By Andrew Whitaker
June 10, 2018 - In the UK, Queen's Council leading an investigation into the policing of the miners' strike has vowed to hold the inquiry in former pit villages. John Scott said he would speak to hundreds of former miners and their families, as well as police officers who served during the dispute.
Justice secretary Michael Matheson has tasked Scott with leading the probe.
Matheson told Members of Scottish Parliament it was "high time" that what mining communities endured was understood. Scott, a top human rights lawyer, will lead the review, and will report back to ministers in 2019. Scott will be assisted by an advisory panel including former Member of Parliament and Member of Scottish Parliament Dennis Canavan, former assistant chief constable Kate Thomson and Professor Jim Murdoch University of Glasgow.
Canavan said the inquiry would "be able to uncover many of the facts about the policing of the miners’ strike and the effect it had on mining communities".
Scott, speaking to the Sunday Herald, said the panel would hold public meetings in former mining areas. Scott said he had already been contacted by those who were miners and police officers in 1984-85. He said the findings of the inquiry would be driven by what the protagonists on both sides told them.
Scott said: "We'll be steered by what people say to us. The idea is to go out into mining and former mining communities and speak to miners and their families. We also want to speak to people on the policing side. I'm drawn to the idea of public meetings," he added.
When asked, how many people would be interviewed, Scott said: "With the public meetings I would have thought it would be hundreds." He added: "People on the policing and miners side have already got in touch."
Clashes at the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire in 1984, one of the key flashpoints of the industrial dispute, set the tone for policing of picket lines in the rest of the country. In Scotland, there were major clashes at pits such Bilston Glen between police and pickets.
Scott's investigation will seek to understand the impact that the tactics deployed by police had on mining communities across Scotland. However, the panel will not consider the convictions of nearly 500 Scottish miners, which campaigners say may be “unsafe” and politically motivated.
Scott insisted the inquiry could heal wounds he said were felt by many people decades after the strike over pit closures.
He said: "The main objective is to see what we can suggest to repair the damage in communities."
The inquiry is expected to produce a final report by June next year. It will also review files held at the National Records of Scotland and the National Archives in London.
Scott said his panel would place pressure on ministers at Westminster to order a full UK-wide inquiry into the strike.
He said: "What we do could do is contribute to the continuing campaign for a UK-wide inquiry."
Scott said that his colleague Canavan was "already reaching out to people" in former mining communities about the inquiry,
Canavan represented mining communities as a Member of Parliament and Member of Scottish Parliament for the Falkirk area.
Canavan added: "I am confident that, with someone of John’s calibre chairing the proceedings, we shall be able to uncover many of the facts about the policing of the miners’ strike and the effect it had on mining communities, who deserve to know the truth about what happened all those years ago. We hope to visit former mining communities throughout Scotland to hear evidence at first hand and extend an open invitation to any interested person or group who would like to present evidence.”
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