SNP Justice Secretary says no compensation for miners as part of strike pardons

Miners pardoned for historic convictions linked to strikes should not receive compensation from the Scottish Government, the Justice Secretary has said.

Challenged by former Scottish Labor leader Richard Leonard, Keith Brown said it was an issue for Westminster.

Brown argued that a compensation scheme could delay miners from being pardoned and was not within the Scottish Government’s powers.

The Scottish Government is planning to pardon living and dead coal workers convicted of certain offenses during the miners’ strike of 1984-85.

Brown said the collective pardon was to “recognize the disproportionate impact felt by those miners” and to “help the mining communities heal old wounds”.

Included are convictions for offenses such as breach of the peace, breaches of bail conditions or obstruction that were allegedly committed on the picket lines or demonstrations in support of miners.

SNP MSP and minister Keith Brown
Justice Secretary Keith Brown

Brown told MSPs that pardons would not formally quash convictions or give people any further rights or entitlements and said:

“I am clear that the Bill should not cast any doubt on decisions made by the judiciary at the team or seek to place blame on any individual or group of individuals.”

He added: “The conditions of the pardon recognize miners and police officers found themselves in extremely challenging situations where relationships came under unprecedented strain.

“Miners who took part in industrial action did so to protect their jobs, their way of life and the communities.

“Police officers were only exercising their duty to uphold the law and in circumstances and on a scale which had never been encountered before.

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“The pardon will apply both to living people and posthumously given the passage of time since the strike.”

On compensation, Brown said: “It also runs the risk of the Bill moving away from its intended symbolic effect, into the territory of questioning decisions by the judiciary at the time.

“Employment and industrial relations are reserved to the UK, so if the compensation is looking to compensate for loss of earnings, loss of pension, or loss of other rights, then the Scottish Government wasn’t party to this – it wasn’t in existence at the time.

“The issues that it touches on are unemployment issues, which are for the UK Government to consider.

“We have and will continue to press UK Government to hold a full public inquiry and that is the place where those kinds of issues should be discussed or addressed.

“But for us, we think the pardon is a reasonable measure to try and introduce some reconciliation in communities that were driven apart during the strike.”

Leonard said: “The miners’ pardon is long overdue, but the SNP government’s proposals do not go far enough.

“As well as pardoning the miners, we should compensate them or their surviving families.

“The whole weight of the state was thrown at defeating the striking miners, we should be using the whole weight of the state to put right the injustice they suffered.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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