimised.

Many good comrades have passed away since the strike and many relationships in the community have been rebuilt, but the memories will remain forever.

After 28 years, wouldn’t it be the decent thing to do, to acknowledge the role that the police and courts played as a willing instrument of a Tory government hell-bent on destroying our communities?