Miners' strike 1984/85 pardon consultation: analysis of responses

Findings from the analysis of the responses received to the consultation, which ran from 12 March 2021 to 4 June 2021.

1. Introduction

1.1 The Scottish Government carried out a public consultation on the qualifying criteria to be used for pardons for miners convicted of certain offences related to the 1984/85 miners’ strike. The consultation paper, Miners' Strike 1984 to 1985 Pardon: Consultation, was published on 12 March 2021 with a closing date of 4 June 2021 for submission of responses.[1] This report presents findings from the analysis of the responses received.

Background and policy context

1.2 The miners’ strike of 1984/85 (‘the strike’) is recognised as one of the ‘most bitter and divisive industrial disputes in living memory’. In Scotland, there were an estimated 1,350 arrests linked to the strike, and around 470 court cases, with around 85% of these leading to a conviction.[2] Concerns about the strike, the policing of the strike and its impact on individuals and communities continue to this day, more than three decades later.

1.3 In response to these ongoing concerns, and in light of continued representations from stakeholders, the Scottish Government announced, in October 2018, an independent review into the impact of policing on communities affected by the strike, in order to aid ‘understanding, reconciliation and inclusion’. In announcing the review to the Scottish Parliament, Michael Matheson MSP, the then Cabinet Secretary for Justice stated that its remit would be ‘to investigate and report on the impact of policing on affected communities in Scotland during the period of the miners' strike from March 1984 to March 1985’. The aim of the review was to provide a report setting out lessons learned and make recommendations for any further action required.

1.4 The review, led by John Scott QC, involved consideration of a wide range of existing documentary evidence (official records, published and unpublished reports, media reports, academic studies, autobiographical accounts). It also involved gathering direct testimony from those affected by the strike via a call for written evidence and a series of engagement events as well as additional meetings with relevant individuals. Those providing evidence included relevant stakeholder organisations as well as miners and their families, retired police officers, local councillors, academics, journalists, and members of the public.

1.5 The final report of the review (published in October 2020) provided a full and detailed exploration of the evidence gathered.[3] The testimony provided by former miners, police officers and mining communities was highlighted as having been particularly important to the Review Group’s understanding of the strike, the policing of strike activity and the impact of this on mining communities. In terms of lessons learned, the review highlighted a number of issues relating to public confidence in policing and the importance of independence, transparency, scrutiny, and a local focus to this activity. However, the report also highlighted the very particular set of circumstances surrounding the strike and the fact that policing has moved on considerably over the past 35 years. In that context, the review made just 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.

1.6 Following publication of the review report, 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.

The consultation

1.7 The consultation paper published by the Scottish Government outlined the background to the review and the intention to legislate for a pardon for miners convicted of certain offences during the strike. It stated that this would be a collective pardon, ‘symbolising a desire for truth and reconciliation, following the decades of hurt and anger and misconceptions’ and bringing ‘a restoration of dignity to a number of miners, their families, and their communities’. Specifically, the pardon is intended to:

  • Acknowledge the disproportionate impact arising from miners being prosecuted and convicted during the strike – such as the loss of their job.
  • Recognise the exceptional circumstances that gave rise to the former miners suffering hardship and the loss of their good name through their participation in the strike.

1.8 The paper also set out the pardon criteria suggested by the Review Group. In summary, the criteria suggested by the Review Group were as follows: that individuals should have been convicted in Scotland for Breach of the Peace or Breach of Bail (related to the strike), and should have no previous or subsequent convictions, and that the case should have resulted in a fine. The consultation then sought views on aspects of the criteria, and other related matters.

1.9 The consultation contained 14 numbered questions, 12 of which had both a closed (tick-box) and open (free-text) component. The remaining two questions invited free-text comments.[4] The questions followed the structure of the consultation paper and addressed:

  • The range of offences to be covered (Part 1 of the consultation paper) (Q1 and Q2)
  • Other offence-related matters (Part 2) (Q3 to Q5)
  • Previous or subsequent convictions (Part 3) (Q6 to Q8)
  • Consequences of the conviction (Part 4) (Q9 to Q11)
  • Further criteria / comments (Part 5) (Q12 and Q13)
  • Partial Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) (Part 6 / Annex A of the consultation) (Q14).

1.10 The consultation paper was published on the Scottish Government consultation website. Respondents were able to complete an online consultation questionnaire or submit their response via email or post.

1.11 The responses to the consultation will help shape the legislation required to give effect to the pardon. The Scottish Government stated in the consultation paper that it may choose to implement some or all of the criteria proposed in the report – or may add more criteria. Thus, it was keen to hear a wide range of views to help inform its final position on the criteria. The previous review highlighted the value of the contribution made by those affected by the strike in shaping understanding of the strike and the experience of those affected, and the Scottish Government is committed to fully considering the views of such groups again as it takes forward the review’s recommendations and considers the ongoing legislative and policy development process.

About the analysis

1.12 This report is based on a robust and systematic analysis of the responses to the consultation. Frequency analysis was undertaken in relation to all the closed questions and the findings are shown in tables in this report. As noted above, two questions did not have an initial closed question, and so there are no tables for Questions 13 and 14. In addition, although Question 12 had an initial closed question, no table has been included in this report for this question because there was little distinction in the comments between those who answered ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘don’t know / no opinion’. As such, the results of the quantitative analysis did not contribute to an understanding of the views of the respondents.

1.13 The aim of the qualitative analysis was to identify the main themes and the full range of views submitted in response to each question or group of questions, and to explore areas of agreement and disagreement in views between different groups of respondents.

1.14 Not all respondents answered all questions, and some made comments in relation to a question without ticking a response at the relevant closed question. However, if a respondent’s reply to the tick-box question was clearly stated in their written comments, the response to the tick-box question was imputed. The tables throughout this report include these imputed responses.

1.15 Given the relatively small number of organisational responses received, no breakdown of organisation type is shown in the tables in the report. Further, the small number of organisations – along with the range of organisations included within the overall category – should be noted in interpreting the quantitative findings.

1.16 Finally, this report includes selected quotes from responses for which the respondent gave consent for their response to be published. In a few cases, these responses have been edited in small ways to correct typos, misspellings or grammatical errors, to improve readability. However, the content of the quotes have not been changed in any substantive way.

Understanding the response to the consultation

As with all consultations, the views submitted and presented in this report are not necessarily representative of the views of the wider public. Anyone can submit their views to a consultation, and individuals (and organisations) who have a keen interest in a topic – and the time, ability and capacity to respond – are more likely to participate in a consultation than those who do not. This self-selection means that the views of consultation participants cannot be generalised to the wider population. For this reason, the main focus in analysing consultation responses is not to identify how many or what proportion of respondents held particular views, but rather to understand the range of views expressed.The report

1.17 The remainder of this report is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 2 presents information on the respondents to the consultation and the responses submitted.
  • Chapters 3 to 8 present the results of the analysis of the responses to each of the consultation questions.

1.18 Annexes to the report are included as follows:

  • Annex 1 presents a list of organisational respondents.
  • Annex 2 presents the text of the campaign response.
  • Annex 3 presents the response rates for individual questions. This table includes only the substantive responses and excludes the campaign responses. (See Chapter 2 for a discussion of ‘substantive responses’ and ‘campaign responses’.)


Email: minersstrikepardon@gov.scot

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