Campaigning for ‘Justice for the Coalfields’

Iain Gray MSP and Fiona O’Donnell MP are supporting a new campaign urging UK Government Ministers to begin to put right the wrongs of the miners’ strike and the damage done to coalfield communities, including those in East Lothian.

Earlier this month newly-released cabinet papers revealed that the Thatcher Government had a secret plan to close 75 pits at the cost of some 65,000 jobs; that the Government did seek to influence police tactics to escalate the dispute; and that they actively considered declaring a state of emergency and deploying the Army to defeat the miners and unions.

The ‘Justice for the Coalfields’ campaign, launched this week by the Labour Party, is urging Ministers to:

• Make a formal apology for the actions of the Government during the time of the strike
• Set out all details of the interactions between the Government and the police at the time
• Release all information about Government-police communications around Orgreave, with a proper investigation which might go a little way to rebuild public confidence.

Labour believes this must happen before the 30th Anniversary of Orgreave on June 18th this year. Ms O’Donnell and Mr Gray have written to the Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude to demand an apology a response on these three points.

Both politicians are also backing renewed calls for the SNP Scottish Government to conduct a review into the arrests and convictions made during the dispute, a proposal it has so far refused.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“The 1984-85 miners’ strike caused significant and lasting damage to East Lothian’s coalfield communities. The men involved in the dispute, as well as their families, friends and neighbours who supported them, suffered terribly and it is now clear that this was due to an orchestrated campaign by Ministers in the Thatcher Government.

“These latest revelations also reinforce the case for the SNP Scottish Government to order a full and independent review of all cases of miners arrested in Scotland during the strike. To date, calls for action have fallen on deaf ears, but I am backing new demands for the Justice Secretary to initiate a review and ensure justice for all those who were arrested and convicted during the dispute.”

Fiona O’Donnell MP said:

“For those of us who lived through the strike and who saw the impact it had, what was revealed in the cabinet papers may not come as a surprise. But it is no less shocking to consider that far from being neutral, as was claimed at the time, the Government took a deliberately calculated political approach guided by a complete hostility to the coalfield communities.

“The present Government may want to sweep these events under the carpet, but the scars of the dispute and the subsequent closure programme remain on the memories and landscapes of coalfield communities in East Lothian. Thirty years on from the dispute, I believe the time is right for Ministers to deliver the transparency which coalfield communities, including those here in East Lothian, deserve.”