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

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.

6. Communities

"We had thriving community – look at it now? They took our jobs away."

"There was a strong community spirit that is no longer there.
That's the legacy when you destroy the community."

"as the strike went on the community changed"

(quote from miners at one of our public meetings).

We heard of the considerable extent of community participation and involvement by miners and their families before the Strike, going beyond familiar activities such as gala days and brass bands. Miners were extremely active within communities, for example, working with children and young people. Some men who had been convicted pointed out that this has ended their ability to take part in such activities, a matter of regret to them and the community.

Within communities, families were perhaps the most affected. To put the issue of impacts on families into some perspective, the average age of miners employed by the NCB in 1984 was 37 years, with many therefore likely to have young family and dependents.

Impacts included, of course, the extreme financial pressures, resulting in some families experiencing "extreme poverty" – 

"None of you have been in a soup kitchen. We have."
(quote from miner at one of our public meetings).

Some families fractured, with couples separating and all the individuals affected, father, mother and children, experiencing the damage which separation can cause.

Other families fractured when some men returned to work despite the Strike and others held out until the very bitter end.

We also heard of families in which there were police officers and miners, with only strained relations possible in some of those, if any at all.

"General public helping – family helping."
(quote from miner at one of our public meetings)

Collateral Damage

One man who came to our meeting at Cumnock, when introducing himself, said that he was "collateral damage" of the Strike. He was not a miner or a police officer. At the time of the Strike, he was a young man. He had been involved in a road traffic accident in which he was struck by a speeding Yuill and Dodds coal lorry in Ayrshire. In the accident, he lost one leg and the other was badly damaged. He showed us his wounds and explained that he expected to lose the other, still badly damaged, leg within a year or so. He said that the lorry driver was convicted of careless driving and fined, possibly banned, but did not receive a prison sentence.

Local Authorities – Support

There was considerable support for miners and their families from local authorities in some areas, although whether this happened and the extent to which it happened varied considerably across the country. In evidence, we heard in particular about Stirling, Glasgow and Fife councils. Efforts to support and help miners included giving them employment, despite criminal convictions acquired due to the Strike.

Some local authorities used discretionary powers under social work legislation to assist needy families of striking miners.

Some sacked miners managed to find alternative employment with their local council.

"Half the sacked miners got a job at Stirling District Council thanks to the Labour Party"
(quote from miner at one of our public meetings).

Local schools helped by providing free school meals.

Diversion Of Police Resources And Impact On Non-Mining

"Many local colleagues, like me, were removed from our local community policing role where we had built up strong bonds and business like relationships with the locals and our knowledge of the area, only for that to be wholly withdrawn for weeks at a time so that Policing could be deployed to police the aggression, the violent assaults and open hostility between miners and NCB/NUM officialdom, and latterly attacks on us as police officers doing our duty, as guided and impartially.[136]"

"Community cohesion suffered and anti-social behaviour grew in some mining communities. The effect on local communities was incredibly negative.[137]"

The Brown/Rees Report states (page 9) an estimate of just over £5,000,000 (approximately £16,000,000 today) for the additional costs of policing the dispute in Scotland of which about £2,700,000 was expected to me met by Grant Aid.

Economic Devastation

Visiting various former mining communities, it was impossible to miss the economic impact of the closure of pits and the death of mining. Compounding the economic impact of the Strike, followed by the closure of the pits, is the failure to invest in these communities to address these earlier impacts.

In relation to long-run economic damage, some work[138] has been done to try to show the various impacts on mining communities by comparison to other areas. This shows that the out of work benefit claimant rate (combining incapacity benefit, job-seekers' allowance and income support) in the UK in August 2013 was 10.9% but in the former coal mining communities of Fife it was 15.7% and in the former coal mining communities of Ayrshire and Lanarkshire it was 15.2%.

Closure Of Police Stations

It is an unfortunate aspect of subsequent police station closures that some of the mining communities lost their local police station. This has had a number of effects, not least the absence of a familiar local face to counteract any general memories or impressions of a remote organisation interested only in maintaining control and order in the community.


Email: minersstrikereview@gov.scot

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