‘We need an inquiry into strike clashes’

Sir David Hamilton, Former MP for Midlothian and former jailed miner.
Sir David Hamilton, Former MP for Midlothian and former jailed miner.

Midlothian Council has called on the Scottish Government to investigate the miners’ strike, which saw clashes between pickets and police in Midlothian.

Councillors Alex Bennett (Lab) and Kelly Parry (SNP) raised the motion at last week’s full council meeting receiving unanimous support in the chamber, and the local authority will now write to Holyrood to demand a public inquiry into the 1984/85 strike.

However, the Scottish Government remains adamant that any public inquiry should come from Westminster.

Calls have been made north and south of the border for an inquiry into the miners’ strike since government records on the strike were released in 2014 via the 30-year rule.

However, hopes were dashed recently when Home Secretary Amber Rudd (Con) ruled out an inquiry into the clashes between police and pickets at Orgreave in Yorkshire in 1984.

Speaking at the council meeting, Cllr Bennett said: “There has obviously been a stitch-up by the establishment, who have told her you cannot hold an inquiry.”

The government records released revealed, said Cllr Bennett, that “Maggie Thatchet had her finger on the pulse” and showed that Downing Street took a decision to control the police in Scotland.

”It’s ridiculous that politicians in London should be dictating the conduct of the police in Scotland,” he said. “There is no compensation being called for. All we are asking for is that the truth be told about what happened.”

Cllr Parry added: “My family was a mining family. They were very damaged by the strike. Emotionally and psychologically, it damaged a lot of families in Midlothian. That damage is still there.

“One of the things which I think is crucial is that there have been no test cases through the Scottish Criminal cases Review Commission yet. I think we need to investigate whether there are challenges and barriers to that.”

Former Midlothian MP Sir David Hamilton, who worked at Monktonhall Colliery for nearly 20 years, was jailed during the miners’ strike.

He said: “I think the reason the council are putting the resolution forward is that they want to right that wrong.

“This is excellent news as that would mean effectively they would take a fresh look.”

Sir David reiterated: “It’s not about compensation or anything like that. It’s about righting a wrong.

“The independent court system and the independent police system didn’t really work like that – there was no doubt it was directed from number 10.

“The phone tapping that went on and all that has now been reported,” he continued.

And Sir David expressed regrets that: “A lot of people convicted at the time have now passed away, they never had any convictions before or after, and the families have that hanging over them. The police arrested people on the picket line knowing full well that if they pleaded not guilty they would have to stay off the picket line.”

During the miners’ strike in Midlothian 46 men were sacked from Monktonhall Colliery, 36 from Bilston and five from Newbattle.

Despite the Midlothian pleas Justice Secretary Michael Matheson (SNP) ruled out a Scottish Government inquiry, commenting: “Clearly, if there was any political interference in the operational policing of the dispute then that would be a matter of significant concern, not just to the miners but to the general public. It is therefore imperative that the UK Government commissions an independent, UK-wide investigation into this matter and as a first step, the UK Government must review and publish all papers it holds regarding the then government’s involvement in the policing of the strike. This would provide transparency in relation to the concerns that have been raised.

“I believe this is a necessary step to address the sense of continuing injustice felt by many mining communities and to provide a broader insight into the role of the UK Government during a highly controversial period.”