Supporting Justice for Scottish Miners

Published: 2 June 2021

UofG research helped to change the Scottish Government’s approach to justice in relation to the miners’ 1984-85 strike, benefiting over 500 ex-miners in Scotland convicted of public order offences.

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The research

Professor Jim Phillips has used government, industry and union records—along with interviews with strike activists—to establish the distinct character of the strike in Scotland.

Phillips’ research revealed that the government’s core goal in the strike was removing effective union representation from the coal industry.

It demonstrated government interventions on policing, ensuring that strikers were prevented from mustering at pressure points, thus reducing the effectiveness of the strike.

Phillips’ research established that there was an unusually-high level of victimisation of miners’ union activists in Scotland in terms of arrests and dismissals.

This compromised the integrity of the criminal justice system and led to long-term consequences for otherwise law-abiding miners who found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

The impact

From 2013 onwards, Professor Phillips’ research provided evidence to help establish and inform an Independent Review into the Policing of the Miners’ Strike.

Phillips’ expert advice supported campaigners in lobbying the Scottish Government, who initially refused to establish a Review into the criminal justice aspects of the strike.

In June 2018, in response to growing pressure, Michael Matheson, the then Cabinet Secretary for Justice, reversed the Scottish Government’s position and announced an Independent Review.

This Review was significantly informed by Phillips’ research; its final report opened with a direct quotation from his work: ‘the miners’ strike is a site of contested memories’.

The final report published in late October 2020 also referenced Phillips’ research and noted his invaluable contribution throughout the process.

Upon publication of the Review, Humza Yousaf, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, announced: ‘we intend to introduce legislation that will give a collective pardon to miners who were convicted for matters related to the strike’.

This development is now providing vindication to the miners who were wronged.

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First published: 2 June 2021