Independent Review – Impact on Communities of the Policing of the Miners’ Strike, 1985-85
The Final Report of the Scottish government-appointed Independent Review of policing in Scotland in the miners’ strike of 1984-85 was published on 28 October 2020. In a statement to the Scottish Parliament on that day the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf, committed the government in principle to accepting the Review’s single recommendation, that more than five hundred miners convicted in Scotland for common law offences associated with their strike activism in 1984-85 should be pardoned collectively and posthumously by Act of Scottish Parliament.
Jim Phillips, Professor of Economic and Social History, contributed to the campaign for restorative justice in the coalfields. His research showed that policing in Scotland was part of a broader system of coercion developed and deployed by the UK state against the striking miners and their communities. He worked with Neil Findlay, Labour MSP for the Lothians, the key Parliamentary champion of the convicted miners, and persuaded the Scottish government to establish the Independent Review in 2018. This was chaired by John Scott QC, assisted by Dennis Canavan, former Labour MP and MSP for coalfield constituencies in Stirlingshire, Jim Murdoch, Professor of Public Law at the University of Glasgow, and Kate Thomson, former Assistant Chief Constable in Police Scotland.
The Review drew in the participation of former miners, chiefly through public events held in welfare clubs in communities in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, Stirlingshire, Midlothian and Fife in the autumn and early winter of 2018. The testimonies gathered through these events featured prominently in the Final Report. These offered powerful evidence of how the injustice of criminal punishment was compounded by the further moral and material horror of unfair dismissal.
The Final Report was guided closely by Jim’s expertise. He briefed the Review team at the University in August 2018, on evidence of injustice against the strikers in 1984-85 and the broader meaning of the strike. Jim provided further assistance subsequently, answering questions from the Review as these emerged, participating in one of the public sessions, at Fallin in December 2018, and commenting on a draft of the Final Report in September 2019. By invitation he also met Humza Yousaf to discuss the issues in person in February 2020, taking the opportunity to emphasise the value of a collective pardon.
Jim said, ‘We all owe a debt of gratitude to the miners and their families. They helped to build the social democratic society of the 1960s and 1970s that my generation grew up in. The UK government’s assault on their values and communities in the 1980s shocks me still. Contributing to this achievement of justice has been a great honour.’
First published: 30 October 2020