SCOTLAND HAS BECOME THE FIRST of the home nations to pardon former miners convicted of certain offences related to strike action in the 1980s.
The legislation passed by MSPs ensures a collective and automatic pardon for miners involved in strike action which extends to members of a miner’s household and other close family members who may also have been convicted.
The legislation was recommended by an independent review, led by John Scott QC, into the impact of policing on Scottish communities during the industrial dispute.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans Keith Brown described the legislation as ‘ground-breaking’ and said the UK Government should now give consideration to a UK-wide public inquiry into the strike and compensating former miners.
He said: “The miners’ strike was one of the most bitter and divisive industrial disputes in living memory. This landmark moment will go some way to aid reconciliation – and to help heal wounds within Scotland’s mining communities. This ground-breaking legislation will restore dignity to those convicted, provide comfort to their families and, I hope, bring some closure to the sense of injustice members of mining communities may continue to feel.
“I very much sympathise with miners who lost out on redundancy payments and pension rights as a result of being sacked by the National Coal Board after being arrested or convicted for actions while participating in the strike.By securing this pardon, we have done what we can within our powers to restore dignity to individuals who meet the qualifying criteria and their families.
“It is now right that the UK Government recognises the passing of this historic legislation and gives further consideration to a UK-wide public inquiry and the payment of compensation to former miners. I have written to the Home Secretary this week urging her to reconsider her position given the strong support for this landmark Bill.”
Professor Jim Murdoch of the School of Law at Glasgow University who worked with John Scott on the independent review said: “As members of the independent review, our task was primarily to listen: to show that those affected by the miners’ strike had a voice more than a third of a century later.
“At each of the meetings we held, it was clear that the pain felt by former miners and their families was still raw. The response to the miners’ strike at the time left a deep scar on too many communities. Their stories showed without doubt that the criminal justice system all too often reacted in an arbitrary and disproportionate manner. Our task was to seek to promote a sense of reconciliation, and we are pleased that our report and its recommendation have received clear support today in the Scottish Parliament.”
Nicky Wilson, President of the National Union of Mineworkers (Scotland), said: “The NUM welcomes the passing of the Miners’ Pardon Bill. It removes the stigma of a criminal record given to miners who were striking to save their industry, jobs and communities which led to their convictions and sacking in some cases.”
The Bill was announced in the Programme for Government. John Scott’s Independent Review Group did not recommended the Scottish Government should compensate miners. It recommended a symbolic, collective and automatic pardon which this new legislation will deliver.
The Miners’ Strike (Pardons) (Scotland) Bill pardons the offences of breach of the peace, obstructing a police officer, breach of bail and theft which occurred during the 1984-85 strike. The new legislation does not cast any doubt on decisions made by the courts at the time, or seek to place blame on any individual or group of individuals.
* More information on the independent review of the impact of policing on communities during the Miners’ Strike here.
* Source: Scottish Government