1. In October 2018, the Scottish Government announced an independent review into the impact of policing on communities in Scotland that were affected by the national miners’ strike between March 1984 and March 1985. The review, led by John Scott QC, made a single recommendation: that, subject to establishing suitable criteria, the Scottish Government should introduce legislation to pardon men convicted for certain offences related to the strike. Following publication of the review report in October 2020, the Scottish Government announced its acceptance, in principle, of the recommendation and its intention to consult on what the qualifying criteria should be for the proposed pardon.
2. In March 2021, the Scottish Government published its consultation paper Miners’ Strike 1984 to 1985 Pardon: Consultation, with a closing date of 4 June 2021 for responses. The consultation paper set out the pardon criteria suggested by the Review Group, but also made clear that the Scottish Government had no position on which, if any, of the criteria suggested by the Review Group it would choose to implement. Instead, it was keen to hear a wide range of views to help inform its policy on this issue.
3. The consultation contained 14 questions. These invited views on:
- The range of offences that should be covered by the pardon (Q1 and Q2)
- Other offence-related matters (Q3 to Q5)
- Whether and how previous or subsequent convictions should (or should not) disqualify a miner from receiving a pardon (Q6 to Q8)
- Whether and how the consequences of the conviction should (or should not) affect a miner’s eligibility for a pardon (Q9 to Q11)
- Views on view criteria or other comments (Q12 and Q13)
- The partial Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) accompanying the consultation paper.
The respondents and responses
4. The consultation received 377 responses. Of these, 11 were removed from the analysis for various reasons. The analysis was therefore based on 366 responses, comprising 307 substantive (i.e. personalised) responses and 59 standard campaign responses. A standard campaign response is a non-personalised response based on a standard text provided by a campaign organiser. No information was available about the campaign organiser; however, the campaign text addressed all 14 of the consultation questions.
5. The substantive responses were submitted by 294 individuals and 13 organisations. The organisational responses came from five (5) trade unions or trade union-related bodies, two (2) bodies in the legal profession, two (2) community councils and one (1) local authority. The remaining three (3) organisational responses were from campaign groups or charitable organisations.
Overview of findings
6. Across all questions, a large majority of respondents were in favour of the proposals to pardon all miners who had been convicted of offences relating to the 1984/85 miners’ strike, and wanted the criteria for a pardon to be as inclusive as possible. Respondents in this group often referred to the particular circumstances of the strike, its political management, and the way in which it was policed in explaining their views; they often also cited the experience of miners (sometimes their own personal experience or that of a close family member), and the impact the strike had on individuals, families and communities.
7. Thus, respondents generally supported a pardon for breach of the peace and breach of bail convictions, and they thought that miners convicted of multiple offences (as well as a single offence) should equally be pardoned. Furthermore, they believed that the issue of whether a strike-related conviction resulted in a custodial or non-custodial sentence was irrelevant in relation to a miner’s eligibility for a pardon – as was the issue of whether or not the conviction(s) had resulted in dismissal by the National Coal Board.
8. There was greater disagreement and uncertainty among respondents about whether offences other than breach of the peace or breach of bail should be covered by the pardon, or whether a history of pre-strike or post-strike convictions should disqualify miners from receiving a pardon. However, it was clear that there was some confusion among respondents about what certain questions in the consultation paper were asking – in particular, Question 3 (which asked whether any other strike-related offences should be included in the qualifying criteria for a pardon), and Questions 6 to 8 (which asked about prior and subsequent offending), and this may have affected the response to these questions.
9. A relatively small proportion of respondents were opposed to the idea of a pardon in principle, or they favoured more restrictive criteria for the pardon. This group of respondents tended to make the similar points at each question. They believed that pardoning criminal offences (or individuals convicted in a court of law) undermined the rule of law. Alternatively, they opposed the introduction of a ‘blanket’ pardon and argued that decisions to pardon miners should be taken on a case-by-case basis instead (taking account of the nature of the offence and the circumstances of the offending), or they suggested that miners should be required to formally appeal their convictions.