Publication - Independent report

Policing of the miners' strike 1984-1985 - impact on communities: independent review

Published: 28 Oct 2020

This is the final report from the independent review that was commissioned to investigate and report on the impact on communities in Scotland on the policing of the miners' strike 1984 to 1985.

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Contents
Policing of the miners' strike 1984-1985 - impact on communities: independent review
2. Timeline of the 1984‑85 miners' strike

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2. Timeline of the 1984‑85 miners' strike

1984

21 February 1984
Miners

Official strike starts at Polmaise[12].

12 March
Miners

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) President Arthur Scargill unites various strikes into nationwide industrial action, without a ballot[13].

12 March
UK Government

"..I suggest that we should go ahead now with setting up a Ministerial Group [the Cabinet Ministerial Group on Coal ("CMGC") in the MISC series to consider all aspects of the situation which may be of concern to Ministers: industrial relations, law and order, power station endurance, the effect on the economy, the scope for mitigating action by the Government, and the handling of the media." 

Sir Robert Armstrong, Cabinet Secretary
to Prime Minister[14]

16 March
UK Government

Parliamentary Answer from the Attorney General "Picketing is permissible, in terms of criminal law, only if it is peaceful picketing, that is to say, it is carried out for the purpose of peacefully obtaining or communicating information or peacefully persuading another person to work or not to work. The courts have recognised that the police may limit the number of pickets in any one place where they have reasonable cause to fear a breach of the peace. This may involve not only asking some of those present to leave but also preventing others from joining the pickets" "..code of practice issued under the Employment Act 1980…in general the number of pickets should not exceed six at any entrance to a workplace" "Any person who fails to comply with a police request in those circumstances [where constable reasonably comes to the conclusion that persons are travelling for the purpose of taking part in a picket] will be committing the offence of obstructing a police officer in the course of his duty[15]"

20 March
UK Government

Scottish Home and Health Department have written to the Chief Constables of Central, Fife, Lothian and Borders, and Strathclyde enclosing copies of the statement on criminal law on picketing made on Friday 16 March by the Attorney General with the support, as far as Scotland is concerned, of the Lord Advocate[16].

2 April
UK Government

2 April 1984 – "the Ministry of Defence, while maintaining the lowest possible profile, had responded to requests to provide accommodation and messing facilities for a number of police personnel. Requests for certain other assistance and facilities had been declined as likely to be counter-productive. " Ministerial Group on Coal – minutes[17]

11 April
UK Government

Mr. Canavan asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland what criteria are used in deciding whether to charge pickets in an industrial dispute; and whether any special instructions or guidelines have been issued by the Crown Office to the police or procurators fiscal.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland replied, the criteria to be applied in deciding whether to proceed against pickets on criminal charges are the same as those applied in any case where there is an allegation of criminal conduct. No special instructions or guidelines have been issued by the Crown Office to the police or procurators fiscal[18].

16 April
UK Government

"Any comment made as a result of current press speculation about the possible use of servicemen to move pithead coal stocks should be based on a written answer given on 9 April to a question by Mr Nellist about whether the Ministry of Defence had "made specific preparations for military aid to the civil power in connection with the current dispute in the coal mining industry". The Minister of State for the Armed Forces had replied that no such preparations had been made." Ministerial Group on Coal – minutes[19]

8 May
Miners

A bus-load of 42 pickets was proceeding from Hunterston to Ravenscraig following a convoy of coal lorries. There was already a picket at Ravenscraig and the police stopped the bus and instructed the occupants not to proceed on the grounds that their presence at the steel works would be liable to cause a breach of the peace. The occupants failed to comply with police instructions and were arrested and subsequently charged and released[20].

8 May
UK Government

At the CMGC, there was discussion of the policing of the Strike in Scotland: "It was not clear whether the Scottish Chief Constables were prepared to go as far as their English counterparts to prevent pickets from going to the scene of a possible disturbance. It was possible also that Scottish Chief Constables might feel an undue reluctance to call for the help of forces South of the border through mutual aid arrangements."

The Prime Minister gave instructions to the Secretary of State for Scotland, pointing out what he "should" do:

"The Prime Minister, summing up the discussion....The Secretary of State for Scotland should explore and report on the questions raised in the discussion about the policing of the dispute in Scotland. He should establish in particular whether Scottish Chief Constables were willing as a matter of policy to take action similar to that in England to prevent pickets from going to the scene of possible disturbances[21]."

9 May
UK Government

"Policing in Scotland. We understand that the Secretary of State for Scotland is likely to say that the Chief Constable of Strathclyde is no less ready than Chief Constables in England and Wales to stop flying pickets from assembling when he considers that this would be justified. It has in fact been reported today that a coach has been stopped. On mutual aid he is likely to say that the Strathclyde Police is one of the largest forces in Britain (accounting for about half the total police in Scotland) and is at present confident that it will be able to handle the situation at Ravenscraig without outside help." Cabinet[22]

Minutes – Cabinet: Industrial Affairs : Coal

"It was possible also that Scottish Chief Constables might feel undue reluctance to call for the help of forces South of the border through mutual aid arrangements." But the point seems to be that chief officers in Scotland are not in a position to seek mutual aid from their counterparts in England or Wales (or vice versa). ...the 1964 Act does not extend to Scotland." The effective cross-border arrangements which can be made are for the exchange of information about the prospective or actual movements of pickets between England and Scotland."

Cabinet Miners' Dispute. Government Officials' memo[23]

10 May
Miners

8 coaches were stopped at Stepps en route to Hunterston. Some of the occupants agreed to turn back and those left proceeded to leave the vehicles and sit down on the roadway. They refused to obey police instructions and 292 were arrested, charged and subsequently released[24].

10 May
Police

Chief Constable of Strathclyde wondering what attitude to take following a request to appear before a special meeting of the Police and Fire Committee to have clarified police involvement in matters of picketing[25].

8 coaches carrying miners were stopped at Stepps en route to Hunterston (see above under 'Miners')[26].

"Besides a vigorous policy of bringing prosecutions whenever possible, the police would welcome maximum publicity for acts of violence by pickets and others: public opinion would be outraged by these acts" Home Secretary at Cabinet[27]

17 May
Police

"…the concern felt by chief constables about the BBC 9 o'clock news on Thursday 17 May, which carried an interview with the Home Secretary about intimidation in coal mining areas. Chief constables are, as you know very sensitive about the impression, which the Opposition are attempting to foster, that they are taking political sides, and are indeed subject to Ministerial direction."

Government Official's memo[28]

June
UK Government

Ministerial correspondence confirming the police role in the dispute is to uphold the law and order and they don't take direction from Ministers and no need for a public inquiry[29].

4 June
Police

"Breach of the peace and obstruction of police constables in the execution of their duty (contrary to Section 41 of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967) are the offences most likely to be of use in dealing with mass picketing." Chief Constables are not subject to instructions from Ministers and none have been given to them. The main difference between the police operation in Scotland and that in England and Wales has been the absence of any mutual aid and, therefore, the absence of any requirement for day-to-day coordination on the model of the (England and Wales) National Reporting Centre."
Attorney General[30]

4 June
UK Government

"Industrial Action in the Coal Industry: use of the criminal and civil law. Note by the Scottish Home and Health Department and the Crown Office." "The range of criminal offences available to deal with objectionable conduct in the course of industrial picketing is substantial and is considered to be sufficient. The High Court in Scotland has fairly recently held that there is no limit to the kind of conduct which may give rise to a charge of breach of the peace."
Attorney General[31]

4 June
UK Government

"As far as the Scottish Office are aware, the police are employing their available powers fully but prudently; and, in particular, they have taken account of the Written Answer of 16 March in which the Lord Advocate lent his support to the Attorney General's explanation of the nature of the police powers in the picketing context." "In short, the Scottish police lack neither the necessary resources nor powers to deal with the problems which the dispute in the mining industry has produced."
Attorney General

5 June
UK Government

"The main burden in the handling of the dispute continued to fall on the police. It could be argued that this burden would be eased if management in the industries affected by unlawful picketing had recourse to the civil law. On the other hand, it was not certain that recourse to the civil law would in practice have this effect. An unsuccessful court action could be a serious setback to efforts to withstand the strike. If court orders following successful civil action were not complied with, enforcement could be difficult in itself and might actually increase the problems of the police in maintaining public order.

5 June
UK Government

The view of Chief Police Officers, who had been consulted, was that civil action in the courts was not in present circumstances likely to make the task of policing the dispute any easier." "On the civil law, the Group took the view that the balance of advantage was still against action in the courts by management in the industries concerned, but if circumstances changed considerably, they should reconsider this and related issues in the light of the report which had been prepared by the Attorney General on tactical options in the dispute, including the relevance of the civil and criminal law." Minutes from Ministerial Group on Coal[32]

Miners

18 June – The battle of Orgreave, South Yorkshire – 5,000 riot police took on 5,000 protestors. The protestors included many men and women who had come down from Scotland.[33]

July
Police

Throughout the dispute the Scottish police have maintained their low profile tactics deploying only the minimum number of officers to enable working miners to go to their place of work. Although practice varies in light of particular circumstances, the police normally seek to allow a limited number of pickets up to the pit entrance to enable them to communicate with working miners. This accords with the Code of Practice in Picketing.[34]"

July
National Coal Board ("NCB")

The Chairman of the NCB states that miners convicted of violent offences will not be reinstated[35].

August
UK Government

Home secretary makes a speech: "The police will be given all the backing they need to deal with these various forms of lawlessness. When intimidation began on a substantial scale, the police responded by patrolling the pit villages in order to give protection to those who were threatened, and they made it clear that any report of intimidation would be investigated with vigour. They will be showing similar flexibility in responding to any new threat to the rule of law." "In tackling disorder on this scale with courage and determination the police know that they have the support of the overwhelming majority of the public, including members of trade unions.[36]"

Statement by Michael Ancram, Conservative Minister: "The role of the police is to uphold the law and order and secure the rights of those who wish to work. The deployment of police officers is an operational matter for the discretion of the Chief Constable[37].

November
Miners

A growing number of miners decide to return to work as Christmas nears[38].

98 to 91 decide to end the strike in March 1985

1985

March
Miners

Mr. Strang, Labour, MP, Edinburgh – Does the Solicitor-General for Scotland recall the representations that he received from my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie), and the meeting that he had with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) and myself, about the position of Mr. David Hamilton, the chairman of the Lothian strike committee, who languished for nine weeks in jail and was then found not guilty? Will the Government recognise that the truth is that the NCB management in Scotland wishes to sack people because they were active in the strike and not because of anything else that they have done? That is why the Government and the NCB are isolated on this matter. When will there be some change in the situation?[39]

The Solicitor-General for Scotland – I recall that meeting, at which I gave the hon. Gentleman an undertaking that the matter would be brought to court as quickly as possible, as indeed it was. I cannot see why the hon. Gentleman takes exception to that. Mr. Hamilton had the opportunity to be tried before a jury. He was acquitted. So far as I am concerned, the matter ends there.[40]

3 March 1985
Miners

Delegates at an NUM conference decide 98 to 91 to end the strike[41].

March
Miners

Residual violence in some mining villages.[42]

March 1985
National Coal Board ("NCB")

Violence in mining villages – situation report[43].

Letter from Mr MacGregor thanking Chief Constables for their help and support during the miners' strike dispute.[44]

NCB Chairman, Mr MacGregor, repeated that miners convicted of violent offences would not be reinstated[45]

Government memo, NCB Chairman, Mr MacGregor, repeated that miners convicted of violent offences would not be reinstated.[46]

Letter from Secretary of State for Scotland, George Younger, to Chief Constables of Scottish police, "In carrying out their role of upholding the rule of law and protecting the rights of those who wished to work, often in the face of violence, they have, once again, demonstrated their skill and efficiency and reminded us of how much we depend upon the police for the maintenance of freedom and order." [similar letters to Scottish Police Federation, Association of Chief Police Officers, Association of Scottish Police Superintendents][47].

Letter from STUC to Mr Wheeler, NCB "...your decision to treat all Scottish miners convicted in Courts as being guilty of serious industrial misconduct. Most of the convictions are for obstruction and breach of the peace. Some have been tried and found not guilty and most have been awarded fines, albeit substantial ones." "It seems that your attitude on the question of an amnesty is much more rigorous than that being applied in any other coal field.[48]"


Contact

Email: minersstrikereview@gov.scot